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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!