Instructor Profile: Nichola Dunne

nichola dunne

Urban Zen was created by fashion designer Donna Karan in response to her husband’s battle with cancer.  Integrating Western medicine with Eastern healing techniques, Urban Zen was born out of Karan’s desire to thank the over-worked nurses and doctors who had helped them.

Nichola Dunne taught Urban Zen twice-weekly at YogaWorks in Pacific Palisades and, in addition to three flow classes, currently teaches it at Goorus as well.  Nichola has always taken good care of herself: she exercises and eats right. But she discovered a lump in her left breast nearly three years ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy and subsequent other surgeries since then.

While the past three years have been a challenging time for Nichola, teaching and practicing yoga have helped her navigate this unchartered territory. “My personal practice has been more limited.  My doctor told me, for example, that I couldn’t do Down Dog for eight weeks after surgery. But I can still do standing poses, restorative poses and balancing poses.  Recently, I did my first forearm plank since March!”

Nichola grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to CSUN, earning a degree in biology.  She also studied landscape design, and worked at a garden nursery for many years.  She eventually married and had two children, settling in the Palisades.

Nichola took her first yoga class in 1995 and recalls, “I was a real gym rat and even thought about becoming a personal trainer, but burned out. I started yoga because I wanted to do something spiritual. Yoga is the perfect blend of spirituality and exercise for me.”

Nichola enjoyed yoga so much that she wanted to deepen her knowledge, perfect her alignment, and practice safely.  She completed her teacher training with YogaWorks founders Maty Ezraty and Lisa Walford in 1997.  Says Nichola, “I just took the classes because I enjoyed them, but my friends kept asking me to teach them. I started out teaching yoga in my living room.”

Nichola worked around the Palisades from the Cyprus Center to Yoga Works to Spectrum/Bay Club.  Nicholas says about Goorus, “I like the independent studio environment. This location has been my home since the very first yoga studio (Jiva) opened here.”

When asked about her illness and if she could share advice with other patrons living with cancer, Nichola says, “Let people in, but have boundaries. I regret not telling more people about my illness. After my second surgery, I felt isolated. Now, I ask my family and friends to come around, but if I’m not feeling up to it, I let them know…I would also tell a person with cancer to continue their yoga practice--whatever they are capable of doing. Be as consistent as you can and stay connected to your yoga community. It makes a person feel better in body, mind, and spirit.”

Client Profile: Jon Brown


Jon Brown is the last person you would think would become a yogi (at least he thinks so). Jon is a fixture in the early morning yoga classes and the occasional weekend class, and is a stickler about arriving on-time.  Once you get past this pet peeve, however, Jon is a super-nice guy. In fact, he donated the beautiful couch in the lobby of Goorus yoga studio and is one of the fledgling studio’s first members.

Jon grew up in Malibu and went to Beverly Hills High School. In these stunning locations, Jon says, “I surfed and did a lot of water sports. I also was on the tennis team in high school.” Jon later took up golf, regularly playing the greens twice each week for 20 years.  When he finally admitted to himself that his handicap wasn’t advancing the way he wanted, he took up yoga and dropped golf altogether. Jon credits yoga with opening up his shoulders to the point of adding 25 yards to his tee shots, which he recently discovered while hitting balls at the driving range.  “But I still can’t touch my toes,” says Jon, “and that drives me nuts!”

Jon had been practicing yoga for a few years when his cardiologist, a deeply- indoctrinated Western medical professional, told him that “yoga does nothing for lowering your cholesterol levels.” Despite this, Jon had noticed a steady decline in his own cholesterol levels (20-30 points) since taking up yoga.  Later, when Jon took a 6-month break from yoga after heart surgery, he watched his cholesterol numbers double.  Jon vowed to prove to his doctor that yoga does have an impact on heart health; six months after returning to his yoga practice, his cholesterol numbers were once again near their pre-heart surgery levels. Jon no longer sees his former cardiologist, having fired him for maintaining such a rigid attitude, and choosing to work instead with an Indian doctor who is tuned into Eastern energy systems, Ayurvedic medicine, and a deep understanding of yoga’s whole-body benefits.

Jon says, “I look forward to going bright and early to the studio.  I can roll out of bed and be there in less than 5 minutes.  Practicing yoga helps me get my head together for what is usually a stressful day at the office where I represent writers and directors as well as produce movies and television. Yoga is a huge plus for me--no phones ringing, no clients calling—just me and my practice. I’ve made some terrific friends at that location and have no desire to go anywhere else. My wife and I regularly socialize with a few people from class, though my wife is more of a ‘Barry’s Boot Camp’ kind of gal.”

When the former YogaWorks closed in May, Jon hesitated to transfer his membership to another location; he didn’t want to add more driving or more stress to his daily routine.  When the Lightfoots opened Goorus in June, Jon was enthusiastic, “It’s important to support Gretchen and John. They are a mom and pop business and treat people fairly. I hope they pull it off--there are a lot of the same teachers, so it [the studio] should attract the same people. Having this yoga studio in the Palisades will become even more important as Rick Caruso’s project gets underway.”

Instructor Profile: Susan Cambigue-Tracey

Instructor Profile: Susan Cambigue-Tracey

The name Susan Cambigue-Tracey may have seemed like that of a new teacher when it appeared on Goorus Yoga’s schedule, but for those who took Al’s early morning yoga class, Susan’s face will be a familiar one. Now she is teaching Wake Up Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:15am and Fluid Yoga at 10:30am on Wednesdays and Fridays.