Day in the Life of a Yogi: Santa Monica
Katherine Peach will be contributing to an ongoing series of articles exploring a day in the life of yoga teachers/students throughout Los Angeles. Her first installment is about Santa Monica with a splash of Venice.
by Katherine Peach
Yoga culture permeates almost every aspect of life in Santa Monica, spilling over to its younger, scruffier cousin, Venice Beach. On the Westside there is a bounty of options for students of all styles, levels and ages. As a result the yoga mat as an accessory has become as iconic as the small dog or the perfect pair of shades.
In Santa Monica, yoga practitioners are not lugging around cumbrous mats as a status symbol, but instead they are journeying from class to class at all times of the day – indicating to the uninitiated that a potential yogic army is preparing for the inevitable. The city is a beacon for yoga masters from all over the world to teach and train a fervent ensemble of aspiring students and teachers wishing to deepen their practice. In order to help you decide where to practice, I will explore some of the multitude of options and stops along the way.
The Yoga Collective on newly hip Rose Avenue hosts inspirational teachers such as Mary Beth LaRue-Aporta, Kai Brown, and Gigi Snyder. The one room studio delivers classes for all levels, and offers teacher training for those who want to dig deeper. Gigi Yogini (aka Brigitte Kouba) is one teacher who blends traditional yoga sequences with West African Dance and a range of world music. After you sweat through a class, float across the street to refresh with locally made juice by Moon Juice. Moon Juice blends hearty juices, nut milks and elixirs to give you extra pep.
For anyone who is looking for an uber-physical and grounding practice, Vytas Baskauskas is one teacher that has been a regular fixture in the Westside yoga community thanks in part to his long-time classes at Power Yoga East, one of the few remaining donation-based studios in the area. A Santa Monica native, Vytas expanded his classes to Yoga Works Santa Monica and boosted his celebrity status as a recent contender on the Survivor television show.
Want to know where some of your favorite yoga teachers got their start? Chances are you only need to look as far as YogaWorks. World famous co-founders Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller started the brand, which they sold in 2004, only to blossom into the behemoth Los Angeles yoga chain it is today. Check out the video of the two demonstrating the Ashtanga Primary series with the one and only Shri K. Pattabhi Jois below.
A new generation of yoga instructors at YogaWorks caters to the masses of yogis looking for Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar or restorative classes, as well extensive teacher training programs that span the globe. YogaWorks senior mentors include Joan Hyman, Patti Quintero, lead trainings, retreats and daily classes.
Other instructors include Mia Togo, a dancer and teacher trainer who emphasizes “detailed alignment.” Sara Ezrin is another Los Angeles native, who teaches challenging classes based on “intelligent sequencing.” Both offer retreats and daily classes in Santa Monica.
Not far down the road, with a little more grit and beautiful eccentricity, Venice Beach offers an array of world-class teachers who don’t mind the change of zip code. If juice suits your fancy, make a layover at One Life Natural Foods, a local source of made-to-order juices providing an energy boost between sessions.
Exhale Center for Sacred Movement offers an impressive lineup of senior teachers and teacher trainings. Here teachers lean toward experimental, alignment-informed flow, heart-based and collaborative styles in the 80 class offerings per week. One such yoga instructor, Annie Carpenter, has filled classes to the brim at Exhale since 2010, after 15 years with YogaWorks; her precise SmartFLOW style draws teachers from near and far. Although Annie is relocating her daily classes up to San Francisco come the New Year, her annual SmartFLOW teacher trainings will periodically bring her back to her Exhale students in 2014, and many local teachers are either trained by Annie or practice with her regular; she is widely recognized as the ‘teacher’s teacher’.
Another senior teacher at Exhale, Micheline Berry, blends live music, dance and traditional yoga with her Liquid Asana vinyasa yoga teacher trainings, workshops, multimedia events and daily classes.
An upcoming renovation will revitalize and spruce up the space at Exhale.
For now, I will leave you straddling the edges of Santa Monica and Venice before delving deeper into the Venice scene in the next installment.
In later articles, we will explore the day in the life of a yogi throughout Los Angeles. Until then, enjoy the bountiful yoga Santa Monica has to offer!