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Saturday, July 29, 2006

life is a blessing

Blessings Center
1310 South Carmona Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 930-2803
website: www.gurutej.com

The Blessing Center is located on a peaceful Sycamore Tree lined street in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. The house itself sits on a lot surrounded by fuchsia colored bougainvilleas. The tranquil sound of falling water can be heard not so far off in the background.

When you get to the front door, just walk in and take off your shoes. There is no formality. Self-regulated check-in allows you to be accountable and to get ready for the always unexpected in class. Within minutes you have the feeling that you belong here. As Gurutej puts it, It is a place to learn, to heal, and to discover your personal destiny. Everyone is welcome.

i know that somewhere along the line, i must have mentioned in one of my posts that i was a marathoner whose goal was to run a 26.2 miler in every state. and that goal, while still in sight, is temporarily on hold until i feel the need to beat up my post-surgical knee once again.

as with most of the 50-staters, the big question i've had to consider has been: which race do i plan to run as my final race? i'd thought that it would be nice to go out with a bang, so to speak, and do a true destination marathon to make everything that more memorable. i had already run maui, so hawaii was off the list. and so were louisiana (new orleans), new york (new york city), massachusetts (boston), and florida (walt disney world). with 19 states left to be run, i was left with options like idaho, wyoming, mississippi, ohio, michigan, and wisconsin.

ahh... but then again, i still have alaska, which definitely falls in the category of "saving the best for last". if i had my druthers, i'd fly to anchorage, run the midnight sun marathon, take a leisurely cruise back to vancouver, then fly back home from there. now THAT would be a celebration, wouldn't it?

i may still have a bit of a ways to get to that 50th state; however, i just added the 50th studio to my list of yoga studios and the 50th location to my platial map. and considering the milestone, it turned out to be a wonderful and unexpected celebration!

for the big five-oh, i decided to take a class at the blessings center, home of gurutej kaur khalsa, a student of yogi bhajan and a co-founder of the golden bridge yoga center. she's a kundalini master who's been teaching yoga and meditation for over 36 years.

the center is literally located in gurutej's home, a modest mediterranean in the miracle mile district. since parking on her quiet residential street is extremely restricted, i parked around the block and walked the short distance to her front gate. a small plaque that read "KHALSA" confirmed that i was at the right place. i let myself through the gate and rang the doorbell. no response. i walked to the back of the house and heard some voices. my hello? was met with a face that popped out from behind a fence. a boy asked what i was looking for, and when i said "blessings center", he told me to go around to the front door and let myself in.

when i entered the living room, i noticed a man fiddling with a tripod-mounted camera. thinking that he was putting his equipment away after a photo shoot, i looked around for someone to tell me where i could put down my belongings. i ran into a young woman named grace (apparently the boy's mother), who graciously offered me a glass of water while asking me if i was there for the video shoot. video shoot? i asked. apparently, that night's class was going to be videotaped for gurutej's monthlyyogadvd.com subscribers. and by attending the class that was to start in less than half an hour, my face (and whatever else i ended up doing) was going to be recorded on that DVD!

the good news was that my momentous visit to my fiftieth studio was going to be preserved for myself and others to view at any time.

the bad news was that i was still relatively new to kundalini yoga, so i really wasn't savvy to all things kundalini -- the chants, the moves, and so on. which meant that there was a possibility that i would make a fool of myself. and that it was going to be preserved for myself and others to view at any time.

all the other regulars started showing up right after i got there, so we chatted for a while in the kitchen before heading out to the living room, where the class (and the shoot) was going to be held. of course, everyone already had their mats laid out on the floor. and of course everyone had placed themselves at the back of the room. so there i was, ms. clueless, with my mat at the front of the class :(

with gurutej miked up and the two cameras ready to roll (one pointed at her and one pointed at the students), our class began.

gurutej started out by talking about the reason for the dvd. it was so that people could feel like they were practicing with "real" people in a "real" class, rather than models and advanced students in the typical yoga instructional dvd. yes, i was a real person. so if you want to see someone struggling through class, you can watch me :(

she then started on our topic for the class: seeing God in others. i looked into her serene face as she spoke and thought to myself, yes, if God were in human form, he could look like her. and maybe even sound like her. then i considered the group as a whole, and about how friendly and welcoming everyone was when i first met them, and realized that yes, this was the way God would want us all to be. gurutej then segued into the topic of war, but by that time my mind had wandered off and i was thinking about how, despite the hard times and the good times i've had recently, my life has truly been a blessing...

.. but then again, if God were looking out for me this time, He would see to it that i didn't end up being the person that millions (thousands? hundreds?) of people would point to and ask "what's up with her?"

kundalini yoga is a fairly energetic and repetitive practice, and this class was no different. of course, it turned out that not one of the mantras, the mudras, nor the pose sequences that we did in class were familiar to me, except maybe for downward dog and savasana. so for those of you who get a chance to watch the DVD, you'll know why i kept glancing at the people beside me. i had to make sure that i was following along correctly, because heaven forbid that i kept repeating the wrong thing over and over again!

there were some moments of comic relief that eventually caused me to stop worrying about how i looked on tape (is it true what they say about those dreaded ten pounds?). like the time a student barged into the room and profusely apologized for being late, then was totally embarrassed when she realized that the cameras had recorded everything she'd said. gurutej invited her to join the group anyway, even if she still had to change out of the clothes she wore to work. the poor frazzled woman started to toss her shoes and belongings every which way, flew out of the room, quickly scurried back to her mat, then attempted to regain her composure. and all the time we were wondering about how much of it would make it to the final version.

or when a second latecomer joined the group and had to walk across all our mats to get to an empty spot at the other end of the room.

or the time gurutej shouted out an expletive while recounting her recent experience at a social gathering. i wonder if the cameras caught the look of shock on our faces?

or when the entire class broke out in laughter when someone commented that he was the only one doing the more difficult version of a pose.

yup, we were definitely a "real" group of people going through a "real" class. i wonder how the spontaneity of it all will play out in living rooms across america...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

consent of instructor

if you've ever taken a class at either of bryan kest's power yoga studios in santa monica, i.e., the east studio on santa monica blvd or the west studio on 2nd st, you'll know that most of the classes are described as being either level 1-2 or all levels (which is somewhat puzzling to me because if you read the class descriptions, both levels have exactly the same description: "This class is for anybody and everybody". hmmm... i should probably ask someone about that the next time i volunteer at the west studio... but i digress) .

if you look closely, you'll see that at the east studio, a few of bryan's classes are described as level 3-4. he teaches these classes on mondays, wednesdays, and fridays at 4:30pm only. so if you're a 9-5er, you can attend one of these classes only if you take the day off (or call in sick). however, even if you somehow manage to get to the studio at the appointed day and time, there's an added restriction:

level 3-4*
*Private Class. Permission needed prior to the day attending.

when i first saw that, it brought back memories of the "consent of instructor required" classes i had in college, where i had to convince the instructor that i had satisfied all the prerequisites before i could enroll in the class. it was a way for the teacher to ensure that all of us who signed up were on the same page, so to speak, when we first walked into the door.

but i've found that in the yoga world, no one really enforces the class level rule. it's pretty much self-monitored; if you've never taken a yoga class before yet insist on taking an advanced class, you may find yourself dazed and confused. not to mention frustrated. in some cases, though, you could also end up being a distraction to the other students in the class. or worse yet, an annoyance, because instead of the teacher being able to lead the class in the usual manner, he/she may end up slowing down the pace just so you can keep up with the group. in other words, you'll pretty much know when you don't belong.

anyway, kest's level 3-4 thing intrigued me. was it really that much harder than the level 2-3 classes at other studios? after all, with all the yoga wandering (and wondering) that i've been doing, i've progressed enough in my practice that i can now keep up with most level 2-3 classes. i may not be able to do everything gracefully, especially inversions and arm balances, but at least i'm good enough at pretending to know what i'm doing :)

of course you know that i just had to find out...

the first step was to get permission from bryan. i knew that my face was familiar to him by now; not only does he see me in his level 1-2 classes, but he also sees me on the days that i volunteer. but was my practice familiar to him? apparently not, because when i asked him at the end of one his level 1-2 classes if i could "move up" to his advanced class, he said i had to ask him before my next class so he could watch and decide.

so i showed up the next week and as instructed, i asked him to confirm that i was "level 3-4 worthy" before the class started. and after what seemed to be a particularly grueling class, he gave me his blessing. alleluia!

so today was my first experience with his more difficult class. and was it? yes, but not by much. there were no inversions nor arm balances involved, so the increased difficulty seemed to have more to do with holding balance poses for longer periods of time and twisting and stretching just a little bit more. in fact, i would say that his 3-4 classes aren't any harder than most teachers' 2-3 classes. but then again, i really won't know for sure until i take more of his classes at this level...

regardless, it feels great to know that i've passed muster and have essentially been given the secret handshake to get into bryan's "private class". woo hoo!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

back friendly yoga

Samata Yoga Center
4150 Tivoli Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 306-8845
website: www.samata.com

The Samata Yoga Center was established in 1981 by Larry Payne, Ph.D. The word Samata in Sanskrit means "balance." The style of Yoga taught at Samata is inspired by the teachings of T.K.V. Desikachar, son of the late professor Sri T. Krishnamacharya of Mysore, India who was perhaps the most knowledgeable Yoga teacher of the 20th century. Krishnamacharya taught that Yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) should be adapted to respect individual differences in age, physical and mental health, culture, religion, philosophy and occupation. Some of Krishnamacharya's other popular Yoga students in America include B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi, and A.G. Mohan.

my back's been bothering me for some time now. there are days when it's just a minor annoyance, and there are days when it hurts so much that i keep fidgeting, hoping if that if i twist around enough, i'll be able to snap things back into place. and usually the harder i work at it, the worse it gets :(

yesterday, i received an email update from insight yoga in pasadena. it announced that all their regular classes were cancelled this sunday because of an all-day workshop:

Introduction to Yoga Therapy Rx with Larry Payne
Sunday, July 30th 9am-5pm
For Yoga students of all levels!
Larry Payne’s Yoga Rx Wellness Plan is a synthesis of the ageless wisdom of Yoga from the East with the most recent knowledge incomplementary health from the West.
Join us for a day-long immersion into Larry's 8-Step Wellness Plan where students will learn poses, breathing techniques, good food choices, positive mindsets, biomechanical re-education and much, much more to help achieved a healthier body and more balanced life. Click
here for more information.

a healthy body and a balanced life? it sounded like something i wanted to learn more about, but not only are higher-priced workshops out of my budget right now, but taking a class in pasadena this sunday is impossible if i'm supposed to be in orange county that same day (my baby sister's in town and i want to see her before she takes off again).

ok, so i couldn't afford to do larry's all-day workshop on sunday. but i could take one of his yoga classes; in fact, i had seen larry's name on the jiva yoga schedule, where he teaches a class called "user friendly yoga". according to his bio posted on the jiva website:

Larry Payne, Ph.D, is an internationally respected Yoga teacher and back pain specialist. Dr. Payne is director of the International Association of Yoga Therapist; co-founder of the Yoga curriculum at the UCLA Medical School; founder of the Yoga program at the J. Paul Getty Museum; and director of the Samata Yoga Center in Los Angeles since 1981. Dr. Payne is co-author of Yoga for Dummies with Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., and is featured in two new "User Friendly Yoga videos, released in 1999. Larry focuses on function over form, safety for backs and necks, breath, and decompression of the spine and 25 of the safest Yoga poses.

i was sold, until i realized that his class at jiva was only held on wednesdays, and i already had another class planned for tomorrow :(

as usual, google search came to my rescue. i found out that larry also taught at other locations, including his home near marina del rey. at 7pm tonight, tuesday. bingo!

i got there somewhat early, so i had a chance to chat with some of the other students before class started. when larry walked into the room, he greeted us all, then had us introduce ourselves to each other. there were two who were new to the group; i was one of them, and the other was a friend of one of the regulars. his sister and his two nieces had also joined us.

larry reminded us that it was a mixed level class, so we were to move at our own pace, at our own ability, and not try to compete against everyone else in the class. fair enough, since i wanted to take it easy anyway.

the poses he led us through were simple enough, yet with the options he gave us, we were free to make them as challenging as we wanted them to be.

as usual, one side of me kept urging me to push harder, while the other kept telling me to hold back and stay within my comfort zone. i must have negotiated a peaceful truce between the two, because by the end of the class, i had worked up a bit of a sweat yet i felt relaxed and nicely stretched. and yes, my back was happy, too.

after savasana, larry asked all of us to sit in a circle and hold hands and think about what we had left to do that week. i suppose it could have been considered a goal-setting exercise, but then again, given all the things that i have on my plate between now and the weekend, i decided to just clear my brain and enjoy the moment. larry then poured tea for the students, which we drank before we said our goodbyes and left the room.

a very friendly class, indeed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

ready or not, here it comes

at first glance, this doesn't appear to have anything to do with yoga.

but it does have something to do with yoga in los angeles. specifically, the west side of los angeles.

starting wednesday, july 26th, if you live and/or work in the 310 area code and have the phone numbers of your favorite westside yoga studios on speed dial, you'd better make sure that you also have their "1-310" area code included with those saved numbers. otherwise, instead of getting a studio information line, you're going to get a message telling you that unless you learn to dial all 1+10 digits, you're going to keep getting the same annoying message from the phone company.

and while you're at it, you might as well check all the other 310 numbers that are programmed into your cell phone, your home phone, your work phone, your fax machine, your security system... you get the idea.

this is all in preparation for the upcoming overlay of the new 424 area code, which takes effect on august 26th. and as if to taunt all of us affected phone customers, the digits 4-2-4 spell:


makes you wonder if it's a conspiracy launched by the non-310ers who are are jealous of the fact that our temperatures by the beach have yet to exceed 100 degrees...

here's the official memo from att.com:

Important Information about California Area Code 310

On August 25, 2005 the California Public Utilities Commission approved a request by a group of telecommunications carriers to replace the current back-up plan to split the 310 area code with an area code overlay, when the 310 area code ran out of numbers to assign to telecommunication companies. To accommodate the growing need for telephone numbers, the 424 area code will be added to the area served by 310.

Who will be affected?

The new 424 area code will serve customers in the same geographic region as the current 310 area code, which includes the Westside and South Bay area of Los Angeles County and a small portion of Ventura County. This is known as an area code overlay.

What is an area code overlay?

An overlay is the addition of another area code (424) to the same geographic region as an existing area code (310). An overlay does not require customers to change their existing area code.

What will be the new dialing procedure?

To complete calls from a landline phone, the new dialing procedure requires callers to dial 1 + area code + telephone number. This means that all calls in the 310 area code that are currently dialed with seven digits will need to be dialed using 1+ area code + telephone number.

To complete calls from a cellular or mobile phone, callers may dial the area code + telephone number or 1 + area code and telephone number whenever placing a call from a phone number with the 310 or 424 area code.

When will the change begin?

Beginning July 26, 2006, you must use the new dialing procedure for all calls. After this date, if you do not use the new dialing procedure, your call will not be completed, and a recording will instruct you to hang up and dial again.

Beginning August 26, 2006, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers with the 424 area code.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

heat wave!

Bikram's Yoga College of India
1862 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 838-8040
website: www.bikramyoga.com

Q. What is the recommended room temperature for Bikram Yoga?
The recommended temperature is minimum 105F degrees and about 40% humidity.
The room is kept at this temperature or more for the following:

  • Keeping the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)
  • Protecting the muscles to allow for deeper stretching
  • Detoxing the body (open pores to let toxins out)
  • Thinning the blood to clear the circulatory system
  • Increasing heart rate for better cardiovascular workout
  • Improving strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization
  • Reorganize the lipids (fat) in the muscular structure

  • Q. I feel nausous, dizzy during class and very tired after my first class. Is this normal?
    It is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during your first class. Practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition, and inspires us take much better care of ourselves.
    Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water for daily living, let alone for exercising in a heated room. Nutritionists tell us that we need 64-80 ounces of water a day to help the body function properly.
    In the heated yoga room, your body needs adequate fund of water to allow perspiration to release heat from the body as you practice. So we estimate you need another 64-80 ounces (sometime during the day) to allow for your 90 minutes in the room. Once you are drinking enough water your body will tolerate the heat better and you will actually enjoy the heat.
    If you feel disoriented or like you need a good nap after your first few classes, this is likely because your body has begun to cleanse itself as a result of the yoga practice. Don't be scared. After the first few classes this sensation will pass. The more you can relax as you give your 110% honest effort during class, the more energized you will feel throughout the class and throughout the rest of your day.

    earlier this afternoon, the national weather service issued this heat advisory:

    Issued by the National Weather Service at 2:28 PM PDT on July 22, 2006

    An excessive heat warning remains in effect until 8 PM PDT this evening for inland portions including downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills.
    This warning is in effect for inland portions including downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills. Very high temperatures combined with high humidity levels across these areas are expected to produce dangerous heat index values of 102 to 108 degrees through early evening.
    An excessive heat warning means that a prolonged period of dangerously hot temperatures will occur. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely. Drink plenty of water... try to stay out of the sun... preferably in an air-conditioned room. Check up on relatives... neighbors... and children at play.

    so what did i decide to do today when i was supposed to be taking it easy in an air-conditioned room?

    you guessed it -- i spent the most uncomfortable ninety minutes of my life at the bikram yoga headquarters in LA, in a class taught by no other than the head honcho himself, bikram choudhury.

    i just had to do it. i found out yesterday that bikram was in town for the teacher recertification program and that this morning's class was the only class he was scheduled to teach here for the next few weeks. of course it didn't help that i had already promised my friends that i would run 7 miles with them early this morning. and that i had also signed up with lisa walford to be a teacher training guinea pig at yoga works later this afternoon.

    when i started my run at 7:30am, it was already sunny, hot, and humid in normally temperate santa monica. feeling lethargic after just a mile, i opted to run at a slower pace and take more water breaks. at the 2.5 mile mark, i decided to do the smart thing and headed back to my starting point. there was no reason for me to keep pushing in the heat, especially since i was going to have my bikram experience in less than two hours. five miles was good enough.

    after peeling off my sweaty running gear, i rinsed myself off quickly then put on my yoga gear, knowing that by the time i peeled those off, they would be just as drenched, if not worse. hydrate, i kept reminding myself. drink now to avoid problems later...

    i arrived at the bikram headquarters with a good half hour to spare. i pulled into the large parking lot behind the building, glad that i didn't have to circle the neighborhood to look for a parking spot. soon after i got out of my car, though, some guy walked up to me and told me that parking was going to cost me a dollar. he looked legit enough, so i handed him a buck (come to think of it, i don't remember seeing him when i left. hmmm...) and walked into the lobby.

    i filled out a registration form, paid my $20 (which included mat and towel rental), and added my name to the class sign-in sheet. i was told that i would find the mats at the back of the classroom, so i headed that way. there were already a number of students hanging around in the lobby and in the hallway, and once i entered the room, i realized why no one wanted to sit inside. it was so hot, it was stifling! i stayed just long enough to pick up a mat and find a spot FAR from the ceiling heater vents (which were blowing full blast, by the way) and near the door, where some cooler air was finding its way in from the hallway. i dropped off my belongings in the women's locker room, grabbed a few towels from the towel rack at the end of the hallway, and went back into the classroom. after spreading the towels on my mat, i lay there for a while, hoping to acclimate myself to the heat. and all i managed to do was get myself lightheaded.

    water, i reminded myself, keep drinking water...

    i walked back out to the lobby in search of something cool to drink. for $2, i could get a large bottle of smartwater or a bottle of vitaminwater. i scanned the vitaminwater flavor selections and spotted:

    lemon-lime (b + electrolytes)

    from my marathon running experience, i know that both water and electrolytes are lost during periods of excessive sweating. and that it would be proper to assume that i would sweat excessively if i had to do an hour and a half of yoga in a room with temps over 100 degrees. so not wanting to subject myself to possible cramps, fatigue, or maybe even heat stroke, i paid the two bucks and immediately started to drink as much as i could before class started.

    the students started making their way to the classroom; some headed straight for the front of the class, some hid out in the back (like me), and some spent time trying to figure out where the coolest spots in the room were (where i was). choudhury walked in and immediately made everyone move forward and towards the middle of the room and align themselves with the lines on the newly-replaced wall-to-wall carpet. but i managed to stay put in my nice spot without him noticing :)

    bikram walked up to his "throne" on the stage at the front of the room (i'm not sure what it's called, but it was an enormous armchair covered in what looked like towels, maybe to protect it from all the airborne sweat?) and sat himself down. from there, he had an eagle's eye view of the room, which was about 3-4 times the size of the larger yoga studios i've practiced in. he greeted some of the familiar faces, rattled off the usual precautions -- if you're dizzy or lightheaded, that's normal; if something hurts, that's normal; if you feel like giving up, don't. the reason why you're feeling miserable is because your body's not used to working at 100% of its capacity. you have a lamborghini... you must use all its power! (ok, so that's my take on what he said)...

    and now i was about to find out if everything i'd heard about the man was true.

    while i really don't remember his bragging about his wealth nor his cars, he did spend some time boasting about his 10-pack (much better than a six-pack) and his virility. all due to his method of yoga, of course.

    even if he spent a lot of time reprimanding specific students ("the girl in orange", "you in blue", "michael, what's wrong with you?") and releasing a good number of expletives, he really wasn't as tough as i thought he would be. for one thing, since there were so many bodies in the large room, there was no way he could enforce perfect form on everyone. i would wobble and/or cut a pose short, or, worse yet, close my eyes and not look at myself in the mirror and i never heard a peep from him. also, i and many others left the room a number of times to cool down and take a break, and again, he never chastised us for doing so, although he did eventually start picking on people as they left en masse as the temperatures became unbearable. surprisingly, there were a few students whom he commanded to leave the room because they looked like they were about to pass out. so i guess the guy does care, even if he does call some students "f***ing idiots" when they do something wrong :)

    and as i had expected, i sweated up a storm during the course of the class. fortunately, i didn't pass out from dehydration or fatigue. maybe those added electrolytes and the occasional breaks had something to do with it?

    so the long and short of it is that i survived bikram's "torture chamber" (his words, not mine). and i had a more interesting time in his class than i did in the classes back in manila, partly because he never called out to me specifically by name or "costume", and partly because listening to him go on and on about how his yoga prevents every disease known to man was enough to distract me from the high temps that i was subjecting myself to.

    now this doesn't mean that i've been turned into a bikram devotee; however, i might be open to the thought of giving this "hot yoga" another shot.

    on second thought, maybe that's the heat stroke talking...

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    late night yoga

    i've been interviewing in earnest for an honest-to-goodness full-time job. and while i've been eagerly anticipating the return of what could be a comfortable paycheck, i've been lamenting the fact that i won't be able to take my usual array of mid-morning and mid-afternoon yoga classes. in other words, once i rejoin the working world, i'll have to crowd in with all the rest at the evening and weekend classes.

    no more 10:45am classes with bryan kest, where i can waltz in at 10:45 and still be able to get a decent spot. no more 10:30am classes with saul david raye at shakti's, where the classes tend to run a bit longer. no more 4:15pm classes with vinnie marino at yogaworks, where there's a chance of getting some airspace between me and the yogi beside me. once i find myself sitting behind a desk from 9-5, i won't be able to take the random mid-day yoga class at a random studio anywhere in la. sigh.

    but rather than dwell on what i won't be able to do, i suppose i have to be thankful for the time i had to do what i'd been wanting to do, which is to discover all the nuances of the yoga scene in LA. and yes, many of the excellent yoga teachers do have evening and weekend hours, including those teachers i just mentioned. so all is not lost. just a little less convenient.

    but as with any job, there is always the chance of overtime. so if i find myself working so late that i miss my usual 6:00 or 7:00pm class, are there any studios with late-night classes?

    luckily for me (and for all of you in the same situation), there are options. not many, but at least there are classes after 8:00pm at these studios.

    i feel much better now...

    golden bridge yoga (GB) - 323.936.4172
    liberation yoga (LY) - 323.964.5222
    maha yoga (MY) - 310.899.0047
    power yoga east (PYE) - 310.458.9510
    power yoga west (PYW) - 310.458-9510
    rising lotus yoga (RL) - 818.990.0282
    santa monica yoga (SM) - 310.396.4040
    yoga west (YW) - 310.552.4647
    yoga works larchmont (YWL) - 323.464.1276
    yoga works westwood (YWW) - 310.234.1200

    8:00pm LY: all levels alicia johnson
    8:00pm YWL: hatha blend 1-2 jeanne heileman
    8:15pm SM: level 1-2 flow dana marcoux
    8:30pm PYE: all levels anaswara
    8:30pm PYW: all levels leah
    8:30pm PYW: all levels marc
    9:00pm YWW: candlelight flow 2-3 susan fischer
    10:45pm PYW: all levels jay co

    8:00pm LY: level 1-2 sarah isenberg
    8:00pm YW: kundalini yoga & meditation sada simran
    8:00pm YWL: hatha blend 1 susan swan
    8:15pm SM: slow deep stretch cindy fraser
    8:30pm PYW: all levels ally hamilton
    8:30pm YWW: iyengar 1-2 marla apt
    9:00pm MY: level 2-3 ish moran
    9:15pm SM: mixed level blair darby

    8:00pm GB: kundalini yoga & meditation dr. gurudev neil
    8:00pm LY: all levels alicia johnson
    8:00pm YW: kundalini yoga & meditation satya kaur
    8:00pm YWL: iyengar 1-2 knancie sandercock
    8:15pm SM: mixed level dana marcoux
    8:30pm PYE: all levels anaswara
    8:30pm PYW: level 1-2 astrid kastenberg
    9:00pm YWW: candlelight flow malachi melville
    10:45pm PYW: all levels jay co

    8:00pm LY: level 1-2 mark dewitt
    8:00pm LY: yoga & candlelight meditation dr. schlomit michaely
    8:00pm YWL: hatha blend 1 susan swan
    8:15pm SM: slow deep stretch cindy fraser
    8:30pm PYE: level 1-2 jane alpert
    8:30pm PYW: all levels ally hamilton
    8:30pm YWW: iyengar 1-2 marla apt
    9:00pm MY: level 2-3 ish moran
    9:15pm SM: mixed level david kim

    8:15pm RL: kirtan daniel stewart
    8:30pm PYW: all levels ally hamilton

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    who links to me?

    compared to others in the blogging world, i'm still relatively new at this. i know i'm no media darling, although when i think about what paris hilton has done to get to where she is today (which is pretty much nothing, unless you count accidentally getting your private porn video released or your phone contact list hacked), it seems like i should have no problem becoming a household name. realistically though, i know i'll have to prove myself first -- either that, or be involved in a scandal -- before i find fame (and/or notoriety?).

    and hopefully, given some time, i'll find a way to make a living off all this writing. or at least earn some free yoga classes, clothing, and other fun things :)

    so i find it very flattering when other websites make reference to my blogsite. to them, i send my deepest thanks for sending readers my way. please keep them coming!

    from blogher, dated april 4th, 2006:

    Blogging Yoga

    The popularity of yoga is undeniable. Research varies, but it is estimated that from 15 to 28 million people practice yoga in the United States alone. And with good cause. Yoga "asanas," or postures, benefit the body physically, mentally and spiritually. Besides keeping fit, yoga is being used to treat HIV/AIDS, depression, heart disease, cancer and anxiety disorders. So who's blogging about it?

    the accidental yogist, as the name implies, finds herself unexpectedly exploring yoga after a knee injury.

    from ohmtastic, dated may 8th, 2006:

    More McYoga

    Joni, the Accidental Yogist, wrote in with this comment:

    "just in case you were curious about the contents of that yoga DVD, you might want to check this out".

    Who'd have thought McDonald's would come up with a bilingual (poorly) animated yogini??

    from iyogalife, dated may 2006:

    Blogs Discover Secret of YogaLife

    The Accidental Yogist reads our YogaLife Line newsletter.

    from the u studio website, dated may 2006:

    *** Here's what they're saying about U Studio

    from we like yoga, dated may 27th, 2006 (this is the archived version; the original was lost in a server crash):

    yoga for belly dancers, rappers, surfers or just anybody

    From NY to LA, if you are looking for a yoga studio in Los Angeles, head over to the Accidental Yogist. She accidentaly got into yoga and is discovering and blogging about the LA yoga scene.

    from lifestyle filter, dated july 17th 2006:

    Everybody Say Om

    If you're interested in a yogi's perspective on classes, practicing, and just life in Los Angeles, check out The Accidental Yogist: "It seems that i've recently been spending a lot of time partying and schmoozing, all in the name of yoga. The ancient gurus are probably turning in their graves at the thought of yoga being turned into a social event, but then again, this is LA."

    and many more thanks to all my fellow yoga bloggers who've added links to my website in their own sites:

    diane at everything yoga

    peter at mahamondo

    richard at open window yoga

    and stella at shinyruby

    it may not be much, but it's a start!

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    hybrid yoga

    Swerve Studio
    8250 West 3rd Street #206
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    (323) 782-0741

    website: www.swervestudio.com

    The founders of SWERVE find the body a gift. We would love for you, our clients, to discover your bodies more deeply, thoroughly and truly through the classes and private lessons you take here at our happy and productive movement studio. Of course, it feels good to look good, so work consistently and diligently, employ your higher Self and you will improve the way you FEEL and FUNCTION, which will, in turn, improve the way you look. Join the Kula--SWERVE's community of the heart. SPREAD LOVE.

    i'm currently facing a dilemma. i took a class at swerve studio today, and despite emerging all sweaty and exhilarated from a long blissful savasana, i wasn't sure if i could give myself credit for having taken a yoga class from a yoga teacher at a yoga studio.

    rewind tape to earlier this year...

    while scouring magazines and the internet to come up with my list of yoga studios to visit, i somehow kept running into "swerve studio" listed among the more well-known yoga haunts. curious, i checked out their website.

    from their list of class offerings, they are clearly a fitness studio: scupt & tone, six-pack abs, world beat tone and stretch, pilates mat, world beat workout, booty-kickin sculpt, cardio core ball, and so on. and to keep up with the fitness craze, they also teach yoga classes. not just the usual hatha yoga, but also anusara, kundalini, and meditation classes. they also offer something no one else does -- their trademark class created by the studio owners, gillian marloth clark and teigh mcdonough: yoga booty ballet.

    it's described as follows:

    60-90 Minutes Signature class. A hybrid of all the good stuff from ballet--grace, beauty poise, power and lithe lean lovely limbs: the POWER of Yoga. Sun salutes, balancing poses and breathing--enough to bliss you out: the BOOTY aspects of fitness--original moves to enhance your fine muscular ass! Live Drumming as listed.

    ok, there was the yoga thing, which i was familiar with. as for the ballet, the last time i attempted anything close to plies and releves was back in the second grade. and i obviously don't think i was particularly good at it because no one encouraged me to keep at it when i wanted to stop (or maybe my mother was just relieved that it was one less class she had to pay for?). and as for the booty, honestly, who couldn't use a well-sculpted ass?

    after all, i could easily catch elsie escobar's anusara class at bala or yogaworks larchmont, light's vinyasa flow class at maha, or a kundalini class at either yoga west or golden bridge. no, i had to take something unique to swerve, so yoga booty ballet with gillian clark was going to be it.

    after putting it off for months and eventually realizing that i was quickly running out of yoga studio options, i finally decided to pay swerve a visit this morning.

    when i got to the mini-mall where the studio was located, i had a sneaky suspicion that the class wasn't going to be your usual yoga class. for one thing, no one was carrying a yoga mat. i felt like i had shown up at a party with a casserole in hand, thinking it was a potluck affair :(

    after signing in at the front desk in the gym, i followed the students to the dance studio. those who had arrived earlier were seated on the hardwood floor. there was a stack of mats in the back of the room, but they remained untouched. i also noticed that a few students brought towels with them and had placed them on the floor under their feet. strange. after putting my belongings in one of the cubbies, i thought it best to leave my mat and towel on the floor by the wall because it didn't look like i was going to need them.

    gillian soon walked in bearing a stack of hand towels, so i took one and put it on the floor beside me. she acknowledged the students whom she recognized and asked the new students to identify themselves (the look on my face probably pleaded with her to cut me some slack if i ended up looked totally spastic and uncoordinated during the dance part of the session). with all of us seated cross-legged on the floor, she then instructed us newbies to place our towels under our feet, with its sole (no pun intended) purpose appearing to be to cushion our feet against the hard floor. so far, i had no problem following along.

    we started out in typical yoga fashion. we started with our eyes closed while she talked about setting our intentions for the practice. then we did some pranayama, followed by some kundalini-esque moves. like side twists and arm-flailing (ok, so i'm no kundalini expert) while inhaling, exhaling, and silently chanting: sat nam. sat nam. sat nam.

    somewhere along the line, she welcomed us to the kula, the community of the heart. shades of anusara... this is definitely some odd yoga mix...

    then gillian cranked up the music and we started to dance. she told those new to the class that it was perfectly ok if we couldn't get the choreography down; the point was to move and have fun. and true enough, i tried my best to follow along, but i honestly don't know how i looked because i had my eyes glued on gillian the entire time, trying to keep up with her and the group. and maybe i was afraid to see what i really looked like :(

    talk about an energy-packed workout! we were jumping, we were swaying, we were kicking, we were moving! i had flashbacks of those 80's aerobics classes i used to take :) every now and then, gillian would slow down the pace so we could catch our breath and take a sip of water (it figures that i would bring the mat, which we didn't need, but not the water, which we did). we would then quickly move on to another sequence of steps. i hate to admit it, but i really didn't care how i looked at this point because i was having fun!

    as all good things eventually come to an end, so did the class. we did some glute work, followed by some standing side leg raises, then we each pulled a mat from the pile at the back of the room for some bends and twists. the class ended, as with all yoga classes, with savasana.

    so was it a yoga class or was it a dance class? considering that we did more dancing than asanaing, i'm leaning towards the latter. but does it bother me that i didn't get the sun salutes and such that i expected to get? not really. because after all, little surprises every now and then just make life that more interesting...

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    where do YOU yoga?

    one of my work exchange assignments this week was to go to the santa monica sunday farmers' market and hand out flyers for yogaworks' "2 weeks for $25" introductory promotion. the assignment didn't really thrill me; it's one thing being a faceless person who leaves flyers on people's doorsteps, but it's another thing being that person you try not to make eye contact with as she hands you a flyer as you walk by :(

    talk about feeling like a pariah. god. the lengths i'll go to earn free yoga classes...

    once i arrived at the corner of main and ocean park, i took my time getting the lay of the land. i watched the traffic patterns, noted where the other "flyer hander-outers" were standing, and looked for places where i could leave some of my flyers. i came across an information table on which various business cards, maps, brochures, and the like were neatly arranged, so i moved some of the items around and placed a small stack of the yogaworks handouts i brought with me. perfect.

    but i still had many more to hand out. darn.

    i eventually planted myself by the walkway to/from the back parking lot, under the shade of a large tree. i took a deep breath, then flashed a pleasant smile, hoping that it would hide my uneasiness.

    at first, i screened all those who walked by, attempting to hand someone a flyer only if he/she fit the yoga student stereotype. i quickly realized that wasn't going to work because i was being too picky, and that it would be a loooong time before i made a dent in the stack i was holding. besides, i kept thinking about fellow students in my classes that didn't fit the mold -- the old, the seriously overweight, the injured -- and realized that they stood to gain more from a yoga class than the usual young, trim, and athletic specimens.

    in time, i struck up conversations with other active yogis. some were or had been yogaworks students, and many swore by other studios. since this outdoor market attracted residents from the surrounding neighborhoods, it made sense that many of the people i talked with frequented westside yoga studios.

    one guy (and a very cute one, i must say) said that he was a maha yoga devotee. he was a regular at steve ross's and tom morley's classes because he loved their teaching style and their music mixes. after trying other places and other teachers, he came to the conclusion that he wasn't into the spiritual/meditative thing and that he needed the background music. the louder, the better.

    another guy was a familiar face from sacred movement. we used to see each other often at max strom's classes, but when max left town, we somehow went our separate ways and now run into each other maybe only once every couple of months. his favorite teachers are currently saul david raye and jamie elmer. and when he doesn't really feel up to it, he takes aaron reed's "relax deeply" class so that he can do just that: relax.

    and still another guy (was it me, or were only the men willing to stop and chat?) said that there was only one yoga teacher and one yoga studio for him: tara judelle at still yoga in silverlake. and it didn't hurt that he lived in that neck of the woods.

    later that afternoon, i had another work exchange gig, this time at santa monica yoga, just up the street from the farmers' market. and while sitting behind the front desk, i ended up chatting with other students who were waiting for their classes to start.

    one female said that she only practices at santa monica yoga. she claimed that westside yoga, in general, was just one big scene, and only SMY gave her the community feel that she was looking for.

    another one who had just stopped by to check out the merchandise said that she was a julian walker devotee, but she had recently been practicing at maha because it was just down the street from her home.

    when the next volunteer showed up to relieve me of my front desk duty, i chatted with her a while before i left for home. she admitted that although she loves the teachers at SMY, she had also tried, and is still willing to try, other instructors at other studios. she added that even if she's been practicing yoga for over 5 years, she still wants teachers who are very hands-on and correct her form when needed. we both agreed that there's something different to be learned from each teacher. so the more, the better (and maybe even the merrier?).

    during my animated discussions with everyone, we compared likes and dislikes. after listening to what they looked for in a class, i offered the names of other teachers with similar styles. sometimes they were yogaworks teachers, sometimes they weren't (so much for my attempts at being the perfect yogaworks ambassador). i usually ended up convincing people to try someone i had suggested, although in the case of the guy from silverlake, he convinced me to try tara (and luckily, she also teaches at city yoga, so i don't have all the way out to silverlake to take her class).

    the moral of today's story is this: just as there is something to learn from each teacher, there's definitely something to learn from your fellow students. so the next time you find yourself in the company of another yoga student -- outside of class, of course -- introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. you might actually learn something new!

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    party animal

    who would have guessed that one could have so much fun with dogs, cobras, fish, camels, pigeons, cats, and cows?

    yoga poses, that is.

    it seems that i've recently been spending a lot of time partying and schmoozing, all in the name of yoga. the ancient gurus are probably turning in their graves at the thought of yoga being turned into a social event, but then again, this is LA. i normally wouldn't consider myself a regular in the LA party scene, but my attendance at three yoga "events" in almost as many weeks could very well put me in the party animal category.

    first, there was the grand opening celebration at daniel stewart and claire hartley's rising lotus yoga in sherman oaks. while there was no actual yoga involved, a small group of the less-inhibited "trance danced" to world music from shaman's dream while the rest nibbled on hors d'oeuvres and enjoyed foot massages.

    then there was the media event at the new brentwood location of mark blanchard's progressive power yoga. this time, there was an hour's worth of intense yoga (accompanied only by the sounds of one's own breathing), followed by a viewing of the art pieces for sale in the lobby. and yes, more hors d'oeuvres and goodies for all.

    last night, i attended the first yoga bash at exhale santa monica. and it turned out to be even bigger than those previous two events -- there was invigorating music flow yoga (team taught by david romanelli and ciela wynter), uplifting music (provided by matthew moon and his band), delicious appetizers, and relaxing massages. and, as was the case with the other parties, it was free!

    the guests started to arrive shortly before 7:30pm, the advertised start of the event. however, because the previous yoga class didn't actually let out until 7:30, the growing crowd was asked to wait in the lobby while the studio was prepared for the event. once we were given the go-ahead, the room quickly filled with yogis and mats; i'd never seen it hold so many people at one time! a handful of sacred movement (aka exhale venice) yoga instructors had initially lined up their mats with everyone else, but because of the overflow crowd, they voluntarily gave up their spots and opted to assist dave and ciela in guiding the students through the poses.

    matthew and his fellow musicians provided the background music to our flowing moves. some of it was their own original music and some of it was contemporary cover tunes (and for some reason, their rendition of madonna's borderline kept resonating in my head the rest of the evening!?!). their soothing sounds seemed to move our yoga poses past the physical, almost into the ethereal. who says that yoga and music don't belong together?

    once the class ended, the large sliding glass doors were opened so that our group of mellowed-out yogis could join those already partying in the outdoor patio. food and drink stations were scattered about, with wine in one corner, pizza along one wall, and sushi along another. there was a table where someone was giving out aromatherapy and nutritional advice. and while everyone else was busy socializing, i managed to find a massage therapist who worked her healing hands on me before the others realized that free massages were part of the event.

    it was quite an evening, indeed. not only did i get a chance to take another of dave's great flow classes with live rather than ipod-supplied music, but i was also able get all the kinks massaged out of my neck, shoulders, and lower back. all that plus a complimentary pass to another exhale class of my choice. ahhh... so when's the next party? :)

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    the accidental journalist

    Progressive Power Yoga
    11740 San Vicente Boulevard, Suite 202
    Los Angeles, CA 90049
    (310) 826-YOGA

    website: www.marksyoga.com

    Some of the most unique and identifying characteristics of Mark Blanchard's purist and progressive "Power Yoga" class is that he never categorizes sessions by potentially threatening "levels" (i.e.: level one, two or three) and he does not recommend using class props like blocks or straps. "Regardless of how trendy these accoutrements have become, there were no stereos or straps when yoga was created over 5,000 years ago," says Blanchard. "Simply work at your own level, do the best you can personally do, and welcome the joy from within."

    when it comes to my experience with mark blanchard's new power yoga studio in brentwood, i've found that the early bird truly catches the worm.

    sometime last april, i had mentioned that a new progressive power yoga studio was going to open in brentwood on june 12th, at least according to the studio website. since i have this thing about visiting places on opening day, i kept checking for updates to make sure i didn't miss the big day. unfortunately (at least for me), everything went according to schedule, and they opened their doors on the 12th. the problem was, i was out of the country at the time and couldn't make it.

    once back in LA, i dropped by mark's power yoga studio the first chance i got, which was sometime the end of june. granted, it was a mid-morning class, but i was pleasantly surprised to find that there were only two students in mark's class: myself and another teacher on his staff. so i got very personalized attention; what better way to learn what mark's teaching style was all about!

    i had a chance to chat with mark after class and found out that the reason for the low class turnout was because the ad that had been sent out to the media proudly announced: grand opening july 1st! oops...

    then this week, i happened to find myself once again at the right place at the right time.

    while browsing through a yoga magazine (see my last post), i came across this news item:

    Mark Blanchard Yoga Studio Opening

    Mark Blanchard is opening a new Yoga Studio. Located in the heart of Brentwood, the 1750 square-foot space on San Vicente Boulevard is not only home to the celebrity- (sic) Progressive Power Yoga classes, but also houses Illuminarium, a storefront gallery containing exquisite and unexpected artwork as well as a plethora of holistic and unique yoga-related products.

    On Wednesday, July 12th from 2pm to 4pm there will be a 45-minute invigorating power yoga class with renowned yogi and celebrity trainer Mark Blanchard, followed by refreshing smoothies, light hors d'oeuvres and a private viewing of the artwork.

    Please arrive with yoga workout attire and they will provide a yoga mat that you can take with you and a goody bag filled with items from their gallery storefront, gift certificates, and a variety of beauty products that promote a healthy living.

    it was followed by the studio address and RSVP details.

    not wanting to miss out on what i thought was a limited-entry event, i immediately called to reserve a spot. and found out that the magazine had mistakenly invited the LA yoga community to something that was supposed to have been a press-only event. oops...

    luckily, since i was the first person to bring the error to the studio's attention, i was allowed to join the elite party anyway and my name was added to the guest list. before we hung up, in an attempt to earn my invite, i added that i could probably be considered "press" because of my blogsite :) maybe she bought it, maybe she didn't?

    not knowing what to expect, i showed up on time at this afternoon's event and made sure i was decently attired (not that i'm ever a slob, but i did double-check how i looked in the mirror before i left home). i was looking forward to "accidentally" meeting someone from the print or broadcast media, but even if i didn't, i was just happy to be part of the group -- free class, free food and drink, goody bag, and all :)

    after the majority of the guests had checked in (there were probably about a dozen or so of us - i have to learn to pay more attention!), mark led us through what he described as a shorter version of his usual class. shorter, yes. but definitely not easier. in fact, i'm convinced that it was harder than the full 90-minute session i took with him a couple of weeks ago!

    after class, over smoothies from robeks and dimsum from chin chin, i schmoozed with some of the other teachers on staff, including kathleen kastner, who also teaches at maha yoga. i also met brian weiner (at least i think it was him, since he's supposedly the guy running the art gallery side of the business) and we talked briefly about the pieces that he'd gathered for display and sale at the studio. they were all beautiful and classy, but on the pricey side. but then again, they're meant to be one-of-a-kind items that are perfect for the special people on your gift list. or for yourself, if you want to reward yourself for having survived a tough power yoga class.

    and no, i did not meet anyone from the press corps. darn.

    besides teaching at brentwood on mondays, wednesdays, fridays, and saturdays (morning only), mark still teaches on tuesday, thursday, and saturdays (afternoon only) at the original studio city location. so there's no reason to drive over the hill if you live or work in the san fernando valley. and if you can't make any of his classes, i'm sure the other teachers on staff are just as good (i'll find out once i get a chance to take some of their classes).

    it was clear to me that mark's classes are not at all repetitive and that his sequencing can vary from class to class. if you're not sure if you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, don't worry; his classes cater to all levels. if you're looking for music, hip-hop or otherwise, you won't find it here. if you're used to using blocks, straps, and blankets, you'll have to learn to do without. and if you're looking for a class that will challenge your strength, your balance, and your abdominals (because it's all about core strength, as mark puts it), then you've come to the right place. at least i know i did... and i'm not saying that just because of all the wonderful stuff that was in my goody bag!

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    a beach bum

    as much as i hate not having a full-time job with a salary decent enough for me to do what i love to do -- travel! fine dining! concerts! plays! yoga retreats! -- i have to admit that having all this free time does allow me to do things most working folk can't do. like take an uncrowded mid-day yoga class, then spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach, browsing through yoga magazines to find something to blog about.

    when life hands you lemons, make lemon squares and share them with your friends :)

    let the sharing begin...

    i landed myself another yoga work exchange opportunity, this time at santa monica yoga. i had left my name and phone number with bruce bair, the owner of SMY, and asked him to call me if anything cropped up. to my surprise, he called me less than a week later, asking if i could fill in for someone who was going on vacation. with so many things filling up my calendar -- not! -- i agreed to work all the shifts he offered except for the one that conflicted with my saturday morning run with my marathon buddies (one must always keep sight of one's priorities after all).

    a week later, with the class credits i'd earned thus far, it was time to enjoy my new found yoga wealth.

    while chatting with various students at SMY, some teachers' names kept popping up as the students' favorites. one of them was valerie moselle, who also happens to teach at sacred movement. let's see... i could take her class at sacred movement and use up a class credit that i paid for. or take her class at santa monica yoga and use up a class credit that i didn't pay for....

    valerie's class was a mixed level class, so she catered all the poses to the beginners in the class as well as to the more advanced practitioners, giving options where possible. for example, the level 2's and 3's could go through the usual vinyasa, while the 1's could go straight to downward dog. or the less flexible could use blocks and straps while the others were welcome to go without. i tried to push myself by choosing the level 3 options, except for the time she offered push-ups during the vinyasa as an option. i opted to just hold in plank :)

    since the class was small, there was ample wall space for wall work. we worked on triangle, half moon, some forward bends, some handstand prep, and some legs-up-the-wall poses. it wasn't a killer workout, by any means, but it did give me a chance to concentrate on my posture and alignment. it's funny how i also started hearing voices from past teachers telling me to move my hip this way, my shoulder that way, and smile...

    at the end of class, valerie mentioned something about this week being her last week. it seemed that all her regulars knew what she was referring to, so i had to wait until i could ask her myself. it turns out that she and her husband, plus their little baby, are traveling to india and will be there for four months. her husband is going for work-related reasons, so she's going to take advantage of the situation to further her yoga-related education. lucky her.

    on my way out of the studio, i picked up the latest copy of yet another yoga magazine. i tossed it on top of the growing stack of unread publications on the backseat of my car. and slowly, a plan began to emerge. it's such a beautiful summer day outside... and i have all this reading to do... and i really don't have to be anywhere anytime soon... next thing i knew, i had my swimsuit and beach towel in hand and was headed towards the beach.

    i must've found a lot of interesting reading in those issues of yogi times, LA yoga, and yoga journal (including william and patti asad from jiva yoga posing for the "sex and yoga" article in YJ), because by the time i shook the sand out of my towel, i was the proud owner of an "i think i spent too much time laying prone on the beach" bum :( can you say solarcaine?

    anyway, here are all the yoga deals and freebies listed in that stack of magazines, along with some additional info i picked up from the internet once i got home:

    UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History Sunset Yoga Series - on the UCLA campus
    Thursdays, July 13, 20, and 27 @ 7 pm
    Join yogi and instructor Joan Moran for a free hour-long open session of yoga, blending hatha flow, Iyengar, and dance, on the Fowler Museum's terrace.
    Bring your mat and salute the sun as it sets behind the Santa Monica Mountains.
    Held in conjunction with The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama
    Eighty-eight contemporary artists from around the world offer a wide range of works inspired by the messages, vision, and values of the Dalai Lama. Through September 10th. Admission is free.

    Yoga House Toluca Lake's Grand Opening - 3808 Riverside Drive (the former location of the short-lived City Yoga Toluca Lake)
    Join us at our Grand Opening Open House on Saturday and Sunday, August 19 and 20. You can take a free one-hour class and take advantage of a 20% discount on class series and memberships as well as 10% off on all merchandise.
    Reservations are required for free classes. We will begin taking reservations starting Saturday, July 1. To make a reservation, please call Yoga House Pasadena at (626) 403-3961.
    Everyone is invited to our opening party, Saturday, August 19 at 8:00pm. Good food, good drink and... More information to follow!
    Beginning Level: 10:00 and 11:30 am; 1:00 (Iyengar), 2:30 and 4:00 pm
    Mixed Levels: 10:30 am and 12 o'clock, 1:30 and 3 o'clock pm

    there was an ad in one of the magazines about the opening of the santa barbara lululemon store in august, but i figured that the current goings-on at the santa monica store would interest you more:

    Free community events at Lululemon Santa Monica - 331 santa monica blvd, santa monica

    Hip-Hop Yoga with Matthew Reyes, Eka Ekong and Kourtney Kaas of YogaHop: Sunday, July 16, 7:30-9:00pm
    Please join us for Hip-Hop yoga with creator, master dj and lululemon ambassador Matthew Reyes with YogaHop teachers Eka Ekong and Kourtney Kaas. YogaHop is the home of high energy, FUN yoga. YogaHop yoga offers a celebratory twist by featuring music of the hip-hop, rock and pop worlds jamming out of booming speakers and all the energy of a dance party. The result is an East meets West yoga style that is athletically fulfilling and spiritually soothing.

    Pre-Natal Yoga with Ciela Wynter of Exhale: Saturday, July 22nd, 9:00-10:00am
    We invite all mothers-to-be to join us for a complimentary in-store Pre/Post-Natal yoga class with Ciela Wynter of Exhale.
    The development of our consciousness begins in the belly and Ciela offers the invitation for mothers to share the blissful and artistic expression of the inner experience of yoga with their child. The unconditional love reflected by one another can heal our bodies, our minds and our spirits; renew the verve for life within our communities and ourselves as we celebrate this amazing journey together.

    and there were also a bunch of new member specials:

    at exhale spa - 1422 2nd st, santa monica and 245 s main st, venice
    become a new member in july an enjoy a complimentary 30 minute massage or facial (expires 7/31/06)
    Membership options start at $125 per month and include:
    unlimited yoga classes for one month • 10% off spa therapies • five complimentary yoga class passes for friends • complimentary yoga mat rentals • complimentary organic tea • full use of healing waters sanctuary, changing rooms, showers, personal lockers + amenities

    at yoga west - 1535 s robertson blvd, los angeles
    july is pregnancy month at yoga west!
    1st class free for all expecting mothers

    - pregnancy yoga
    - mommy and me yoga
    - mommy and me are one: july 30th
    - healthy, happy, and holy breasts: aug 6th (and i’m keeping my comments to myself)

    at home simply yoga - 1547 6th st, santa monica
    mention this ad (in june issue of yogitimes) and your first class is free

    at bikram yoga downtown la - 700 w 1st st, downtown los angeles
    bring in this ad (in june and july/aug issues of yogitimes) for a grand opening discount (according to the person who answered the phone, it’s 7 days for $20) (expires 12/1/06)

    at bala yoga - 145 n la brea ave, los angeles
    new students: 10 days for $20 (expires 7/15/06)

    at rising lotus yoga - 13557 ventura blvd, sherman oaks
    new students: 14 days of yoga for $25

    at earth’s power yoga - 7901 melrose ave #208, los angeles
    new students: 2 weeks unlimited for $20 with this ad (in july/aug issue of yogitimes) (expires 1/9/06?)

    at yogaworks - at all los angeles locations
    new students: 2 weeks of yoga for $25

    at santa monica yoga - 1640 ocean park blvd, santa monica
    new students: bring in this ad (in june issue of yogitimes) for one month of unlimited visits for $40

    at swerve studio - 8250 w 3rd st #205, los angeles
    new members: 1 month unlimited for $95

    at liberation yoga - 124 s la brea ave, los angeles
    40 day spiritual scholarship program for those who are financially, spiritually, and emotionally in need of a transformative journey.
    Recipients are given a 40-day unlimited pass to Liberation Yoga, a set of mala beads, Thomas Ashley-Farrad’s book Healing Mantras, a packet that contains individualized mantras, mudras, and meditation techniques, as well as support and guidance. Awardees attend at least four classes weekly, practice meditation/mantra repetition daily and give back to their community through seva (selfless service).

    so there you have it. and now i have to get back to moisturizing my back side so it doesn't start peeling...

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    kula nut

    "The Anusara community (kula) is a merry band of life-affirming yoga practitioners. Emphasizing inclusivity, the Anusara community openly invites everyone to join the fun and the transformative power of its yoga style. Connected by a philosophy which celebrates a universal spirit uniquely shining through each individual, the Anusara kula is tightly woven..." -- from anusara.com

    a few months ago i visited yoga inside out in west hollywood and signed up for their new student deal: two classes for $15. whenever i visit a yoga studio for the first time, i try to take a class with the owner, since he/she usually selects teachers who follow his/her own philosophy. in this case, my first class was with ross rayburn. i enjoyed ross and his class so much,"corny sense of humor" and all, that i knew i would be back. especially since i knew i had one free class in the bank, so to speak.

    well i finally cashed in that freebie and took a class with tiffany fraser earlier this week. like ross, tiffany is a certified anusara teacher, which according to the anusara website means that:

    All affiliated and certified Anusara Yoga teachers have had extensive training with John Friend, and hundreds of hours of other Anusara Yoga training. Both affiliated and certified Anusara Yoga teachers align with the philosophical and alignment principles of Anusara Yoga and have earned the legal right to call themselves an Anusara Yoga teacher... Certified Anusara Yoga teachers are among the most highly trained and skilled yoga teachers in the world.

    the focus of tiffany's class was backbends. besides the usual standing and seated poses and a challenging series of handstands, she had us do something that i had never done in any other class before: backbends with blocks against the wall to alter the pose. the arches we made with our backs were intense, but they were wonderful!

    every anusara yoga class i've ever taken has been a fun learning experience. everyone seems so happy, so friendly. our teachers work closely with us to make sure we understand and follow proper alignment for each of the poses we practice that day. we cheer on the triumphs of our fellow students and sympathize with their frustrations. it's not unusual to hear applause, laughter, and words of encouragement in every class.

    i know that my practice has gotten stronger with the help of the anusara teachers i've trained with. for example, i've probably done more handstands and headstands in these classes than anywhere else, and while i still can't do them on my own, i'm a little more confident that one day, i too will be able to successfully balance myself while upside down.

    if you want to experience what an anusara kula is like, you might want to visit one of these anusara-only studios:

    city yoga - 1067 n. fairfax ave, west hollywood
    mission street yoga - 1017 mission st, south pasadena
    still yoga - 2395 glendale blvd, silverlake
    yoga inside out - 8741 santa monica blvd, west hollywood

    or take an anusara class at one of these studios that teach various styles of yoga:

    bala yoga - 145 n. la brea ave, los angeles
    black dog yoga - 4454 van nuys blvd, sherman oaks
    swerve - 8250 w. 3rd, los angeles
    yoga at the village - 1306 sonora ave, glendale

    many of the anusara teachers teach at multiple studios, so you may not have to go far to take a class with a particular instructor. and they do move around quite frequently, so keep checking the online schedules to see who's where.

    as of today, here's where you might find some of them:

    diana beardsley - still
    tanya beilke * - bala
    anthony benenati * - city
    rebecca benenati - city
    camilla bergstrom * - still, black dog
    lucy bivins - still
    jennifer defilippo - mission, still
    linda eifer - city, inside out
    elsie escobar - bala, swerve
    steven espinosa - still
    tiffany fraser * - inside out
    tony giuliano - mission, still
    shari goodhartz - black dog, mission, still, village
    hagar harpak - inside out, mission, still
    huck hirsch - city
    marc holzman - inside out
    rachel jackson - inside out
    jessica jennings * - city, mission
    maria cristina jimenez - black dog
    tara judelle - city, still
    scott lewicki * - mission
    landry m - city, inside out
    james macdonald - city, inside out, mission
    mother - inside out
    kris nelson - city
    scott nelson - bala, inside out
    ross rayburn * - inside out
    hillary rubin - city
    sharon skok - city
    todd tesen - city, inside out, still
    gina zimmerman - city, mission, still

    * - certified anusara teachers

    i'm hoping i can find a way to take another anusara class sometime soon. i'm operating on a shoestring budget these days, and sadly, i've used up all my anusara class credits. in the meantime, i'm keeping my eye out for volunteer opportunities and other ways to earn classes. so if you hear of any, please send them my way :)

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    (in)accessible yoga

    some time ago, i had asked my friend BDB, an architect, the usual "so how was your day?".

    next thing i knew, i was being educated on the nuances of the ADA standards for accessible design, at least as it related to projects he had been working on, like parking structures and school buildings. i learned about how ramps and handrails have to be just so, and how those parking spots with the blue signs and markings are referred to as "accessible" parking, not "handicapped" parking...

    of course you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with yoga.

    it's the whole idea about accessibility and how it applies to yoga studios. no, i'm not talking about whether they have ramps or "accessible" parking. it all boils down to this: the more accessible a place is, the more likely i am to take a class there. and another class. and another...

    so i take into consideration:

    - whether a studio is easily accessible by car: like it or not, we angelenos are still heavily dependent on automobiles to get around. not only that, but where we work is not necessarily near where we live, which is not necessarily near where we practice yoga. so if i have to sit in traffic for extended periods of time just to get there, i'll probably drop by again only if i happen to be in the neighborhood.

    - whether a studio is easily accessible by phone: if i can't get a human to answer the phone, then i should at least have access to current class information. if, however, all i get is a recorded message about having to check the internet for studio information, that's about as good as their not having a phone at all, because chances are, i've already checked their website and am calling to get information about something not listed.

    - whether a studio is easily accessible by internet: if their website doesn't have an up-to-date copy of their schedule, including teacher substitutions, they run the risk of losing a potential student like me who gets frustrated if i show up for a class that no longer exists, or for a teacher who no longer teaches there.

    and if a studio has proven itself to be inaccessible on all three counts, then i may never go back again. unless someone bribes me back with an offer i can't refuse...

    here's a perfect example...

    a few weeks ago, i went through the list of yoga places listed in the LA yoga and yogi times magazines and realized that i hadn't been to any of the studios in manhattan beach, hermosa beach, and redondo beach. so while i had been systematically checking off studios east and north of where i live, i had somehow forgotten that there was a part of metropolitan LA that extended south past LAX. or could it be that the thought of the painfully slow crawl down the dreaded south bay curve made me want to forget?

    but in order to reach my "all yoga studios in LA" goal, i had to find a way to solve the south bay issue. so i came up with a plan: since i had to head south anyway whenever i visited my sister in orange county, i would squeeze in a visit to a south bay studio on my way down and to another one on my way back up.

    with that in mind...

    1. trip to OC #1
    southbound: julie rader's beach yoga class through mukti yoga in manhattan beach
    this was the first class that caught my eye, not only because julie was the owner of the studio and the class was supposedly donation-based, but because doing yoga on the beach was just so... so southern californian. but while browsing the internet for more information about julie, i came across her website which mentioned something about her beach yoga classes being on hold. now that i was completely confused, i called mukti's number and i got nothing but a recorded message about how to get to the studio (but how about the beach class?), and when i dropped by the studio, the doors (both front and back) were locked and there were no class schedules to be found anywhere.
    in the end, the class turned out to be a fun experience (see it's summer! post) and all "problems" were forgotten. not only that, but julie did correct the old information on her website when i told her about the confusion ( i even ended up making a "day trip" to manhattan beach a few days later to take a wednesday morning kundalini class with wah! , a well-known kirtan musician).

    northbound: sofia meyen's class at yogasofia in hermosa beach
    the only class that allowed me to leave the OC after the morning rush hour traffic subsided was sofia's 10:30am class. but i overslept, left my sister's place later than i had planned, and prayed that i had enough time to get there. i didn't. the traffic on the freeway, while slower than i had hoped it would be, wasn't the problem. it was hitting all the lights on the 6-mile stretch from the freeway to the studio that caused me to get there after 10:30. using the south bay list i had compiled, i called around to find another class i could take. nada. all of them were done for the morning; the next classes weren't until later that afternoon.
    so while i ended up not being able to take a class with them, i really had only myself to blame. as well as all those darned stoplights. maybe i'll have better luck the next time, whenever that is.

    2. trip to OC #2
    southbound: atma's class at atma yoga in culver city
    since i couldn't seem to find a class in the south bay that fit into my travel plans, i ended up stopping by culver city instead. but when i got to the studio right on time for atma's noon class (as per the online class schedule) and found nothing but a locked door, i started peeking in windows to see if i could find someone who knew anything. i eventually found out from atma's next-door neighbor that he was out of the country and that his class was cancelled until he got back.
    so for his having no listed phone number and an incorrect class schedule: tsk, tsk...
    luckily, goda yoga was a block away, with cheryl moss's lunchtime yoga class scheduled to start at 1pm. it was just enough time for me to grab an iced tea at the starbucks across the street.
    cheryl's class turned out to be a nice flow class where she gave lots of attention to our small group of students. and since i signed up for the new student 2-for-$15 deal, i'll definitely be back to take advantage of that free second class. especially since culver city isn't that far away.

    northbound: diane gilbert's viniyoga class at the yoga center in redondo beach
    since it happened to be the day after the 4th of july, i was worried about possible last-minute holiday schedule changes. so i re-checked their website before going to bed. and there it still was: wednesday, level 1&2 with diane at 10:30am. i even left the OC earlier to make sure i wasn't late for class. once i got off the freeway, i called the studio to verify once again that the class was proceeding as scheduled. the recording i got was so thorough that it actually mentioned all the class days and times, including the class i was about to take. so i continued driving the 7 miles from the freeway to the studio.
    when i walked into the studio at the appointed time, i was relieved to see that the class hadn't started yet; in fact, the previous class was just letting out. but when i told diane that i was there for her next class, she told me that due to a consistently low turnout, the 10:30 class had been cancelled! how could she do that, i asked, especially since BOTH the website and the recorded message said that there was supposed to be a 10:30 class?
    she apologized and said that her web guy hadn't gotten around to changing their website and she hadn't gotten around to changing the phone message. she also said that she couldn't teach the class anyway because she had to get ready for her trip later that day. she did offer me a private class (although i'm not sure if it was a freebie or if she would have charged me for it), but i turned down the offer because the thought of my having to drive all the way out there AGAIN for that class was the last thing i wanted to do at the time. i rushed out of the place, knowing that i had to quickly scramble to find an alternate class. grrr... and once again, i didn't find one nearby. grrr...
    so the yoga center failed on all three counts -- their phone information was wrong, their website information was wrong, and because the studio wasn't close to the freeway, i wasted time and gas (not to mention the money i fed the parking meter) on a class i couldn't even take! so am i ever going to go back to take a class? only if i can speak with a human and get confirmation that a listed class will take place!

    so as far as the south bay studios go, the journey could be as painful as the drive down the 405. one down, with a bunch to go... argh.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    freedom of choice

    i recently put in another work exchange stint at yogaworks main street. this time, instead of distributing flyers in posh neighborhoods, i actually worked in the studio, checking in students for vinnie marino's and annie carpenter's evening classes. vinnie has the reputation of being one of the toughest teachers at the studio (with a large proportion of athletic hunks to boot!) and annie is one of the senior yogaworks teachers who all teacher trainees spend time with sooner or later. so their followers tend to be fairly serious yogis.

    as i scanned keytags and typed names into the system, i noticed that at least half of those who showed up either had annual passes or auto-renew monthly series passes. so i started thinking: with all the yoga i do, would making some kind of long term financial commitment be the cost-effective way for me to go?

    using yogaworks as an example (because exhale/sacred movement and other studios have similar passes), let's say that i'm fine with practicing only at yogaworks studios. and let's assume that i manage to show up 350 days a year, allowing for the days i can't get to a studio, like vacation and special occasions. if i purchase their $1375 annual pass, it works out to less than $4 a day. such a deal!

    or let's say that i don't want to part with all that money so soon and i go for the $125 auto-renew monthly pass instead. again, allowing for no-shows and february's abbreviated length, if i take a class 28 days a month, the per-class rate is a smidge under $4.50. still a great price.

    but as you can probably tell by now, sticking to one studio or even one kind of yoga is just not me. which is why you'll never see me committing to a daily ashtanga practice. or an all-bikram-all-the-time philosophy.

    going back to the yogaworks option, right now i average 1-2 yogaworks classes a week. if i commit to take 2 classes there a week, my per-class rate would be in the neighborhood of $13-$16. i can easily match that just by using the KCRW 20% discount on single classes and pay $13.60 per class. add in the classes i get for free when i help out at the studio, and the average price drops significantly.

    but then again, it may be hard to beat $4... sigh...

    call it a failure to commit, call it yoga ADHD, call it a refusal to be a creature of habit. i cannot be restricted; i need my variety!

    just take a look at where i planted my yoga mat this past week:

    on monday, it was vinyasa flow with claire hartley at rising lotus.
    on tuesday, it was traditional hatha with theresa brown at crenshaw.
    on wednesday, it was kundalini with wah! at mukti.
    on thursday, it was iyengar with paul cabanis at yogaworks.
    on friday, it was power yoga with mark blanchard at progressive power.
    on saturday, it was vinyasa flow with dario velasquez at annie's.
    on sunday, it was music flow with jeff wells at jiva.

    could i have experienced the same mix of yoga styles or even the same mix of yoga teachers if i had stuck to one yoga studio and/or chain? i think not :(

    so until i'm able to settle down with the mix available at one or two yoga studios, it looks like i'll have to continue using other cost-cutting measures to supplement the higher prices, like taking half-price community classes and donation-only classes, finding the occasional free class promotion, and putting in more sweat equity in exchange for free classes. i can also continue to buy 5- or 10-series passes at the places i frequent to save me a couple of bucks here and there.

    i know it sounds like an expensive habit, but then again, it's better to spend all my money on my yoga addiction instead of throwing it all away on vices such as gambling, smoking, and drinking, isn't it?

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    reaching the century mark

    a hundred of anything is a big deal.

    a period of 100 years is a century. and if you reach the ripe old age of 100 years, willard scott might greet you a happy birthday on the today show.

    100 degrees celsius is the boiling point of water. temperatures over 100 degrees fahrenheit can be considered a heat wave (much like it's been in many sections of LA this past weekend).

    in sports, if you ran 100 miles to get to the finish line, you just completed an ultramarathon. if you had biked those same 100 miles, you would have gotten credit for having finished a century. and if you had run or cycled those 100 miles in temps 100°F or higher, you're lucky to still be alive. and should get your head examined.

    in currency, there are 100 cents to the dollar, 100 pence to the pound, and 100 centavos to the peso (in fact, most currencies have coins with a value of 1/100th of the basic monetary unit).

    if you scored 100% in your last test, you just aced it. congratulations!

    and so on. and so on. and so on.

    given the significance of the number 100, i have reached a milestone in my yogic journey -- today, june 2nd, i updated the list of teachers on my blogsite and realized that i had just added my 100th teacher to the list.

    that makes 100 teachers who have shared their knowledge, expertise, and insight with yours truly. 100 teachers in LA, that is. there are a handful of other teachers that i'd taken classes while i was out of town, but because they're not included in my is this what you're looking for? post, they don't count (sorry!).

    honestly, i found it hard to believe that i had actually taken classes with a hundred different teachers, especially since each one was (and still is) unique in his or her own way. i've meditated with some and sweated with others. i've found some of their jokes funny and some of their incessant chatter annoying. some have made my muscles scream with posture corrections while others have made my muscles swoon with delicious massages.

    interestingly enough, the teacher who made #100 chronologically on my list also happens to be #100 alphabetically (at least for now). and that noteworthy yoga teacher happens to be... (cue gong here):

    jeff wells!

    i had taken jeff's open yoga class at jiva yoga earlier this morning. according to the jiva website,

    Open Yoga - A traditional Vinyasa Flow Yoga done to popular music

    which makes perfect sense, since jeff used to teach at maha yoga, where steve ross and most of his teachers "unite music and yoga in an enjoyable way for people to experience yoga that transcends tradition, promotes joy, and serves as an adjunct for healing."

    however, unlike the usual hip-hop and rap music that's played at maha, jeff's playlist was a bit more mellow. according to jeff's website, here's what he played in class today:

    1 Jesus To A Child - George Michael
    2 Le soleil est près de moi (Automator Remix) - Air
    3 Try Again - Aaliyah
    4 Got 'Til It's Gone - Janet Jackson ft Q-Tip & Joni Mitchell
    5 Be Without You (Manny Faces Remix) - Mary J Blig
    6 One - Mary J Blige ft U2
    7 Give Me One Reason - Tracy Chapman
    8 Time Of Your Life - Macy Gray
    9 Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin
    10 Unbelievable - Craig David
    11 Lately - Samantha Mumba
    12 The Closer I Get To You - Luther Vandross ft Beyonce Knowles
    13 In Your Eyes - Darren Hayes
    14 The Gift - Annie Lennox
    15 Tougher Than The Rest - Everything But The Girl
    16 The Drugs Don't Work - The Verve

    then we rested in savasana while the soothing sounds of ocean waves filled the room (and yes, it was from the studio's sound system, not from the pacific ocean that's a mere mile away).

    jeff was featured recently in the june 2006 issue of yogi times magazine. here's an excerpt from that article:

    Three years earlier, Wells made a conscious shift to dedicate himself to living the life of a Yogi. He met his teacher, Sri Shankaracharya, and began weekly attendance at the Sadhana Ashram, immersing himself in devotion to the Divine Mother (bhakti yoga) and the esoteric practices of Kundalini Maha yoga. The teachings inspire Wells to respond to his surroundings as though everything is a manifestation of the divine and therefore he journeys throughout his day honoring the divine in everything and everyone.

    Wells' devotion to elevating his state of being is the ultimate aim of his life and therefore his teaching practice. It is about seva, being of service (karma yoga). "I want to touch people where they are," he says. "For some that means a spinning class, for others it will occur in the sacred space of the yoga studio."

    so to jeff and all the other teachers who have shared their inner light with me, i say,

    namaste! the divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you!