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Yogatopia: Where Stars Can Unwind

July 15, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Life in Tinseltown can be tough. Your agent can’t cut a deal, Spielberg’s still holding on line one, and if the paparazzi don’t maim you, the critics will.

Peer out from the limo, the freeway’s a mess. It’s all about stress. You must decompress.

The place: Yogatopia, a minimalist enclave in Brentwood, Calif. Past white gauze curtains and on a blond wood floor, Elizabeth Berkley looks graceful in a handstand, Dennis Quaid is stretching his mind and body with a split, and Woody Harrelson is perfecting a pose, legs behind head.

Yogatopia is ``pretty star-studded″ with ``tons of TV and movie people,″ says co-owner Steve Ross, 46.

But forget the star factor, say Ross and his partner Rod Stryker, 40, both natives of Los Angeles. ``As much as this is newsworthy, in class they become anonymous,″ Stryker says.

Well, not totally anonymous. Stryker’s new bride is, after all, ’70s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, who attends class three times a week and met him _ where else? _ at a yoga class.

``Whether it’s Goldie (Hawn) or Cheryl,″ says Stryker, ``once they get in there, the whole idea is to drop all that and blend in. The focus is for them to forget their celebrity and unwind.″

OK, so we’ll try to ignore Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tea Leoni, Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Matthew Modine, Kate Capshaw or Sally Field. We won’t tell David Duchovny we hear he’s strong on flexibility and stamina. We promise not to beg Quaid and wife Meg Ryan for autographs while they perform their Sanskrit chants. And we won’t even tell Jim Belushi to put out his cigar.

``He smokes a cigar right to the last minute before class. Right ’til the bell rings, he’s out there puffing away,″ says Stryker.

The cool thing is, ``it’s L.A., nobody cares,″ says Ross. ``(Celebrities) don’t get hassled, generally. People are nonchalant about them because they’re everywhere.″

Still, ``the day John John showed up, there was a kind of buzz,″ says Stryker, recalling last September when John F. Kennedy Jr. took Ross’ mixed-level Saturday evening class.

``People didn’t know whether to notice him or do their yoga,″ says Stryker. ``Or figure out how to do both.″

If a client drops out, says Ross, it doesn’t mean they’re lazy. ``They get movies, so they disappear for two months, then they drop back in every day for two months.″

Ross, who’s done house calls for Kirstie Alley, Courtney Love and Richard Gere, teaches athletic-style yoga classes. Stryker practices more traditional yoga, focusing on controlled breathing, stretching, visualization and meditation.

What draws the stars to yoga?

``It’s definitely a life under the microscope, and the stakes are very high. Most of the people who excel in those careers are extremely creative, yet on the other hand, the industry itself is very callous,″ says Stryker. ``They need more than just looking great. They need ways to unwind from that world and regenerate themselves.″

Why Yogatopia?

``It’s the neighborhood yoga place,″ says Stryker.

For a mere $13 per session, you can stretch out, limber up and calm down. And if you forget to turn off your cell phone and pager, there’s a sign to remind you.

And what’s the magic?

``They come in, we do the class, it’s hard, it’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s packed,″ says Ross. ``At the end, everybody files out and that’s that.″

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