My love affair with L.A. yoga is over.
Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic–let me start over. I have become quite disillusioned with the L.A. yoga scene. It happened, as John Green writes, like falling asleep: very slowly & then all at once. And now it’s my job to rekindle the passion.
Let me preface this by saying that I consider being able to go to yoga a divine privilege. I would not be able to go to as many classes as I do if it weren’t for the love & support (including financial…) of my parents, who have repeatedly paid for class cards when I could not, for driving lessons so my dirty NYC-self could learn how to conquer the LA sprawl behind the wheel of a brand spankin’ new Prius. I would not have made it to my teacher training without the support of (and car rides from) my loving boyfriend. So, when I drove to this yoga studio in Venice for the first time, parallel-parked, made it through a blissful class from a new teacher, and drove myself home, I was on cloud 9. Not to mention, I’d just returned from my first yoga retreat in Costa Rica and was riding the Nosara wave & good vibrations all the way home.
But those good vibrations lasted about 5 minutes. Everyone at this studio, and in the “Santa Monica yoga scene” more generally has the perfect outfit, perfect hair, perfect skin, & the perfect practice. Or at least that’s how it felt. My outfits were never fitted enough or colorful enough. My hair, like any good New York jew’s, is frizzy and wild. It does not stay in a beautiful, middle-part that perfectly frames my perfect face. It does not stay in the perfect top knot. My skin (again, like any good New York jew’s) gets pimples. It especially gets pimpled at a certain time of the month or when, for example, I am squashed in a room with 50 people dripping sweat for an hour and a half. Now some of this may be my perception, no doubt, but I came here for the yoga. Not the Lululemon spring lookbook.
The idea of a “perfect practice” really got under my skin. This studio’s 1.5 hour-long classes are a marathon. They just don’t stop. There’s barely any warm-up and many teachers don’t give enough time for cool-downs and savasana to compliment the amount of time they have us upright.
Now, the beauty of yoga is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. That’s why the idea of a yoga class is somewhat silly, because on any given day, each person in that yoga studio will need something different out of their practice. And I guarantee you that not all of those people should be doing every chatauranga. But they do.
I have, on multiple occasions, been the ONLY person in the room taking child’s pose after a particularly sweaty sequence or skipping a vinyasa. And for awhile it was ok. “I got this,” I’d say. “Either my body is just different from theirs or I have much more body awareness, and either way, I’m good with it.” But I don’t want my practice to feel like I’m running a marathon anymore. I want my practice to make me feel better and better than before. I want to practice alongside practitioners and teachers who aren’t so preoccupied with “looking the part” that they forget to actually “be the part,” which, for the record, is being yourself in all your flaws.
It is only since I began a regular, grueling practice at this studio that I became anemic & have had serious issues re-balancing my health. These classes no longer support my health, physically or emotionally. And so I’m saying goodbye.
I’m shaking things up. Getting out of my comfort zone. Coming back to why I love yoga. Not trying to compete with these women. I don’t know if I’ve made it clear, but I had been–or I’d been trying. Spending too much money on yoga clothes, brutally self-conscious of how I looked compared to these yoginis. But it’s that “perfect practice” thing that broke the camel’s back. I will never have a perfect practice. I have chronic pain & scoliosis and my body will never look Yoga Journal perfect. I can fake looking the part, but I will never fake feeling it.
So, onto the next journey. I signed up for a Restorative Teacher Training in September with Judith Lasater, the grandmother of restorative yoga. I feel excited & empowered already. While I’m nervous to leave old teachers, easy parking, and that comfort I once felt behind, I know that the student must one day become the teacher. The light I see in teachers is a reflection of the light I see in myself. And so, off I go. These experiences, these lessons, even those women are my teachers. Especially their judgy looks. They not only teach me how to treat others, but how to treat myself . Yoga is about developing self-awareness, & learning to recognize and let go of patterns of negativity. It’s confronting. But I’m learning to be more honest with myself about myself. I may not always like what I find, but now it’s up to me to change that.