Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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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.