A History of Pilgrimage of the Heart
I moved from the beautiful coastal town of La Jolla to Adams Avenue in Normal Heights in 1985 to help open Jyoti-Bihanga Vegetarian Restaurant. I worked there for 5 years and then spent the better part of the 90s traveling around the world offering free meditation workshops on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre.
Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga began as a small gift boutique store in 1999. My inspiration was to create a business that could spread spiritual energy and be a viable business. I told my teacher, Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007,) about the idea and he offered the name: The Pilgrimage of the Heart. My mother, who was a doctor and passed away in 2003, provided the seed money for the adventure.
The Pilgrimage of the Heart operated as a gift shop and operated for 4 years in what is today the East Room lounge. Three years later the space next door, the current East Room, became available. We did some remodeling and soon the gift shop expanded to fill the entire space.
In 2005 the then manager of the store decided to pursue other interests. It had operated all those prior years with myself being something of an absentee owner. Faced with the prospect of being more intimately involved with the enterprise I decided to shift the focus of the business to yoga. Since the early days of Jyoti-Bihanga I had always preferred the service industry to selling merchandise.
It was in 2005 that we created the first yoga room, which is the current East Studio Lounge area. A young architect named Matt Gries created the design. Sean O’Shea was my main yoga advisor at this time. He had recently opened a studio of his own in La Jolla and was happy to give me advice on my studio. I also studied with him privately for 14 months, up until the time of his passing, learning to teach yoga. We hit the nail on the head: within a few months the yoga room, which held 12 yogis, was operating at full capacity. We then created the East Room, as it is known now, and used the Lounge area as a reception area.
Sean taught on Monday nights in the East Room. He brought an intensity and excitement to the studio. He also brought great teachers into the Pilgrimage of the Heart. He came to meditations at the Sri Chinmoy Centre and loved to eat at Jyoti-Bihanga.
Sri Chinmoy, with whom I studied meditation and spirituality for 27 years, passed away in 2007. It was then that I decided to pursue the yoga studio full time. I got some great advice from Maral Hadidi about taking the studio to the next level. Maral also designed our first teacher training program.
In the spring of 2007 Blair Hartwell, who was at that time a member, became the studio’s first full time manager. Over the next 2 years a true yoga community came into being. Lifelong friendships were formed. We went from 14 classes a week to 35 and from a handful of members to over 100. We needed room to grow. We offered our first teacher training, taught by Haunani Chong and Nikole Fortier, in 2010.
The Main Studio, as it is now known, became available in the spring of 2011. Blair and her husband set off a year-long around the world adventure and Linda Martone stepped into the roll of managing the studio. She was assisted by Michelle Laxton. As the studio and community grew so did the need for precise careful business management and organization. Linda provided that attention to detail, allowing us to grow to the next level.
In the fall of 2012 we opened a second studio in North Park. It is one thing to grow organically, it is another to open brand new at full capacity. In July of 2012 Carolina Moreira became full time manager in North Park.
One never knows for sure what the future holds, but the future definitely exists in seed-form in our intentions. It is that intention that has become the pole star of the studio: To offer a wide variety of yoga classes taught in a welcoming environment by caring and knowledgeable teachers.
To see our current staff and the roles they play visit our “staff page.”