Legend: BLUE-open, RED-closed, GREEN-by donation
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

accepting change

sometimes things don't always go the way you've planned.

still on my quest to meet yogaglo's challenge to take 30 yoga classes in 30 days, i mapped out an eclectic mix of teachers and locations for the rest of the week. and while i didn't end up with what i was hoping to get, i accepted the changes and happily found myself putting my growing practice in capable hands.

that's the beauty of living in LA -- where excellent yoga can be found everywhere if you just let yourself be open to the possibility!

oct 12th, class #12 - basics yoga with denise waling at the yoga place

as far as yoga teachers go, denise is definitely trying to make her mark. just having graduated from a teacher training program just a little over a year ago, she's already set up her own little yoga studio at the california market center on 9th and main, right in the middle of the busy garment district in downtown LA. her students are predominantly sales reps from the different clothing vendors in the building and their yoga experience ranges from absolute beginner ("i just happened to see the sign in the hallway") to experienced yogi ("i'm so glad i can squeeze in a yoga class during my lunch break!"). her goal has been to bring affordable yoga to as many people as possible, and so far, she's succeeding.

i had originally decided to take the big blue bus to downtown, but due to some last-minute delays and mix-ups in my schedule, i got a late start and ended up driving, thinking that if i were to take the bus, i would've gotten there half an hour late for the hour-long class at noon. as it turned out, the noontime class was a basics class; what i really wanted was the 1pm level 1/2 vinyasa flow class. oops.

not wanting to have to kill time for the more advanced class -- believe me, there was more than enough temptation from all the showrooms i walked past just to get to her classroom! -- i decided to take the earlier class. denise made sure she addressed the needs of the two other women who were just a step above beginner. i put myself in their shoes, listened to her instructions and followed along. and as simple as some of the poses were, i did manage to break into a sweat. i guess i must've been doing something right!

oct 13th, class #13 - level 2/3 power vinyasa flow with felicia tomasko at yogaglo

right around the start of the yogaglo challenge, the glo boys had gone on vacation and hung up the "gone fishing" sign outside their production studio in santa monica. but they were back this week, so i decided to pop by and get the scoop on how their trip went. and while i was at it, why not throw in a yoga class?

i thought it would be a nice challenge if i took dice iida-klein's wednesday evening level 2/3 handstand-lovers class. as it turned out, i was greeted at the door by felicia tomasko, editor of LA yoga magazine and teacher of the class that preceeded dice's. she smiled and said she'd be subbing for dice. we laughed about how she definitely had me as a captive audience this time, unlike the time i took her class online and was constantly distracted with incoming pings from my facebook and twitter friends (see day 2 of the challenge). knowing how she's more adverse to handstands than i am, i then teased her about how we'd just have to make fools of ourselves on camera and do those dreaded handstands! thankfully, she led us through a more grounded -- literally -- vinyasa flow class. and neither of us ended up falling down in class and having it witnessed by millions of yogaglo viewers :)

oct 14th, class #14 - all-levels flow class with daniel stewart at santa monica yoga

last month, i had been invited to take mckenna rowe's class at le posh yoga, a new yoga studio that soft-opened in hollywood. i thought it would be cool to include another of their classes in my 30:30 challenge, so i checked the calendar i had picked up at the time and planned my day around being there in time for stella wilkin's thursday 4:30pm class. but unbeknowst to me, le posh had decided to put all classes on hold until after their grand opening in november. so when i buzzed in at the front door, there was no response (i know, i should've checked before showing up!).

this was one time when i was glad i had gotten an iphone - i checked the mindbody yoga app to check class schedules for nearby yoga studios. for the studios not covered by mindbody, i checked their websites. and for others whose numbers were stored in my phone, i called to find out what my choices were. after weighing my options, i concluded that unless i wanted to hang around the west hollywood area for an hour or more, it looked like i was better off using that time to head back to the westside.

and that's how i ended up at daniel stewart's class at santa monica yoga. i had wanted to catch his kirtan at rising lotus yoga the next day; unfortunately, it conflicted with tickets i already had to the hollywood bowl. i'd shown up, hoping that maybe he'd chant in class and give us a little preview of his kirtan's playlist. but as my luck would have it, he forgot to bring his harmonium to class. oh well. i still ended up sweating through his delicious vinyasa flow class and loving every minute of it. daniel has so much yogic knowledge -- both asana-wise and philosophy-wise -- that every class i've taken with him has been a wonderful learning experience. and this one was definitely no different!

oct 15th, class #15 - destress yoga with chani nicholas at truyoga
this was one of those days when i had no idea how i was going to be able to squeeze in a yoga class. i overslept and realized i wouldn't be able to get to any of the mid-morning classes in time. and i couldn't take any of the late-afternoon and/or evening classes because i had to hop on an early shuttle to the hollywood bowl.

and while i was stressing over how i couldn't afford to fail that 30:30 challenge, i found the perfect class - destress yoga with chani... and it was at a yoga studio just a few blocks away from me!

i walked over to the yahoo center and popped in for chani's lunchtime class at truyoga. her class was calm and gentle, short and sweet, and exactly what i needed. if i worked anywhere nearby, i'd make it a regular weekly lunch stop. after all, who wouldn't want a little stress relief break in the middle of the work day? and best of all, it wasn't a sweaty class that would require a shower before heading back to the office :)

oct 16th, class #16 - yoga blend 1/2 with louise guzman at yogaworks valencia

i have to admit that the only thing that enticed me to drive all the way to valencia for a yoga class (mind you, i'd been putting off checking out studios in that neck of the woods only because i dreaded the drive) was a food truck festival. yes, i'm just as obsessed with eating at gourmet food trucks as i am with taking yoga classes all over town. and just as compulsive about finding them all.

yogaworks in valencia is one of the YW members-only locations in the LA area, which means that unless i purchase a monthly membership, i can only drop-in to take a class there no more than once every 30 days. which is fine with me because i can't see myself wanting to make the hour-ish drive that often anyway :)

to be honest, i picked this particular class only because it ended right around the time the truck fest started. i didn't bother to check what kind of class it was nor who was teaching it. so when i checked in at the front desk, i found out that it was a level 1/2 taught by louise guzman, who was subbing for jackie field. i knew neither teacher, but i was perfectly ok with that. it turned out to be a pretty straightforward hatha flow class. i really don't remember much about it, probably because my mind was busy planning what i was going to eat right after class. eek. i obviously wasn't being present, was i?

more on the rest of my 30:30 challenge to follow...

Monday, October 18, 2010

we be doin' yoga

by now, i'm sure you all have heard MC yogi rapping "ganesh is fresh", "be the change", and more recently "give love". not only is he a hip hop artist who found yoga, but he's also a yoga instructor in real life. and i can vouch for it because i took his class -- co-taught with his wife, amanda -- at bhakti fest in joshua tree last month...

now there's hip-hop artist jesse abraham, who plays the role of a yoga instructor in his latest video, "yoga". the two confused yoginis in his class aren't quite sure what to do while jesse attempts to show them some poses while he chants:

my girl she be doin' yoga, she be doin' yoga
she be doin' yoga, yoyoga
with yo girl, she be doin' yoga, they be doin' yoga,
we be doin' yoga, yoyoga
she doin' yoga, don't need a chauffeur
cause i'm drivin', it ain't over
'til be both smilin', we're so sober
but she's highin', i like to hover...

i wonder if he's signed up for a teacher training class yet? :)

click here to watch jesse's yoga video on youtube. enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a week's worth of yoga adventures in lala land

last week, i embarked upon a 30-day yoga challenge posed by the friendly people at yogaglo, an online source of yoga classes. for those of you unfamiliar with the glo (as it is fondly called by its regulars), you can stream and take as many yoga classes as you want -- whenever and wherever you need your yoga fix -- for a flat $18 monthly fee. and whether you sign in as infrequently as twice a month or as often as a 3-4 times a week, it's one of the best deals going, given the caliber of the teaching staff which includes such notables as elena brower, seane corn, noah maze, mark whitwell, and many more.

i'm sure that when the glo folks put out the challenge, they expected that the challengers would log in daily and choose from any of the hundreds of classes available on the website. after all, taking a glo class a day wouldn't cost them any more than what they were already paying.

then of course there's me, the yogi with the extreme case of yoga ADHD who has no desire to take a class with any one teacher more than twice a month. so with their permission, i've modified the challenge to meet my needs; while complying with the 30 classes in 30 days requirement, i'll be choosing classes that highlight the diversity of yoga available in LA.

as of my last post, i'd taken a team-taught fundraiser class, an online glo class, a lululemon community class, and a gay yoga class. you can read about how those went here.

moving on...

oct 5th, class #5 - bibliyoga with marcus freed at mimoda dance studio

i'd taken classes with london-import marcus freed the last time he was in LA a little over a year ago. at the time, i was introduced to what he calls the kosher sutras, passages from the torah (or from my christian point of view, the old testament) that served as sources of inspiration and guidance for our yoga practice. after each class, we'd gather together over refreshments and discuss our insights on the sutras and how we would apply them to our everyday lives.

this time, our mid-day weekday class consisted of just the three of us -- marcus, his assistant toby, and yours truly. while both of them were deftly moving from arm balance to handstand, then back to arm balance, i was content with staying close to the ground and doing tamer versions of the poses. after we were done, we moved over to the paper or plastik cafe next door, where we drank steaming cups of espresso while animatedly discussing the day's kosher sutra:

This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalms 118:24

i was glad for our fun time together and look forward to practicing with them again soon! by the way, marcus also teaches his bibliyoga classes at the hub in west LA.

oct 6th, class #6 - black market yoga with daniel overberger at the women's club of hollywood

not only is daniel one of the teachers of the donation-based outdoor yoga at runyon canyon park, but he is also the reason the album music for yoga, meditation & general house cleaning by the dharma gypsys came to be. zeppelin and floyd meet krishna das? yeah, i can see it :)

daniel started up his black market yoga classes when he needed an indoor space for his evening runyon canyon classes during the winter months. after all, it's hard to practice yoga on the grass in the dark without lights... while freezing because the temps have dipped below 70 degrees (yes, we're such weather wimps here in LA!). but honestly, while practicing in the great outdoors can be inspirational, there's something to be said for having a level floor under your yoga mat and listening to cool music while moving through daniel's ashtanga-inspired class. and if you're lucky, daniel will strum a guitar solo or two while you're resting in savasana. the cost of admission's just $5. such a deal!

oct 7th, class #7 - kundalini class with guru singh plus live music by simrit kaur at yoga west

it had been a long time since i had last set foot in yoga west... so long that i was shocked when the person who checked me in said that my last class there was in 2006!! i had decided to make a return visit when i found out that simrit kaur was going to sing live at guru singh's class; i had dozed off to her melodic voice during her early morning set at bhakti fest and wanted to find out what i'd missed.

i'd forgotten what a class with guru singh is like. the man can talk! and i mean that in a good way, of course :) he's one of the first kundalini teachers trained by yogi bhajan himself, so listening to him and practicing with him was almost as awesome as being with the great YB himself (or so i'd like to think). chanting with simrit kaur at the end of class and getting her to autograph my copy of her latest CD, the sweetest nectar, just made the experience even more awesome. wahe guru!!

oct 8th, class #8 - kundalini-hatha flow blend class with jesse lombardi at be love yoga

it seemed apropos that i'd end up at jesse's class the day after guru singh's class at yoga west. it had been a while since i had been to his yoga studio in the toy lofts near downtown LA's warehouse district; in fact, i almost didn't recognize him when he walked up to me at bhakti fest during a late night set, saw that i was shivering, and offered me his coat. gotta love this man!

i learned to love him even more the day i showed up half an hour late for class (i got stuck behind more than a few delivery trucks on my way there, then couldn't find a nearby parking spot once i got there. grumble grumble), and after having canceled the class because no one had shown up, he decided to hold one anyway with me, his girlfriend, and his hairdresser as his captive students!

anyway, it turns out that guru singh was jesse's first yoga teacher back during his wild and crazy hippie days. and he, too, received his teacher training from yogi bhajan himself. add to that his TT certification from yogaworks, and you get a nice blend of hatha downward-dogging and kundalini breath of fire-ing (is there such a word?). not to mention my favorite part of any kundalini class -- the oh-so energizing gong action during savasana! sat nam, jesse!

oct 9th, class #9 - anusara class with hagar harpak at mission street yoga

while reading the invite from mission street yoga in south pasadena to their open house weekend, i spotted the part about FREE CLASSES and immediately added it to my calendar. after all, financial assistance is always a good thing, especially when it involves yoga with an anusara-certified teacher!

i had initially considered going by bus/subway to get there, especially since the mission street gold line station is a mere half block away, but with the tight schedule i had planned for myself that day, it helped that there also happened to be a free parking structure right by that metro station. how convenient is that?

hagar's class was packed from wall to wall with students of all levels, so while we tried hard not to whack each other while opening to grace, her lovely gypsy spirit floated around the classroom as she talked about revealment and concealment, leading us slowly to our peak pose, natarajasana, a major backbend. yikes. but then again, at least it wasn't a major arm balance...

oct 10th, class #10 - outdoor yoga with yogi steve at cicLAvia

10/10/10 will forever be remembered as the day LA decided to shut down 7.5 miles of its streets to car traffic and open it up instead to bicycle and pedestrian traffic. an estimated 100,000 bikers, walkers, and runners -- including yours truly -- took advantage of the car-free cicLAvia, with some traveling the entire distance from hollenbeck park in boyle heights on the eastern end to the bike kitchen by LA city college on the western end.

there were street performers and vendors scattered up and down the route. and right in the middle of it all, in the middle of the day, yogi steve of runyon canyon yoga held a yoga class on the grass in the shadow of city hall. you know i just had to be there.

so after making my way from east (where the mayor was holding a press conference) to west, with brief stops for a vegan taco at the new smokin' willie's truck and a mango smoothie at the also-new slammin' sliders truck, i biked back to city hall, just in time to see yogi steve setting up yoga mats (generously donated by prana) under the shade of a large tree.

about a dozen of us took advantage of the hour-long session, where we saluted the sun and stretched our cycling/walking muscles to the rhythm of the chanting coming from the no on prop 23 rally in front of city hall. NO on coal and gas. YES on practicing yoga outdoors. NO on carbon emissions. YES on breathing and being present. the times they are a-changin'...

oct 11th, class #11 - late night yoga with jay co at yogaco

i may be a yoga addict, but to be honest, i'm not that addicted that i would choose a late-night yoga class over the chance to relax at home and maybe do some facebook friend-stalking. but my day got so busy that it wasn't until late in the afternoon that i realized i wasn't going to be able to get in a yoga practice unless i found something that started after 9pm. and LA being the yoga capital that it is, there was at least one near me -- a 10:30pm class at yogaco on the third street promenade with my kababayan, the sexy jay co (ok, it's one of those you-had-to-be-there's).

during his usual daytime classes, jay can work his students pretty hard, but for that pre-midnight session, he turned down the lights, turned on his chillout playlist, and guided us through a mellow flow class with his low bedroom voice. savasana never felt so sweet.

aaaaahhhh... cue barry white...

Monday, October 04, 2010

30 yoga classes in 30 days

on september 30th, the people at yogaglo posted this challenge on their facebook page:

Several YogaGlo members will be starting a 30:30 challenge tomorrow and we'll be joining them. Who else wants to take thirty yoga classes with us in thirty days?

my comment to that was:

you mean 30 glo classes in 30 days, or classes anywhere? :)

and their response was:

Joni - 30 classes anywhere...at YogaGlo, at your studio, wherever you can fit it in.

that was all i needed to hear; of course i joined in! after all, i'd done a few yoga challenges before, and each time, it kicked up my yoga practice a notch because i'd always try to find a variety of classes that made the challenge much more, well, challenging. at least to me.

for example, back in january 2009, lululemon south bay threw out a 30-day challenge, and i responded by taking yoga classes in 30 different studios in 30 days.

then earlier this year, yoga works posted a 31-day challenge on its facebook page, and i responded by taking the requisite classes with my favorite yoga teachers, making sure to throw in as many yoga works teachers as i could. after all, they wanted us to post our experiences on their facebook wall, so i thought it would be a nice way to give them some good PR love :)

so what's the theme i've given myself this time, you ask?

since there's so much yoga to be experienced here in LA, i've decided to scour the yoga scene and check out the different classes that are there for the taking. the more unusual, the better. so instead of following the crowds to the classes of the yogi celeb teachers, i'm going to find the obscure places and/or the up-and-coming teachers who could eventually become stars in their own right.

here's how i started my wild adventure on the yogaglo 30:30 challenge:

october 1st, class #1 - this was one of those times when i realized i had RSVPed yes to two events that were scheduled on the same day at the same time... and i really wanted to go to both, but obviously couldn't. so while everyone i knew was headed to the kirtan with jai uttal at the rose temple in venice, i ended up toting my yoga mat to a fundraiser yoga workshop a block away at exhale center for sacred movement -- partly because it was for a great cause, partly because i had chanted with jai and co. less than a month earlier at bhakti fest, and mostly because i didn't want to fail the yoga challenge on the very first day!

the "women's empowering workshop" was a fundraiser for yoga gives back -- who provides microfinance lending to women in india -- and was taught by cristi christensen, jo tastula, and isabelle du soleil. along with live music provided by joel virgel, the threesome led us through a lot of ab work, a lot of hip shaking, a lot of vinyasa flowing, and a lot of stretchy cooldown. at the end of class, we were treated to raw chocolate from rawvolution and acai juice from sambazon while we watched a short documentary on the work of yoga gives back (at that point, i snuck out to catch what i could of jai's set; i got there in time to hear thunderous applause blasting out the front door. luckily, jai stayed long enough for one more chant, so i was able to join in before they all called it a night!).

oct 2nd, class #2 - after spending the entire morning schmoozing with my running buddies after our weekly la leggers training run and the entire afternoon schmoozing with my cycling cohorts at the alt car expo, i got home and realized that it was too late for me to get dressed and back out in time for any of the group yoga classes near me. so i fired up my laptop and logged into my yogaglo account to find a nice gentle class. a nice short gentle class. and i found one: a 45-minute wake-up class with felicia tomasko (yes, i realize that i didn't need a wake-up at 6pm, but it met my criteria -- it was short, i hadn't taken it before, and i knew that felicia's class wouldn't get me all twisted up in knots).

the downside of taking a class in the privacy of my own home is that i easily get distracted by anything and everything. including the beeps from my phone that kept telling me that someone had just posted a comment on my facebook or twitter pages. i kept pausing the video feed to respond to the beeps, and before i knew it, my 45 minutes of asana had exceeded an hour. and i wasn't even close to being done! just then, a friend sent me a message, asking me if i wanted to join him at a yoga fundraiser party in manhattan beach. so while felicia continued to talk me through closing twists and savasana, i quickly threw on a dress and made my way out the door. call me a bad yogini, but when i found out we were going to genevieve fischer's fundraiser for off the mat, into the world, i knew i had a valid excuse for skipping out of class :)

oct 3rd, class #3 - it was a sunday, and you know what that means: FREE lululemon yoga!! after going through my options, i decided to hop on my bike and head for the lulu store in brentwood for charlie samos' class. by the time i got there, the class had just completed their sun salute warm-up and were about to move into standing sequences. i figured my uphill bike ride was the equivalent of a warm-up, so i found a spot in the back corner and joined in. while most lulu yoga classes are mixed level, i found this one particularly challenging because i ended up right beside the running clothing rack, and i couldn't help but glance at the merchandise every chance i got!

by the way, charlie teaches at yogis anonymous in santa monica. you can catch his class there without having to worry about being tempted by visions of attractive athletic apparel... and better yet, it's donation-based, so your wallet will be doubly happy!

oct 4th, class #4 - it was monday, so it was time for gayoga mondays with jeff bass. so what's so gay about gayoga?, you ask. nothing really, except that most of the students in his anusara-inspired class are gay men. and that part of the proceeds from the class are donated to the los angeles gay and lesbian center. i'd been to jeff's gayoga mondays class before, and each time i was the only female in the class. this time, though, not only was there another female there -- danielle white of sound synergy -- who was going to take us through a sound healing session during savasana, but there were two more from the lulu store in glendale who were there to take a class with their store ambassador. the extra estrogen in the class didn't change things any; it was still a nice sweaty class with the requisite arm balances and inversions. and an oh-so-relaxing savasana with danielle ringing her sound bowls to balance out our chakras.

jeff teaches his gayoga classes on mondays and thursdays at foresight studios, at the corner of sunset blvd and golden gate ave in silverlake. classes are usually $15 for the 90-minute sessions; this class was $20 because of the extra 30-minute healing session.

four days down, 26 to go. it's now 3am and i have plans to take a 9am class in the morning! gotta snooze... i'll keep you posted...