Five Days of Yoga in L.A
'Take a big ‘ol inhale, and mmmmhhhhmmmmm exhale into Warrior Two, imagine that'. I couldn’t help but lift the corners of my lips as I aligned my feet into Warrior Two on the mat. This was the most interesting class I’d been to in LA. The teacher wasn’t a well known name to me. He was a last minute sub for recommended teacher Bryan Kest at his Santa Monica studio. The current teachers lyrical cues were dispersed thoughtfully in between volumes of hip hop music - ‘Use the inhale to caress the architecture of the pose’ – so that the class became less about alignment and sequence structure, and more about the teachers expression of yoga. Taking a practice that is thousands of years old, he carved out his own rendition forming a class both familiar and unique. Enough to be the one that stands out in my mind when I think of yoga in L.A. Not for reasons I would of thought, either. Not for ultimate anatomical knowledge. Not for striking sequencing. Not for wise words, philosophical comparisons or, dare I say it, a talent for Cirque de Soleil asana. (Although the class lacked none of these things). It was memorable because it was uniquely the teachers own. Containing that magic of authenticity that can be rare in most places - even in the yoga world.
Los Angeles is a Mecca for yoga. As one lady clearly pointed out to me ‘It’s on every corner dear, like Starbucks’. I spent five days there, moving between teachers and studios, practicing three times each day. It was only a small slice of the pie. One of the great things about yoga in LA is that you can practice at any time of day that you want. In LA you have your regular morning, mid morning, lunch time and evening classes. Plus brunch time yoga, mid afternoon and late night yoga. With a lengthy list of recommendations, I hopped through Venice Beach and Santa Monica on my own yoga studio crawl. I delighted in having so many options. I felt disappointed I hadn’t the time to sample all.
My first night in L.A after a fifteen hour flight found me decidedly less limber than usual, and twice as enthusiastic. (An interesting combination). Dani, who worked at lululemon in Santa Monica, picked me up outside my Airbnb doorstep, chauffeuring me to my first yoga class. The Yoga Collective on Rose Avenue, in Venice Beach. I learnt two things about yoga in LA in this class. Firstly, it’s busy. Mat to mat busy. Excuse me in prasarita busy. Following that, when it comes to the breath, there is no lack of inhibition. Expressive sighs escape constantly from around the room from start to namaste. Vocal, letting it all hang out kinda’ exhales. Freeing the breath out of the body whenever the need comes around.
Over the next four days, using Uber, and latest competitor Lyft, I studio hopped between Venice Beach and Santa Monica and back again. Much like an Australian boomerang that everyone kept mistaking me for. At Yoga Raj on Barrington Ave, Kate Cariati lead the class through creative sequencing and seamless transitions that set me up to step right into Jay Co’s class later that evening. As the owner of Yoga Raj, his class is as down to earth and welcoming as his yoga studio. This studio has you feel like it’s more than ok to unroll your mat and stay awhile. Which I would of happily done, but with only five days, I had to move forward.
Next stop was Power Yoga East in Santa Monica with recommend teacher Vytas. The name Power Yoga East didn’t disappoint. Longer held poses unafraid to test students strength balanced out the fluid lunch-time flow I’d just sampled. Here’s another aspect of yoga in LA. With the amount of classes, teachers and studios available, you will have no trouble finding whatever it is your looking for. And if your not sure what your looking for, it’s a yoga buffet out there so you can sample until your full, or at least one class closer to finding the right fit for you.
For those looking for early morning classes and a shower before heading out into the world, Yoga Works offers memberships to their many studio branches. There are a stunning variety of teachers at this studio, some more well known than others. (I had the delightful experience of having a teacher with no Instagram account (!), but years of experience, adjust me in downward facing dog with such expertise as to illuminate a habit that had evaded me for years). Those who prefer smaller studios with a community vibe will be thrilled with the donation based pricing that comes with many of these spaces, such as Yoga Raj on Barrington Avenue and Power Yoga East in Santa Monica. Music lovers will find their niche visiting Ally Hamilton at her studio, Yogi’s Anonymous. Her ninety minute Thursday night class melts into live music that has savasana come around way too soon. Wanderlusters can venture out to West Hollywood to the Wanderlust studio, and slip into a surprisingly tranquil atmosphere that lets you forget the walk of fame is only a few steps away. This studio also boasts a café full of on trend health foods, including the incomparable Moon Juice. Those willing to venture just outside of the Venice Beach and Santa Monica hub, can head to Yoga Salt in nearby Culver City. This studio is cool compared to the majority of studios in LA, who heat the rooms before and during class (leading to a minimum of two pairs of leggings needed daily!). Yoga Salt is large enough to accommodate the amount of students signed up for well-known teacher Liz Arch. Liz teaches a class as unhurried as she is and takes the time to chat afterwards, something I can say the same of all the teachers I visited in LA. The standard of professionalism is high, every teacher takes the time to know who is in their class, especially if you’re a new face, and body, to work with.
After five days, my body was ready for a break. Which was good, as I was headed to the blue waters of the Yucatan Coast. First though, was a quick trip to Las Vegas. Sin City, a far cry from my three yoga classes a day fuelled by repeat visits to Café Gratitude. I’d like to tell you about the yoga I partook in once in Vegas, but I’d have to lie.
Hey, life’s about balance.
A quick guide to Yoga in LA:
Venice Beach – The Yoga Collective, Love Yoga Venice, Rama Institute, Yoga Salt (Culver City, a little outside Venice Beach)
Santa Monica – Yoga Raj, Power Yoga East, Yoga Works, Power Yoga Santa Monica
West Hollywood – Wanderlust Studio, Black Dog, Liberation Yoga
Where to Stay
Stay Venice Beach or Santa Monica – I recommend using Airbnb.
Uber or Lyft – both are reasonably priced, fast and reliable. Check each one for deals.
- Some studios are pay by donation, some charge a casual drop in rate. It’s good to have an idea before hand or have enough money to cover your costs.
- I bought a travel yoga mat along for the ride (only take on as carry on, unless you can fit it inside your check-in luggage. Don't strap it to the side of your pack and forget about it, trust me), however most of the studios offer mats, or you can hire them for a small fee.
- If your looking for an extra pair of leggings to see you through all the classes on offer, lululemon flagship store is centrally located on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
- To refuel between classes, I recommend Moon Juice and Café Gratitude, both are located on Rose Street in Venice Beach, but there are many health food Cafes on offer so be sure to ask around at the studio your visiting.
For those of you curious as to who exactly that teacher was I mentioned in the beginning, his name is Temitope, of Temitope Yoga. I highly recommend checking him out, and the studios and teachers mentioned above, when your in LA. And for those times when you aren't on the mat, get yourself a bike and ride from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. It's as freeing as a Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) first thing off a fifteen hour flight.