She doesn't consider it an exercise, although it does all the same good things. But yoga focuses on the wholeness of the body.
"At the end you feel really filled up, your heart and body and mind are all in the same place. You're alive and present," she said.
Baby boomers are finding their way to Downtown Yoga in droves, noted Kate's husband, Jim.
'The typical new person is middle-aged, saying to themselves, 'I've got to do something.' They realize they're not going to go run marathons anymore but they have to do some kind of activity to maintain their flexibility --and to feel good.
"They just don't feel as good any more. They feel sluggish and tight, disconnected, withdrawn," he continued.
Scientific studies show that yoga, while firming the muscles and with its relaxed breathing, releases a natural anti-inflammatory so people feel better, he said.
"They'll say, 'Gosh, my shoulder doesn't hurt any more,' or 'My hip doesn't hurt any more.'"
Another great thing about yoga, said Jim Coughlin, is it can be practiced by all ages, from early childhood to old, old age.
"If you decide it's right for you it can be sustainable for the rest of your life," he said. "You can practice until you're 100 -- and some do."
Downtown Yoga has an Introduction to Yoga series that meets for an hour and a half for eight classes; cost is $112. It is limited to 30 people and sells out every time, said Kate Coughlin.
"We also have beginning classes that are open to everybody," she said.
But taking the series guarantees there will not be gaps in your practice, she explained, plus it's nice to learn with other stark beginners.
Wear comfortable clothing, she advised, nothing binding, and the studio has everything you need. It also has yoga mats and props for sale. Also, it's best to practice on an empty stomach.
"Beginning classes are very 'safe,'" Kate said. "Many are fearful, they think they will be the stiffest one there. But in the beginning you don't push yourself too much."
"All levels go back and take beginning classes," she said. "A comforting, relaxing class is fabulous."
"There's a whole science in how we put a class together -- you are active and then you restore," she noted. "Afterward you feel energized, not worn out. You should feel whole."
Coughlin developed the yoga curriculum at Stanford University in 1990-91. She was hired to teach aerobics and dancing but noticed that the students were very stressed. The department head immediately saw the benefits and gave the go-ahead.
"Over 100 students showed up for the first class," Coughlin recalled. "It was born overnight. We divided those 100 students into four classes."
When the Coughlins moved to Pleasanton for his job in 2000, they embraced the community and enrolled their twin daughters at Hearst Elementary. There was no yoga studio in town, and Jim thought Kate should open her own studio but she began teaching at health clubs and in a yoga studio in Danville.
Then one evening after dinner downtown they noted the brick building at 220 Division St. where a photographer had his studio, which they agreed would be perfect for yoga.
"The next day there was a 'for rent' sign in the window," Kate said.
"We've been there 10 years and taught over 20,000 classes," Jim said. "We have 400-500 people a week. We're a community, we're good friends."
Last June they expanded by renting adjacent space that opens onto 550 Main St. Kate said she never felt confined in the smaller studio but now she likes having more rooms for classes and a small cheerful office.
Pleasanton Downtown Yoga also offers meditation, women's yoga studies, advanced studies that include anatomy classes, plus yearly retreat programs to India and Mexico to practice yoga.
"I love this community that has formed here," Kate said. "It's a soft, warm, caring environment. The focus is attention on the individual students. It's a good place to be."
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