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Huntington Beach resident is helping others find their moment of zen

Instructor Alison Zimmer stands in her Zen Den as clients prepare for a class in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Like many people, Alison Zimmer turned to yoga in a time of grief.

She said her boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident when she was 22.

Fifteen years later — to the day — she signed the lease on her new yoga studio, the Zen Den HB, in Huntington Beach.

“Talk about full circle,” Zimmer said. “You can’t plan that.”

Since the doors opened in April, Zimmer and her co-creator Angel Montague have been building a roster of yoga instructors for the studio. They had an official grand opening for the Zen Den HB last weekend.

“In this space, it’s just not us doing yoga and teaching movement,” said Zimmer on Thursday, before teaching a “gentle” yoga class to a group of about 20 women. “We’re trying to build people’s confidence, whether that’s kids, teens, adult women, grown men. This is a space for people to feel better.”

Clients begin a breathing exercise in Alison Zimmer's Zen Den during a yoga class in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

All ages are welcome. Zimmer also is currently doing a mindfulness class with children on weekday mornings, which is continuing in different sessions through the month of July.

Now 37, the Huntington Beach resident understands the importance of children living healthy lives. A Marina High graduate, Zimmer taught high school softball for several years. She also worked in high school special education for 13 years in the Huntington Beach Union High School District, at Edison and Westminster high schools.

Montague still works at Edison; Zimmer said many of her clients are involved in education.

Brittany Attwell also went to Marina High and formerly had Zimmer as her softball coach. She is a devoted attendee of Zimmer’s beach yoga sessions at Pacific Coast Highway and 17th Street.

“I’ve followed her around to different spots,” said Attwell, who now lives in Garden Grove. “She has a lot to offer, a variety of classes. I bring my family. A lot of people are intimidated by yoga, but she breaks it down and is very clear about what’s going on, and the benefits from each pose. She can make anybody comfortable.”

Instructor Alison Zimmer begins a breathing exercise in her Zen Den during a class in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

This was true at Zimmer’s class Thursday night.

“Yoga is supposed to make you feel good,” she told the attendees near the start of the session. “If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. You’re not stuck.”

The class ran for an hour, leading up to Savasana, which is the final resting pose.

Zimmer was first certified as a yoga instructor in 2011. For a long time, she taught at Yoga Shakti in town. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Zimmer went virtual for 75 days during the spring of 2020, but it didn’t feel right. She started teaching classes at the current location of her studio, though someone else owned the space.

The former owner decided she wasn’t going to renew the lease, and Zimmer jumped at the opportunity. Within a couple of weeks, she had a business up and running.

Clients arrive and place their mats for a light yoga session at Alison Zimmer's Zen Den in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I’ve managed other studios, I’ve helped other studios,” she said. “The only reason I said I would never do it was because of the overhead. Lucky for me, the numbers made sense, so there was no hesitation.”

One attendee who is slightly more than double Zimmer’s age is enjoying the new space. Huntington Beach resident Linda Krum, 75, dropped in for Thursday’s class.

Krum said she started doing yoga 15 years ago. Like Zimmer herself, it has gotten her through some hard times, including the death of her husband of nearly 50 years, Duke, in January 2020.

“I have a lot of wonderful friends here,” Krum said. “Alison is an amazing teacher, and this is a beautiful spot.”

Zimmer would agree. For her, the Zen Den HB has been a labor of love — and she focuses on the love part of that.

“The whole reason I teach yoga is to help people that are in pain,” she said. “I’ve got a really good community of people that have been super-supportive.”

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