Despite popular belief, yoga is more than just stretching. Yoga is a mental, physical and spiritual practice that originated in India. Yoga can help increase your flexibility, align your spine, clear your mind, and assist in healthy sleeping patterns. In addition to increasing flexibility and clearing your head, yoga can be very healing.
Yoga expert Dashama began teaching in 2004, and turned to yoga as a form of healing after a car accident. Dashama now teaches yoga in Miami and Los Angeles.
"People who live here and visit here gravitate toward a healthier lifestyle, which naturally includes yoga now," Dashama told us. "In L.A. there is a yoga studio on almost every corner, especially near the beach, and Santa Monica is the capital of yoga in Los Angeles."
Camilla Granasen, who started practicing yoga 20 years ago in London, agrees. "Santa Monica is the Mecca. There's Yoga Co, Yoga Works, Yoga Glo, Yogis Anonymous, Power Yoga, Hot 8 Yoga, and Naam Yoga - to name a few!"
"There is a yoga studio on every corner in LA," Camilla continues, "it's available everywhere and to everyone, although for a newbie it can seem daunting picking the right place since every studio has a different vibe and style depending on the teachers."
"I think in Santa Monica they have two yoga studios on every street and yoga teachers with a sign on every corner asking for spare change," jokes Daniel Overberger of Black Market Yoga. "It's crowded, man. In Hollywood we have just about one studio on every block, but I think we are catching up. I would suspect it's the only place in the world with such a large concentration of yoga business."
But the large concentration of studios is not without its downside. "I loved the yoga community in Santa Monica, although it is much more spread out and so it is hard to decide which studio to go to and who to connect with most," says Dashama.
In L.A. yoga truly is accessible to everybody. Daniel has been committed to making yoga accessible to the masses. "I mean that financially as well as keeping it down to earth while maintaining its spiritual side... or what one student called my style, No Bullshit Yoga. On the financial side, through my donation classes at Runyon Canyon and Black Market Yoga (for which I rent alternative venues around town), anyone should be able to get a class or two a week without maxing out their credit cards."
Daniel has been practicing for about ten years now, and began while he was at an interesting crossroads in his life. "I found yoga in Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood. Yoga helped me deal with the emotional challenge of inevitable change."
"Yoga has become ridiculously popular in the last three years," says Daniel. "There are many different scenes, but I think there is a good portion of people looking for what I was looking for ten years ago. Not to mention people looking to look and feel better. Remember, it's LA, so looking good naked is at the top of the list. Yoga can do that."
Yoga is more than a work out. It's also a community. "In LA, it does take a little while to fit in I believe," Dashama tells us. "It's a very established community and people have known each other for years. It has a loving vibe and newcomers are always welcome. I would say its a matter of confidence and coming in with what you have to offer and not just what you need from them. This is a secret to success if a person is looking to get in with any new community or group of friends."
L.A. is home to a number of yoga events. Dashama tells us there's a new event nearly every day of the week. Daniel hosts the L.A. branch of an annual event called Yoga Stops Traffick. "This yoga event is a benefit to end human trafficking in India. Most of the larger festivals are outside of the city limits, but there are tons of different workshops and kirtan events available every week at the many studios around town."
"Tadasana Festival is happening in April which is hopefully going to spawn more of the same," says Camilla.
With all the different studios in town, there are tons of different forms available for people to choose from. Hatha, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Bikram, and many more, but in terms of popularity, Vinyasa reigns supreme.
"Typically, vinyasa and power yoga styles are very popular, as they are fitness based and that is more of a main stream approach to the yoga practice," explains Dashama. "They make you sweat, strengthen and tone your body while releasing stress. More appropriate for the more athletic and fit people, though."
Daniel and Camilla agree.
"There is a lot of sitting still in LA with all the driving so people like to move here" says Camillla. "Also there is a strong emphasis on body and being fit so a lot of of people are looking for physical transformations with their bodies."
"I would guess it [Vinyasa] is the most accessible because it is the least surrounded by ceremony," Daniel says, "So it's less scary for the large part of us that come from other dogma-filled religious backgrounds. It will also appeal to the folks looking for a work-out. The cool thing is Vinyasa is like the gateway drug to a new spiritual understanding of yourself and maybe the world around you. Just try it. Everyone's doing it."
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