Ashram yoga studio heats up Downtown Bellevue

The Ashram Yoga Studio may have one of the best views in Bellevue, which is not a bad problem to have when trying to balance your chakras.

Gary Olson and Claudia Alabiso opened the Bellevue location of The Ashram Yoga to give Downtown bellevue a hot yoga studio. The two met in a yoga class and married years later.

The Ashram Yoga Studio may have one of the best views in Bellevue, which is not a bad problem to have when trying to balance your chakras.

Since opening last month, the Ashram has already made an impression in Downtown Bellevue by offering several types of hot yoga classes in the Elements building.

Co-owners and husband and wife team Gary Olson and Claudia Alabiso opened the Ashram in a former space occupied by another yoga studio. Bellevue is the studio’s second location.

“We have a unique system of yoga,” Olson said. “Usually when you do yoga you are moving on your own.”

He said the class moves and breathes together, emphasizing meditative and mental aspects of yoga.

He said that the two types of classes he teaches — bikram and power yoga — are run sort of like a martial arts class, with unified motion.

Olson founded the Ashram Yoga Studio in Kirkland a decade ago, and purchased the location in the Elements building to allow Bellevue residents to get a “hot yoga” experience.

Hot yoga is a colloquialism for any practice of yoga done in a high temperature-controlled environment. At the Ashram, yoga classes are conducted in 105 degree heat with 40 percent humidity.

The studio space has a small exterior deck, which Olson and Alabiso said will be perfect for cooling off after a tough class. The space was a bikram yoga school previously, but the two poured $80,000 in renovations to make the space more comfortable and welcoming.

While the owners have hundreds of faithful students now, the two came together through very different paths.

For Alabiso, yoga was a curiosity.

“I was walking after class in college and saw come crazy, sweaty, wet people come out of a strip mall,” she said. “I had to see what was going on. I had never heard of hot yoga before then.”

She began to attend every day starting in 2004, and completed her degree in psychology shortly after. Alabiso — a therapist when not teaching classes —began to associate therapy and yoga as a way of healthy living.

“Being a therapist is my primary thing,” she said. “I found the benefit and efficiency in breath through yoga. The marriage of the two side by side is a perfect fit.”

Even so, most styles of yoga weren’t a good fit. That changed in 2005 when she found Olson’s power yoga class. Her dancing background and power yoga’s ability to build core strength led her to where she is today.

For Olson, yoga was part of his life before he could even do child’s pose.

The Ballard native said he began doing yoga with his family as a young child, and he has paired it with martial arts and meditation all his life. The three have come together at the Ashram.

In 13 years of teaching, he has led thousands of yoga classes.

“Our motto here is ‘transformation practice daily,’ and we try to live that,” Olson said. “We attract everybody to our studio. Most of our teachers have graduate degrees. We have engineers, attorneys, a Redmond police officer and physicians.”

Students range from beginners to experienced yogis. First classes are free and first-time students can purchase discounted plans for classes, usually around $130 per month.

Olson and Alabiso said the response to their new studio has been overwhelmingly positive, with both new students and some old students from Kirkland coming to take a course in the new space. The Ashram employs more than 20 people split between the locations.

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