Traveling Yogini – Los Angeles

My beautiful roommate recently ventured to Los Angeles.  The glamorous city where I completed my yoga teacher training.  She did some yoga there.  This is her tale…

In mid-August I nervously flew to Los Angeles (L.A., yes?) to toe around a wavering friendship, start eating leafy greens again after too long at home (aka cereal land), and to yoga like I’d never yoga’d before. I have a horrible self-destructive habit of seeing a difficult task in the not-too-distant future and deciding that I’ll fail at it anyway so I might as well act like a miserable human being. Confused? I’ll give you an example. L.A. yoga? Uhhhh f’in terrifying. I watch YouTube videos of these instructors and gawk like someone just swallowed a sword. I wanted to go and learn from these modern, sea-side Sherpas. But I also wanted to fly back to the midwest with an ounce of pride left. So, I decided not to care about it as much as I should. The week leading up to L.A. I was in Girard, Kansas (refer to previous blog post written by yours truly about farm yoga.) Don’t get me wrong, I yoga’d there. But I also saw L.A. looming on the horizon, so I ate a ton of ice cream. I knew yoga in the city of angels would be demanding so I decided to treat my body like shit so I would have an excuse when I didn’t give classes in L.A. a good 100%. This is the mindset I had when the plane landed in Ontario, California (that’s right, I wanted to save 100 bucks). I was sluggish from dairy and my body had more cheep beer in it than plasma.

The first studio I went to, and spent the most time at, was Exhale Yoga, home of the guru Annie Carpenter. My “Annie” experience warrants an entire entry so forgive my cursory statement of yoga’ing with Annie at this point. Instead, in this installation, we’ll focus on Yogis Anonymous and L.A. in general.

Even though I was already giving up on myself yoga-wise, the second you step on your mat…well, you just can’t give up on yourself in these classes. Part of it, honestly, is that you’re in a crowded class in L.A. being instructed by a beautiful woman who eats one-handed handstands for breakfast. So, you want to impress people, or at the very least not make them pity you. That motivates you. But it is more than, that. It’s that you want, or need, your body to feel good. Feel better. I firmly believe that this is the first concept of yoga that is appealing, easiest to cling to for novice yogis. We do it because it makes us feel good. No matter how much you’ve been beating up your body, you can come back to yoga because it will make you feel better. So that was my mantra while at Yogi’s Anonymous, that I just needed to make the aching stop in my joints, make the guilt stop in my…everywhere.

The class I took at Yogis Anonymous was Ally Hamilton’s (co-owner) evening “kick your buttocks” (my name, not theirs) class. I honestly had to tell myself, “Erin, it’s just yoga. Just step on your mat and f’in do it. These people aren’t here to interview you for a job and they’re not here to see if you’d make a nice life partner. They are also here to do yoga. That’s it.” It. Was. Amazing. Annie Carpenter taught me a lot about my body (sounds creepy), but Ally’s class was by far the funnest of my trip. It was so challenging, duh it’s a 2/3 class in L.A. But she played kick ass music and had a rapport with the class that I feel only an 80-year-old dive bar owner can have with her clientele (I mean that in the best way possible.) Ally is so funny and even a bit self-deprecating. She has this delightful “oh it’s hard? So sue me” attitude that I find so approachable! Word of the wise, bring a towel! (I’m always in denial about how much I sweat.)

Not only was Ally’s class just the thing I needed to quiet my joints and bolster my self-esteem, Ally’s personality and evident joy was just the human interaction I needed during a rocky few days in a strange place. After her class, she posed for the wonderful picture posted below (Cassi, the Sanskrit of this pose?) and told me all about her studio. She is genuinely invested in her students, catching up with as many as them as possible post-class. There was a small, yet powerful, section of the room (two silly gentlemen) that was singing along with Ally’s playlist. They told me afterwards that they’ve been practicing with her for ten years. I’m eternally grateful to Ally for treating me exactly like she treated these decade-old friends, even though my handstand was total crap.

The mantra I used in Ally’s class is the mantra I repeated as I sauntered around L.A. with nothing but time to kill and student loan money to spend. “Just feel better.”I watched movies by myself then wrote notes about what I watched. I sat on the beach and wrote a few letters, the recipients benefiting from my increased vulnerability and sincerity that only comes with too much personal mind time. I found a wacky bead store and spent too much money on tiny glass body parts. I ate a delicious spinach salad. The evenings I spent with my dear friend and worked on appreciating my time with him even though our relationship was/is strained. I went into architectural book stores and flipped through pictures of buildings I didn’t understand, and loved it.

Finally, I treated myself to some Hard Tail purchases. When in L.A., dress as the L.A.ers (?) do. And that, my friend, means showing your yoga labels. I made one of the helpful Hard Tail staff members take a picture of me in my new purchases.

I can’t wait to go back to L.A., honestly. I can approach it with the attitude I finally learned just as I was leaving. That is, that I have to stop caring so much about what my “yoga score” is. Because, the truth is, no one’s keeping score….well, except you. I met some incredible yogis in L.A., people who showed me all the splendor that can come from a dedicated practice. I left L.A. With some hot new pants, letters to mail, and the confidence that yoga won’t let me quit. Special thanks to Yogis Anonymous, you’re true blue!

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