Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort‘s legendary reputation is largely based on the “family” of dedicated employees serving the guests and making sure that all guests receive the complete Alisal Guest Experience. While there are so many activities from which to choose and many guests opt for outdoor activities such as horseback riding, tennis, golf, archery, fishing and more, there is another option that is complementary to every stay and activity at the ranch: yoga. Alisal Yoga instructor Cori Lassahn brings her passion, experience and love of yoga to the ranch and welcomes all levels. Her best advice for newcomers to yoga? Read on. We think you will enjoy learning more about Ms. Lassahn and perhaps even want to take one of her classes on your next visit to Alisal.
How long have you lived in the Santa Ynez Valley and what do you love about it?
I moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2004, so it’s been ten, almost eleven years. I love the wide-open spaces, the majesty of the oak trees, and not having traffic to contend with. What always surprises me is going about the most mundane errand but having my breath taken away, for example, by the golden hue of vineyards in the fall. Beyond all that though, what I really love about living here is the people and sense of community. Small-town values are still alive and well here.
Where have you traveled to that you simply must return to or been to and never want to go back (and why)?
Italy and Costa Rica are two countries that I really want to experience a second time. In college, I spent a month in Italy savoring the gastronomical delights, expanding my art history knowledge, and getting lost in cobblestone alleys . And in my mid-20’s I spent a month in Costa Rica getting my yoga teaching certification. I’d love to go back with my husband and kids so they can fall in love with the howler monkeys, warm water surf, and laid-back lifestyle.
Where did you live prior to Santa Ynez Valley ?
I was born and raised right up the coast in San Luis Obispo, but went to college near San Francisco. Once I graduated, I worked in corporate events and public relations in San Francisco where I planned everything from sophisticated million dollar affairs to strategic press conferences in City Hall. I would walk to work downtown every day from my North Beach neighborhood. I explored every nook and cranny of that city on foot. That’s one thing I miss about living in San Francisco, is being able to walk everywhere. It’s slows you down and asks you to pay attention to things you miss when you’re in a car.
How did you come into Yoga?
I took my first yoga class at a Bally’s Fitness in San Francisco in 1999. A friend took me to a yoga class there after work one night. I floated out of that class more relaxed than I’d been in months. I was hooked. It was a great way to cope with the stress of an intense corporate job. So I continued to take yoga classes at the gym and I would also follow along with VHS tapes at home. After a few years of regular practice, I wanted to take my yoga practice to the next level and looked in getting certified. That’s when I found the yoga school in Costa Rica.
What is one of the biggest myths about Yoga that you would like to debunk?
That you need to be flexible to do it! No one starts out that way. That’s the benefit you get from doing it regularly. The other myth I’d like to debunk is that it’s all just a physical practice. The postures in yoga are just the jumping off point. Yoga includes breath work training, meditation, focusing of the mind, and more. It’s an all-encompassing practice that will (hopefully) leave you feeling physically challenged, mentally calm, and spiritually connected.
What advice do you have for first timers who may be hesitant to try yoga?
Start with a beginner class and work your way up from there. And not all yoga classes are the same. Explore different styles and teachers. There really is a yoga class for every type of person, so it may take a while to find what works best for you.
What do you do when you are not teaching Yoga at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort?
When I’m not teaching at the Alisal, I’m teaching weekly yoga classes at Bloom Yoga in Solvang and the YMCA in Santa Ynez. I’m also teaching monthly vineyard yoga classes at area wineries in my new series called Vineyard Yoga SYV. It’s a unique concept of taking yoga in the beautiful setting of the wineries and vineyards in our area. The yoga is what I consider my “fun job” and when I’m not teaching classes, I’m busy with my event planning company Avante Events . I’ve owned Avante Events for the last ten years planning mostly weddings in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara. And when I’m not working, I relish time with my husband and two kids hiking Grass Mountain, climbing around the tide pools at Gaviota beach, or camping in Big Sur.
What inspires you most in life?
Nature. The hot-pink magenta of the constantly-in-bloom bougainvillea bush. The way the fog curls around the mountains in the morning. The sound of a creek moving among rocks. The smell of the forest floor after a rain. I get uncomfortable if I’m away from nature for too long. It’s easy nowadays to find yourself surrounded by walls, screens, and artificial light all day, so I make a point of getting out into the wide open spaces to let my mind and body go wild and free.
What is your favorite food?
Ohh, this is a good one because I love to cook and I love to eat. Locally, my favorite foods are the pizzas at Industrial Eats in Buellton (better than Italy!), the veggie tacos at El Sitio (also in Buellton), and any of the homemade dishes from the deli case at New Frontiers natural foods (in Solvang). I also love making the ten-minute trek up the freeway to Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos. Their food is cooked with love and you can taste in their hyper-seasonal menus.