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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

yoga in hollywoodland

Yoga on Beachwood
2560 North Beachwood Drive (at the Besant Lodge of the Theosophical Society)
Los Angeles, CA 90068

~ The world we live in is basically a good place, to be used wisely, to be treasured, and to be honored: rejoice in life.
~ We develop as human beings, not by forsaking the world, but by cooperating with nature to preserve and perfect it: respect the environment and be ecologically responsible.
~ You and I are different expressions of the same life, so whatever happens to either of us happens to both of us—our well-being is linked: help your neighbor, and thereby help yourself.
~ Disharmony and evil are the result of ignorance and selfishness: live in harmony and goodness so as to teach others by your life as well as by your words.
-- from the Theosophical Society website

i have to admit that after driving to the hollywood bowl this past saturday AND sunday, the last thing i wanted to do was to head out to hollywood for the third day in a row, especially since this additional trip involved driving some 20+ miles from the south bay through rush hour traffic. and as anyone who lives (and commutes) in LA knows, it isn't a trek that one would take on unless they absolutely had to.

of course, obsessive-compulsive me felt that it was about time i checked out another yoga source in town. and what better time to visit a place clear across the city than on a day when i could sneak out early because my boss was out of the office (shhhhh -- you didn't hear me say that!)...

giving myself more than enough time to make the monday 7:30pm class listed on the website, i managed to remain calm despite the numerous stoplights. and stop signs. and road construction delays. and cars that insisted on tailgating me while i was trying to figure out how much farther i needed to go while i made my way up the road. and, oh yes, the idiotic tourist who lay prone in the middle of the street while trying to take a picture of the HOLLYWOOD sign ** at twilight (i have no idea how that photo turned out because right after i barely missed hitting him, a cop pulled up beside him and told him to move. thank god)!

** for those unfamiliar with the beachwood canyon area, it's located in the tract that used to be known as hollywoodland; hence its proximity to the world-famous collection of nine free-standing white letters.

finding a parking spot on the street was tricky enough; trying to figure out where i was going in the dimly-lit neighborhood required divine intervention -- in my case, it was in the form of a woman walking her dog who just happened to know which building she'd seen yoga mat-toting students walk into. or out of.

if i had just paid more attention to the photos on the website, i would've known exactly what i was looking for: a small church-looking building. turns out the location was the hollywood branch of the theosophical society, an organization whose mission is to "encourage open-minded inquiry into world religions, philosophy, science, and the arts in order to understand the wisdom of the ages, respect the unity of all life, and help people explore spiritual self-transformation." and while the yoga class is not affiliated with the society in any way, it seems appropriate that there is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the two.

shortly after my guide and i arrived at the beautifully-carved front door, two other students plus steffany vance, our instructor, showed up. steffany unlocked the door and let us in. the meeting hall was almost sanctuary-like, with the focal point being the floor-to-ceiling stained glass window on the north wall. she set up a small altar in front of the window as we set up our mats on the wooden floor. there was an assortment of mats, blocks, and blankets at our disposal in the small closet behind us; we took what we needed and placed them by our mats.

steffany is an anusara-inspired yoga instructor. her classes are similar to those taught at anusara studios around town like city, still, mission street, and guerilla (ok, it really isn't a studio, but i wanted to throw in a plug anyway). in fact, when she isn't teaching at this lodge high up in the hollywood hills, she's teaching down at city yoga in west hollywood.

she ably tailored her class to our varied backgrounds. one student was a regular and was well on her way to mastering arm balances and inversions. another student, a yoga newbie who was there for the first time, found herself being assisted into her first handstand since she was a kid. and then there was me, who, after all these years, was still struggling through bakasana and trying to figure out where "vertical" was while i was upside down :(

the lodge was a beautiful space for our yoga practice. high above the noise of the city, we lay in peaceful savasana at the end of class. and as the lights were dimmed inside the room, the stained glass windows began to take on a mystic glow from the lights outside. one couldn't help but chant a blissful om when it was all over!

steffany's classes at the beachwood location are on monday, wednesday, and friday mornings, with additional classes for the working crowd on monday evenings and saturday mornings. if you live anywhere near the beachwood canyon area, treat yourself to a nice hike and walk to class. at least you won't have to deal with searching for a parking spot. or maybe even running over tourists who seem to think that they own the road...