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Friday, December 23, 2005

desperate housewives

Maha Yoga
13050 San Vicente Boulevard, 2nd floor
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 899-0047

website: www.mahayoga.com

"Uniting music with yoga is, for me, a natural expression of the fundamental spirit of yoga which is joy and celebration. Although some practitioners of yoga take themselves very, very seriously, the true goal of yoga is the permanent and unbroken awareness of the deepest joy and happiness possible (called ananda or bliss). This bliss is not the result of some progressive path, based on techniques and elaborate practices. It is our very nature right now -- and always." - Steve Ross

when i found out a few years back that my friend BDB had started taking yoga classes at the downtown YMCA near his home, i assumed that this activity was a new supplement to his running. after all, he had suffered some downtime due to miscellaneous muscle pulls, so it made sense that he would want to minimize those injuries by gaining flexibility from regular yoga classes. however, once he started talking about the perky young yogini who taught the class he frequented, i began to wonder if he was also satisfying his love of art and the female form, namely hers. about a year later, i realized that he had become a true yoga convert because not only was he practicing three days a week, but his favorite teacher was no longer a woman but a man, and a taskmaster at that.

shortly after i started dabbling in yoga myself, BDB and i compared yoga stories and i was surprised to hear that he was now driving all the way across town to the westside for his yoga habit. his new yoga studio of choice: maha yoga in brentwood. unlike the downtown Y, where the regulars were the average downtown worker and/or dweller, maha yoga was where the beautiful people practiced. or as he jokingly referred to them, the "desperate housewives" of brentwood. imagine a room filled with women resembling eva longoria, teri hatcher, nicollette sheridan... you get the idea. despite the soaring cost of gas, i could see why this lover of beauty was willing to spend the time and the money to do a downward dog more than 20 miles from home.

it turned out that there really was a legitimate reason for his change of venue: he wanted to kick up his practice a notch, and apparently maha gave him the challenge he was looking for, with the hip-hop music that accompanied the classes adding an uplifting twist.

it just so happened that a running compadre of ours, matthew reyes, taught some of the more challenging classes. in fact, his classes were rated level 2/3+, where "+ indicates a more strength-based practice." so when i got to the point in my own practice that i could do a vinyasa sequence, a half moon pose, and a shoulderstand without embarrassing myself, i knew it was time for me to test out my yogathletic abilities.

the first time i took matt's sunday morning class, i made sure i arrived early to get a spot in the supposedly-packed room. i wanted to make sure i did NOT end up in the front row; i'd rather that i watched the beautiful people bend and stretch than them watch me. as i sat on my mat, warming up my injured knee to make sure it survived the class, i observed the students filing in. being the upscale locals that they were, they were dressed in high-end yoga attire such as lululemon (which also happens to be sold in the studio boutique); many had yogitoes skidless towels (retailing at around $50, also in the boutique) spread out over their mats. so maybe i wasn't quite the fashionista in my target sale yoga pants and my bed bath and beyond $9.99 towel...

the women were as young and attractive as i had heard they would be. and yes, even the men were gorgeous. as an added bonus, my KCRW card earned me a 10% on a series of classes (15% off a single class). i mentally thanked BDB for clueing me in on this valuable find.

when matt entered the room, i walked up to him, greeted him as i gave him a hug, and warned him that i was going to try my best to keep up, but that it all depended on how my knee held up. knowing that i was a die-hard runner, he said he was confident that i would do well. ninety minutes later, after holding extended poses while eminem, U2, and the go-go's played overhead, i was drenched in sweat. it was exhilarating! it clearly explained why people kept squeezing into his classes, with oftentimes barely six inches of space between yoga mats.

i soon became a matt regular, skipping class only if a sunday race got in the way. needless to say, the number of 5K's i ran started decreasing while the number of familiar faces at matt's class kept increasing. and yes, i eventually found myself plunking down hard-earned cash to get my own skidless towel (the socially-conscious pink breast cancer awareness version, of course).

in time, i made it a point to take classes with the other maha teachers, including steve ross, the guru of maha yoga himself. each of the teachers had a loyal following, with many of them teaching packed classes. the only downside was that i couldn't expect to get personalized adjustments in the larger classes. luckily, i was still frequenting santa monica yoga and sacred movement where i was closely monitored and assisted, so i was still able to advance my practice and have fun in the process.

i soon found myself taking more and more yoga classes; it got to the point where i had a collection of printed yoga studio schedules stashed away in my car, just in case i was fortunate enough to have some spare time on my hands.

i knew i had it bad when even BDB accused me of being a worse yoga addict than himself...