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Thursday, July 26, 2007

the spiritual center of america

back in 1924, self-realization fellowship founder paramahansa yogananda was once asked: "which do you consider the most spiritual place in america?" without hesitation, he replied, "i have always considered los angeles the benares of america."

so if benares is considered one of the holiest cities in india, one can only wonder what he saw in LA at that time for him to make that comparison. or could it be that he was predicting the emergence of los angeles as the most yoga-crazed city in america?

considering all the events that went on this past weekend (not including the hundreds of yoga classes that are already regularly scheduled from sunup to sundown all around town), i'm beginning to believe he could clearly see far out into the future... like to this weekend...

here are some events that i considered attending:

saturday, july 21st:

~ acroyoga with huck at pan pacific park in west hollywood
~ wellness workshop at lululemon santa monica
~ yoga for surfers at quiksilver edition mission in venice
~ lululemon beach yoga in manhattan beach
~ nia summer jam at the core in redondo beach
~ global mala beach party with shiva rea at santa monica beach
~ kirtan with dave stringer, shiva rea, and friends at sacred movement in venice
~ mid-summer night healing festival at yoga west in los angeles
~ swami kriyananda's book launch at the wadsworth theatre in brentwood

sunday, july 22nd:

~ yoga booty ballet's recycling workshop at lululemon beverly hills
~ free yoga class at lululemon pasadena
~ crunch fitness yogapalooza at plummer park in west hollywood
~ live harp restorative class at yoga blend in burbank
~ free movie night at yogasofia in hermosa beach

and of course, i wasn't content with picking just one; i ended up going to THREE of them... and that was just on saturday!

here's how my day went:


i drove down to venice after my morning run to take the yoga for surfers class at the quiksilver edition mission on abbot kinney blvd. expecting parking to be scarce because it was a beautiful beach day, i was thankful i found a parking spot right by the front door. of course it helped that i got there fifteen minutes early :)

this was the first time i'd ever been to the mission, so i spent most of the time checking out the fabulous place. who would have guessed that a nondescript door on busy abbot kinney could lead to a bright and spacious second-floor workspace? as soon as i walked in, i noticed the high ceilings, the dark hardwood floor, and the massive pool table right smack in the middle of the large room.

while waiting for the rest of the class to show up, i spoke with adam, who served as a site manager/coordinator. as he handed me a cold drink from the kitchen, he explained how the office was occupied by mission editorial, a post-production firm, during the week and by quiksilver edition on the weekends. besides the free saturday morning yoga classes taught by yogaworks instructors, the mission hosts speakers, concerts, art exhibits, movies, lunches, and more. and yes, they're all FREE.

eventually, the other students made their way up the stairs and placed their yoga mats on the floor. our teacher for the day turned out to be kathryn budig, a yogaworks teacher with whom i somehow had never taken a class before. strangely enough, i had planned to take her new class at truyoga the next day, so i was surprised to see her there that morning.

kathryn led us through an hour-long class from her perch atop the pool table (according to adam, julie kleinman did the exact same thing when she taught the class the week before). besides the usual sun salutations, we went over some arm balances and inversions. i wish i could say that after all my attempts at bakasana and sirsasana i'm able to execute them effortlessly, but i'd be lying. i know, i know... practice makes perfect. so i have to keep practicing :(

i chatted with kathryn briefly both before and after class (she'd found my blogsite about a month ago and had invited me to take one of her classes, hence my plan to visit her at truyoga), and it turns out that we were both headed to the same place that afternoon...


after a quick shower, some shopping, and a muscle-relaxing deep tissue massage (!), i made my way to the end of ocean park blvd in santa monica to get to shiva rea's global mala beach party, where students and teachers were meeting to discuss the upcoming global mala event on sept 21st and 22nd, 2007. i had no problem finding the party, thanks to the brightly-colored umbrellas that were scattered around the group gathered on the sand.

i moved closer and started looking for familiar faces (honestly, with all the classes i've taken in LA, the chances were good that i'd recognize a number of people, whether they be students or teachers). so i was amazed that the only faces that looked familiar at first were those of dhyana and daphne tse, the party organizers, whom i had met at various truyoga classes and events.

eventually, as i made my way around the crowd, i spotted others whom i knew -- liz hage, kathryn budig, and peter sterios from truyoga, rudy mettia and vytas baskauskas from santa monica power yoga, larry payne from samata yoga, guru yogi ramesh of laughter yoga, and julie carmen, hala khouri, and of course, shiva rea from sacred movement. also in attendance were musicians joey lugassy, suzanne sterling, and wah! as for the unfamiliar faces, it turns out that they were mostly out-of-state visitors who were attending shiva's teacher training workshop at sacred movement. i found myself chatting with yogis from all over the country as we formed a mandala -- in this case a giant circle with all of us facing the center while we stood in warrior 1 -- while a photographer stood on a tall ladder and kept shooting away, trying to get the perfect publicity shot (of course, i'll probably be the one only who can figure out which of the many dark-haired yoginis is me in the group photo!)

after the party, while most walked back to sacred movement for the kirtan with dave stringer later that evening, i made my way back to my car so i could head home and change before moving on to my last stop of the day.


by now, i was exhausted from my busy day which had started with a 7-mile run at 7:45am. but since i had received complimentary tickets to the book launch of swami kriyananda's new book, revelations of christ, from kristy at crystal clarity publishers, i felt i really had to go, especially since the tickets were accompanied by a note that said: "... we offer them to you free as a token of appreciation for your service to the yoga community in Los Angeles..."

by the time i reached the wadsworth theatre in brentwood, the program had already started and the choir was on stage. i was directed to sit up in the balcony, where the temps were approaching meat-locker lows (blame it on the design of the old air conditioning system, i was told). i struggled to stay awake, but failed miserably. i woke up just in time to hear swami kriyananda finish his talk, perform the last musical number of the evening with the choir, then be presented with two awards -- the "2007 pioneer in yoga" award from the LA yoga fellowship and the "lifetime achievement / beacon of light" award from the national interfaith council.

thankfully, swami kriyananda's entire speech was recorded; photos and videos taken at the book launch have been posted on the ananda LA website. now i just have to find the time to view the video in its entirety so i can find out what i missed hearing him say...