shopping for yoga on the promenade
which is why i usually bike to yoga class when i'm headed that way. not only do i NOT have to pay to park my bike, but i don't have to go round and round in the structures in search of an elusive parking space (the sign outside might say there are 9 spaces available, but good luck trying to find those 9 empty spots!!).
last week, though, during our epic week of rain -- and who says it never rains in southern california? -- i found myself having to kiss my bike goodbye as i hopped in my car to get to class. it seemed the wise thing to do; not only didn't i want to get drenched (either from the rain itself or from trucks splashing through puddles on the street), but i definitely didn't want to get sideswiped by inattentive LA drivers who couldn't see clearly out their windows because of the rain while they were attempting to update their facebook statuses on their iphones :(
as i drove into the parking structure, i noticed the people walking to and from their cars. and strangely enough, EVERYONE was carrying a yoga mat!!
you think i'm exaggerating? consider this: within a three-block stretch of 2nd street in santa monica, there are FOUR yoga studios... and within a short jog from there, there are FOUR more! and that doesn't even include the other sources of yoga classes -- the four or more gyms that are also in the area: equinox, 24 hour fitness, burn fitness, and easton gym, plus the lululemon athletica santa monica with its FREE community classes on sunday mornings!
and did i mention that there's a hot yoga studio that's scheduled to open in another month or so in the former exhale santa monica location??
so as far as yoga in LA goes, welcome to ground zero :)
the area around 3rd street is also the place where you're going to find the greatest concentration of donation-based** yoga studios; of the eight i counted earlier, all but two of them have donation boxes stationed by the front door.
** for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of donation-based yoga, here's a brief recap:
instead of charging a set fee for each class, these yoga studios allow you to name your own price. in other words, you give what you can afford to pay at the moment and/or what you think the class was worth to you. most of the studios suggest a $14 donation per class, which is still less than the going rate at non-donation based studios.
now please indulge me for a moment as i step on my soapbox... as far as i'm concerned, everyone should drop something in the donation box. if you're really broke, pull a dollar bill out of your pocket and drop it in. if you're feeling a little more generous, put in $5 or $10. on the other hand, if you felt like you just took the best class in your entire life and want to make sure that teacher continues to be there for you, by all means put in even more! btw, if you're driving a late-model hybrid car and are planning to do some major shopping at anthropologie or some other high-end store on the promenade after class, there is absolutely NO reason why you should donate less than $15. i mean, where are your priorities???... ok, hopping off soapbox...
when making a donation, don't worry if all you have are large bills; it's OK to make change from what's in the box. just make sure you don't take out more than you put in :(
with that said, here are the yoga studios located in the vicinity of the third street promenade and what their classes are like. i'll start with the farthest one out and work my way in:
home simply yoga - 1547 6th st (thru the courtyard); some classes by donation
this is the only studio on the westside focused on mysore-style ashtanga yoga. but since they're fully aware that not everyone is a hardcore ashtangi, they offer beginner and led ashtanga classes, by donation, for those who want to learn the basics. their class schedule also includes vinyasa flow classes and other specialized classes, also by donation.
home simply was one of the first green yoga studios here in LA. their beautiful hardwood asana floor was once the sales floor of the plush armani exchange store down on main street; in fact, most of the materials used in the studio are recycled discards from a number of remodel projects around town. in the spirit of going green, you might want to consider walking, biking, or taking the bus to get here. street parking is metered and at a premium; the nearest city parking structures are three blocks away.
santa monica power yoga east - 522 santa monica blvd, 2nd floor; by donation
this is the home that every teacher's teacher, bryan kest, built. it's located in the dance home studio, right above the radio shack store near the goodwill thrift shop. there's usually a line snaking down the stairs, along the sidewalk, and around the corner. it's been said that ginger rogers and fred astaire used to rehearse on the same floor thousands of power yoga-hungry students now practice on. classes are usually packed, so get there early (which explains the line).
bryan and the other instructors teach power yoga classes of varying levels of difficulty. note: for bryan's level 3-4 classes, you must be an advanced student. it used to be that you had to attend his level 1-2 class a number of times and get his approval before you could show up at his 3-4. i'm not sure if he still enforces that rule, but all i know is that if you're a first-timer, don't even think of taking his advanced class!
fred segal yoga - 420 broadway; $10 per class
this is also known as the yoga studio at the preece and toff salon at the fred segal store. the fred segal santa monica has two buildings on broadway, one on the east side of 5th street and one on the west; the yoga studio is in the west building. the management hasn't done a particularly great job of promoting the studio, so most people don't even know that it's there. when it first opened, there were about three classes a day. i just checked the class schedule and it looks like it's down to just three classes a week :( but then again, each class will set you back only ten bucks...
unlike all the other surrounding yoga studios, there's a parking lot for all fred segal customers, so you get to park there for free while you're taking a class. and, of course, while you're getting your hair done at the salon or while ogling all the celebrities who shop there.
yogaco - 1408 3rd st promenade, 3rd floor; by donation
if you've ever strolled up and down the promenade, chances are, you've probably walked right past this yoga studio without knowing that it was there. the entrance is between the lush and anthropologie stores; look for the glass door, enter the hallway, and either take the elevator or walk up the flight of stairs to get to the third floor. once you get there, you'll swear you just walked into an exclusive yoga studio with prices to match. au contraire! the owners, grant and kelsey gottfurcht, along with tamal dodge, spared no expense in turning this into a luxe location. the lobby, all three classrooms, even the bathrooms are well-appointed. but the entire place is run on donations. if you feel guilty about putting just a couple of bucks in the donation box after class, maybe your conscience has a point... so put in more! :)
yogaco offers classes in a variety of styles -- power, vinyasa flow, ashtanga, iyengar, prenatal, mommy and me -- so there's bound to be something that speaks to you.
santa monica power yoga west - 1410 2nd st; by donation
this is the more stylish sibling of kest's power yoga studio less than a mile up the street. there's a retail store in front that has a good selection of affordably-priced yoga stuff: mats, props, clothing, books, jewelry, figurines, and more. so if you're in from out of town and left all your yoga gear back home, you should be able to buy everything you need right here. out back is a large classroom with shelves to stash your stuff (unlike at dance home where you pretty much leave your belongings by your mat or along the wall).
like the other location, almost all the classes are power yoga. and yes, they're just as packed, too.
aanand saagar santa monica - 1318 2nd st, 2nd floor; by donation
this is the santa monica branch of arvind chittumalla's studio with the same name over in venice. the classes here are more traditional, with the focus on wellness and healing. according to the website: We take an integral approach to yoga, incorporating all the eight limbs of Raja Yoga in our practice, as prescribed by Patanjali. Yoga is said to be the science of self liberation and practicing asanas is perhaps just the first step in a yogi's journey of self discovery. Our goal is to help people incorporate other aspects of yoga into their practice and also remind them to take yoga off the mat and incorporate it in every aspect of their life.
the studio just opened last month, so the schedule is still being filled in. most of the classes are vinyasa flow, with a couple of meditation classes thrown in to balance things out.
bhakti yoga shala - 207 arizona ave @ 2nd st; by donation
ever wonder what happened to all the kirtan that used to be held at the power yoga west studio on saturday nights? many of those kirtan wallahs, who also happen to be power yoga teachers, moved over when govindas and radha opened up their own yoga studio down the street. all the classes are all-level "bhakti vinyasa flow", a seamless blend of hatha (physical) yoga and bhakti (devotional) yoga. it seems like every teacher here plays the harmonium (or pulls in a close friend who does), so there's lots of chanting that goes along with the asanas. if you're one of those who prefers the "no chanting, no granola, no sanskrit" kind of yoga advocated by the spinning crowd over in venice, this place isn't for you. on the other hand, give it a shot; not only will it cost you less money, but you might actually like it!
the bhakti shala holds kirtans every friday and saturday evening with a revolving list of musicians. these loud and lusty chantfests usually turn into ecstatic sessions that last late into the night (which seems to discourage the homeless from camping out on their doorstep). special events, usually maha kirtans featuring visiting musicians accompanied by the house "band", are also held on a fairly regular basis.
yogis anonymous - 1221 2nd st; by donation
just like the bhakti yoga shala a block away, yogis anonymous was started by a former power yoga alum, ally hamilton, and her husband dorian cheah. taking a class here is like walking into the cheah living room and finding the place filled with their best friends... who soon become your good friends, too. every now and then, their next door neighbor (not really, but play along with me here) josh nelson pops by with gluten-free vegan cookies and brownies... yum! and don't be surprised if you find their litttle kids hanging around from time to time; if you're there often enough, you'll eventually find yourself taking your turn as babysitter or entertainer :)
to give you an idea of how much fun this place is, check out some of the classes offered. the names speak for themselves -- order your breakfast, east meets west, classic yoga made in india, hurts so good, yoga for ninjas, friday night yoga party, sunday sadhana, and the class that always elicits a "huh?", good cop/bad cop. there's never a dull moment here.
so now that you know where you might want to go for your next yoga class, click here for information on the parking structures in and around the 3rd street promenade. and good luck finding that parking spot!! :)