Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
Click here to view the accidental yogist's map of los angeles yoga studios in a full-size page

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

360 degrees of freedom

note: this is one in a series of long-overdue posts. i've been so busy lately that it's only now that i'm finally getting around to writing about things that happened a month or more ago. i'm working from rapidly fading memory, so if anything isn't quite right, my apologies...

last year at the global mala event at the LA convention center, seane corn was one of four teachers who took turns leading our massive gathering of yogis through a mala of 108 sun salutations. while the other teachers pretty much has us facing the stage while we flowed through our surya namaskars, seane had us turning clockwise, changing direction with each repetition. north, south, east, west -- it was quite exhilarating being able to see the group in its entirety, not just those in front of us but also those behind and on either side! the only problem was that when we were oriented towards our right or left and holding in downward facing dog, our feet would be on one neighbor's yoga mat and our hands on another's. a thought crossed my mind: wouldn't it be great if they made yoga mats large enough so that we could stay on our own mats while we turned around?

well, apparently someone else had the same idea. but unlike me, she decided to do something about it.

enter desiree bartlett and the lululemon 360 yoga mat.

it was sometime last month when the product roll-out started in earnest. i was compiling the list of events for january and noticed that desiree was making the rounds of the local lulu stores -- el segundo, calabasas, santa monica, pasadena, beverly hills. never having seen any other lulu product pushed as aggressively, i knew it was something i wanted to check out for myself.

i eventually found myself at the santa monica store one january evening for the 360 yoga mat class with kourtney kaas. while the class wasn't going to be taught by desiree herself, i thought it would be fun to take a class with kourtney anyway, especially since i'd already taken classes with her at other lululemon community events and at yogahop in santa monica where she's an instructor on staff.

as i had expected, lululemon's new mat was round; the "360" comes from the number of degrees in a circle (yes, i was a math geek in my previous life). why would anyone want to practice on a circular mat?, you ask. my answer to that is: why not?

Yoga 360 is multidimensional movement linked by arcs, ellipses and spirals. The movement is fluid and is inspired by the great luminaries, the sun and the moon. There is a feeling of being luminous from the inside out. The sequencing allows for greater freedom in movement and is inspired by Yoga, Dance and the spirit of celebration. Yoga 360 incorporates the use of the Lululemon 360 Yoga mat created by Desi.

it was liberating to be able to bend and stretch in any direction and know that no matter what you did, you were still on your own mat. not on the floor, not on your neighbor's mat. and because we were free to do any movement in any direction, we did just that. lunge this way, warrior that way. down dog facing the front windows, plank facing the back wall. by the time we had finished our class, i had many chances to check out the merchandise along all four walls of the store :)

i talked with kourtney after class and found out that she had worked closely with desiree to develop the pose sequences that would take full advantage of the geometrical shape of the mat. i asked her where i could take a class; she said that for now, they'd be taught only at the equinox gyms. in fact, desi was scheduled to teach a master class at equinox santa monica that coming wednesday. unfortunately, i was already committed to attending the fit yoga conference that same afternoon, so i couldn't make it. darn.

i eventually received a personal invite from desi and i explained to her my situation. she welcomed me to take any of her regular wednesday evening 360 mat classes at equinox, and i told her i'd take her up on her offer the first chance i got.

a few weeks later, i received an email from desiree. not only was she going to have a 360 class that coming wednesday, but she was going to have live music, too... daphne tse was going to serenade the class during savasana! it was just too good to pass up; i emailed desi immediately and told her i'd see her then.

desi's series of poses in the equinox class was totally different than what kourtney had us doing in the lulu class. it was clear that there really was no set sequence to be followed; any teacher with a vivid imagination could easily come up with really inventive ways to use the entire area of the mat. during the class, i was so busy trying to make sure i was doing the right thing (and facing the right direction) that before i knew it, we were resting comfortably on our backs while daphne tse softly sang and strummed on her guitar (and if you want to see daphne anytime soon, you'll have to travel to bali -- yes, as in indonesia -- where she's helping put together the bali spirit festival which will be held in ubud on march 5th through 16th).

desi has spent the past month visiting the various equinox fitness locations around the country for teacher training sessions. since i've seen the 360 mat sold at every lulu store i've been to (including the union square branch i dropped by during my recent trip to san francisco), i can only assume that 360 mat classes will be eventually be taught at all equinox locations, if they aren't already.

i'd love to have a 360 mat, if i can only figure out how to use it without getting nasty looks from other students in saul david raye's class at exhale or vinnie marino's class at yogaworks -- i'm sure they'd all accuse me of taking up more than my fair share of precious floor space in those packed rooms!