Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Monday, August 20, 2007

guerillas in our midst

i have to say that one of my more fortuitous yoga-related discoveries this year was the yogaorphan site created by brandon chiang, a yogainsideout student who migrated to bala yoga when the two studios merged, then "suddenly found himself without a studio in which to practice" when bala closed at the end of march of this year.

it's scary how i can't seem to remember how i first learned about this cyberkula, especially since it happened less than six months ago (could it be that brandon himself told me about it during the last few days of bala's existence?). but in the end, it doesn't really matter how i found it; what matters is what i've found through it. thanks to the orphans, i've made many new friends in the local anusara community and have also been able to keep track of where many of the displaced instructors now teach.

for example, elsie escobar, who has now turned into quite the yoga podcast queen, also teaches live and in person at yoga works larchmont and at swerve studio.

will duprey has found his niche at liberation yoga and maha yoga (hmmm... will at maha... i still can't figure how that came about, especially since will's signature style is so radically different from the music flow classes highly preferred by the maha crowd).

and huck hirsch now takes his acroyoga classes on the road, teaching at various venues when he's in town (you can find out where he's teaching through the acroyoga website; find his name on the "instructor" drop-down list and click on "search").

but the award for the most creative transition, in my opinion, goes to marc holzman. instead of trying to find a studio that could fit him into their schedule, he started his own virtual "studio". called guerilla yoga, his donation-only mixed-level anusara classes are held wherever he can find space big enough to house his followers. currently, he teaches at two locations: the hollywood dance center on highland and the woman's club of hollywood on la brea.

according to the "green tech" dictionary at cnet.com, guerilla is "A much, much hipper and edgier version of "grassroots," complete with connotations of the underground and extralegal." hipper and grassroots, guerilla yoga definitely is. underground, somewhat, at least until more people hear about it. but extralegal? i seriously doubt it. but you get the idea.

besides marc, who teaches the majority of the tue/thu/sun classes, there are various guest teachers who occasionally grace the kula with their presence. ross rayburn, for example, makes an appearance once or twice a month. tiffany fraser, who's moved back to LA from italy, now teaches on tuesday mornings. and just last sunday, todd tesen, who now calls berlin his home, had an opportunity to lead a crowd of LA anusara junkies. it'll hopefully be the first of many classes taught by todd during his brief visit here; i'll know for sure when marc puts up the schedule for next month on the website.

i was fortunate enough to have been able to attend todd's maiden adventure at guerilla. and thinking back, i should consider myself even luckier that i was able to find a spot in the room that was packed from wall to wall by the time the class started.

it's clear that a teacher is highly regarded -- and missed -- when his peers show up en masse to take his class. without spending much time looking around the room during todd's class, i spotted the mudra moments duo, hillary rubin (who also hosts her own podcast site) and elsie escobar (mentioned earlier) practicing near me. i also noticed james macdonald doing a series of "i can't believe he just did that" asanas at the back of the room. the group's level of experience was so advanced that todd couldn't help but get excited as he compared our class to others he had taught abroad. rather than having to spend a good amount of time showing students how to do a handstand, for example, all he had to do was to tell us to partner up and assist each other, and off we went (and many thanks to both marc and hillary for spotting me and giving me tips on how to find my balance while upside down).

i hope i somehow get another chance to take another of todd's classes while he's in town. if not, i can always catch marc on sunday mornings and tuesday/thursday evenings. and maybe even tiffany or ross if and when they sub for marc during his usual timeslots. honestly, i could show up for class at any time without knowing who the teacher will be, and still be confident that it will be taught by someone who can somehow make a series of challenging poses seem like a lot of fun :)

fyi -- since the classes aren't taught at traditional yoga studios, you have to bring your own yoga gear. you won't be able to rent any yoga mats nor props. neither will you be able to buy anything else you might need, like clothing and towels. there are no sign-in sheets; just show up for class and drop your donation in the box. if you're looking for music to inspire your practice, you won't find it here; in its place, you'll hear the controlled breathing of the students around you (maybe even an occasional grunt or groan).

by the way, if you're new to yoga, i suggest you learn the basics elsewhere before you attempt a guerilla class. the students who show up tend to be on the more advanced side, so you might find yourself struggling to keep up if you're not familiar with the poses. if, on the other hand, you have a good yoga foundation, join the guerillas and enjoy the experience!


Blogger brandon said...

thanks joni, what a great guerilla writeup :) and yes, i did tell you personally. glad you've joined us on several occasion! look forward to seeing you again soon!

11:56 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hey brandon --
i'm sure you will!

12:57 AM  
Blogger Elsie said...

The mighty Joni has done it again! wow! This is, I would say one of your best ;) Now I'm not just saying that cause you mentioned me, tee hee, but really, in all seriousness, because you are truly a fantastic advocate for community. Your willingness to participate and your love and passion for the practice really shows in the way that you write and conduct your site.

I'm glad that the accidental yogist is here!

Thank you for your sweetness and support.

Go Joni!!!!

10:40 AM  
Blogger joni said...

awww... you're too kind, elsie! :)

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joni, I've been checking in and enjoying your blog for what seems like years now. Is that possible? I find your perspective refreshing and always informative. Just want to say thanks for taking the time to share. It's good to have a space and place for all yoga to co-exist harmoniously. Om Shanti, Abby Wills

6:55 PM  
Blogger joni said...

thanks, abby! not only is it good to hear from one of my readers, but even better that she likes what she reads :)

10:32 PM  
Blogger (0v0) said...

Thanks for writing this up. The possibility of community without a (commercial) proprietary space is an inspiring one. Nice blogging!

9:54 AM  
Blogger hillarysyogapractice said...

nice one. you really captured the vibe and set up the playing field for those who choose to go off the beaten path. happy to be able to help you and always happy to be of service. thanks for the mention and see you one of these days soon. keep it up I love your work.

11:34 PM  
Blogger joni said...

... and thanks to the wise owl and hillary for the nice words of encouragement! this is why i love the yoga community so much!

4:51 PM  

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