Over the past seven years, my wife, Kia Miller, and I have been living the modern-day yogic version of the American Dream on the West Side of Los Angeles.
We came here in 2003 to be closer to the business of creativity, but our lives took another direction when we met several amazing people who would become our teachers in yoga and in life. Since then, we have been smack dab in the middle of the great yoga explosion of the early 21st century. The LA yoga scene in 2010 is exactly that - an explosion.
There are over 300 yoga classes west of the 405 freeway, every day. For the most part, these varied offerings are taught by well-trained teachers, many of whom are exceptional. Teacher training programs are constantly in session. Scores of teachers regularly advertise their retreats, workshops and events. Meanwhile, the business of yoga - studios, media, apparel, accessories, food/health products for the yogic lifestyle - is all around us and rocking.
Kia and I practiced yoga when we arrived here. Now, it has become part of the fabric of our lives. We teach at YogaWorks (Kia) and YogaCo (me). We put out monthly newsletters - Radiant Body News (Kia) and The Forklift (me) to communicate news, events, lifestyle hints, recipes and thoughts from around the vibrant "West LA Yoga Campus." We are proud members of a congregation of people who are living proof that yoga leads to a fulfilling life of health, prosperity, community and service.
It would take one person a month to get to every studio, never mind getting to all the amazing teachers that live and teach here. So, with this blog, I am laying down 33 of my top picks for the classes that someone interested in yoga should get to on the West Side of LA.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is a map, a subjective map, but a map nonetheless. It is meant to help navigate the innumerable possibilities that exist for you, the yogi, who either lives in LA or is visiting. It is by no means definitive. There are so many other teachers that deserve mention here, yet they did not make the list simply because I have not yet been to their classes. For them and for you, I will write a series of follow-up blogs and do what I can to cover yoga in other areas of the city. Please don't take it personally. I live west of the 405, and here is where I had to start.
Enjoy! Please note that the following slideshow made possible by Jasper Johal contains 12 of the 33. Read on to see the full and complete list.
**Teachers are listed in alphabetical order. All classes are Vinyasa Flow unless otherwise noted.**
Kathryn has one of the most beautiful practices around. Her teaching is athletic, a lot of fun and challenging. She will give you an introduction to your core, core, CORE, and you won't get away without at least trying a handstand.
I list this husband and wife team as one entry though they teach at different times. In both cases, here is what you need to know. They teach the most physically challenging classes I have taken in terms of gymnastic strength-building. You will be upside down. You will work on your handstand and arm balances. You will become strong. Very strong! All Hail the Handstand!
Annie is, in my opinion and many others', the most knowledgeable asana teacher in the United States. Her background with the Martha Graham Dance Company followed by her tireless scholarship and practice of Yoga has given her a profound grasp of the body, its movements and its healing process. Annie is a sought-after mentor for countless yogis here.
As a Yoga teacher, Seane Corn is deeply knowledgeable and experienced. She has spent a lot of time studying with masters and you can feel this in every cell of your body as you practice with her. As a Human Being, Seane is one of the great examples we have of someone who lives the ideal of Seva or selfless service. Enjoy her classes and look into her organization, Off The Mat, Into The World.
Sonya has a strong Ashtanga practice that mixes nicely in this class with creative sequencing, great humor and a warm heart. She will bring you to your edge and keep you there for a while always emphasizing the importance and power contained in the breath.
Camilla is a radiant being who beautifully transmits the power of Kundalini Yoga sprinkled throughout with nuggets of wisdom that help students to connect deeply with themselves. Peaceful and sublime!
Pauline is an exceptional teacher, musician, singer and composer. She has the gift of song as well as the presence to transmit all that the sound current has to offer. Her classes are grounded in the vibratory healing power of music, Kundalini and meditation. Check in with her, and you will check in with you.
Maya is a gifted teacher, musician and singer. Trained as a classical concert pianist, Maya released many albums before she became a teacher. Now, she has released several DVDs and CDs showcasing her love and passion for Kundalini Yoga and devotional music. Maya understands and conveys beautifully the science of Kundalini Yoga in her classes and retreats around the world.
I love seeing teachers out at other teachers' classes. It says a lot about commitment. Grant brings that level of commitment to his challenging power yoga-based classes with great music and candlelight on Friday nights. Grant co-founded YogaCo with Kelsey Oldershaw (also a wonderful teacher). YogaCo has been a great gift for the Westside Yoga community.
Get into your body, get into your breath, listen deeply, sing and chant. It's all about devotion! This studio and its founders, Govindas and Radha, are special. There is huge Love and Consciousness in that space. Go catch some of it.
Gurudhan is a master teacher of Kundalini Yoga and meditation who brings exceptional perspective, clarity and humor to his classes every weekend. He is a wonderful storyteller who pulls anecdotes from his 35 years of study with Yogi Bhajan while he guides his students through Kriyas and Meditations.
Dubbed "the posture master" by Yogi Bhajan, Guru Prem lives up to this title as well as his spiritual name, which means "Beloved Teacher." With 5 decades of gymnastics under his belt, 35 years of Kundalini Yoga and a decade of focused Ashtanga practice, Guru Prem guides students to strength, discipline and health. His greatest strength as a teacher is to help others to find the true peace and happiness that lies beyond asana in the comfortable seat of the soul.
Guru Singh is a master Kundalini Yoga Teacher, storyteller and musician with four decades of experience uplifting the consciousness of his students. He was one of Yogi Bhajan's first students and he now carries on the Kundalini tradition in his amazingly poignant and entertaining style. This is an important class for anyone who wants to change and grow. Avoid this class if you embrace the status quo.
Sara's class took me to my edge and kept me there for 90 minutes. I remember thinking how her sequencing and guidance made total sense to my body and mind. Like some of her seasoned colleagues, Sara brings a lovely, strong connection with India into her teaching style and musical choices. She is a seasoned expert that knows how to get the most out of her students.
Krishna is a master teacher of Kundalini Yoga who has taught for 40 years. A true elder, her classes are powerful and transformative, provocative and uplifting. Her energy is lovely to be around even when she is demanding the best out of you in class. Krishna is also the founder of the outstanding organization, YOGA For Youth, which everyone interested in children should know about.
Bryan was the first to offer donation-based Yoga in the United States. His classes are packed and demanding. He is grounded in physicality and utterly authentic as he expresses his brand of no-nonsense wisdom. If you are an advanced yogi and get invited to Bryan's advanced class it may be one of the best workouts you ever have.
Hala is an example of grace and inspiration in action. She teaches in a style wholly her own which has been sculpted through years of practice and study. With her expertise in somatic healing, she has developed a powerful healing touch. Hala is co-founder of Off The Mat, Into the World with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling.
Jasmine has been teaching for nearly three decades and has a profound understanding of the body's healing process. She is the go-to person for doctors, physical therapists, students and other teachers who want to know more about using yoga therapeutically. Capable of teaching at any level, Jasmine is a treasure in our yoga community. Every serious student of yoga should take her class.
Vinnie is extremely popular and for good reason. His class has creative, challenging sequencing aided by awesome music. Sometimes Vinnie will drop in some Stones and Zeppelin for good measure. This is a sweaty class and one of the most challenging in Los Angeles, if not the world.
Malachi is an experienced, elegant and precise teacher with an exceptional understanding of the body. In addition to her devoted yoga practice, she has spent years helping people through her massage therapy practice. These two skill sets come together in her teaching to the benefit of all. If you are lucky, she will give you the single best Svasana adjustments you can imagine. Pure bliss.
Kia is the only person I know who teaches teacher trainings in both Hatha and Kundalini Yoga. She uses this depth of knowledge in both traditions to create a powerful uplifting experience for her students. In this class, Kia adds a 30-minute meditation on to a 90-minute flow. Magical!
Jennifer has so much love flowing from her that you just want to be in her class. She teaches a vigorous, heart-opening flow. In addition, she is involved with an amazing charity called Yoga Bear, which brings Yoga to people who are dealing with Cancer.
Saul brings his students the gift of connection with the divine through chanting, movement and breath. Thanks to extensive study and his time in India, he is able to share his deep love for Indian mythology through song and story. Saul has been teaching in LA for over 15 years and is one of the most beloved teachers here. His class is required reading.
Shiva's dedication to Yoga, her constant travel for workshops and retreats and the creation of scores of DVDs has allowed her to reach a global audience and she deserves it. A strong dance background lends to Shiva's truly unique style of teaching. She is a devoted activist who supports many charities and lives her yoga in all she does. Her classes leave students in touch with parts of themselves they may not have otherwise reached.
Tommy has been trained in Hatha and Kundalini Yoga and is an expert in recovery from addiction. In this class, Tommy provides the tools of Yoga and meditation to help people in recovery develop true happiness and peace. The community aspect of this class is just divine.
Jesse is great because of the detail of her instruction. Very knowledgeable and very difficult sequencing will "get you there." Sweat factor is huge.
Annmarie has got soul and chops as a yoga teacher. She is also an outstanding singer-songwriter. If you are craving spirit and detailed asana instruction, check this woman's class out.
Kiyomi is one of the most dedicated teachers I know. Her teaching is poised and very thorough. Her inspiration comes directly from her love and devotion for asana, which she uses as inspiration for her students' awakening.
Hailing from the world of Power Yoga, Tamal will put you through your paces. He is so sweet about it though that you don't mind the gallon of sweat you lose during class. As a bonus, he will play his guitar, sing and chant to take you far away during Svasana.
Mia comes from a dance background and brings that experience into her teaching. She is a strong teacher with a truly sweet presence, big heart and, no surprise, a devoted following.
Felicia shares her passion and deep knowledge of Ayurveda in her asana classes, and is an expert in the subtle science of Pranayama. For anyone who is looking to better understand the power of breath in yoga practice, this class will make your to-do list. Felicia is also the Editor of LA Yoga Magazine, which is the single most important publication covering the lifestyle and times of the Los Angeles yoga scene.
Ashley spent many years honing her skill and developing her style in the power yoga world. She is a true Shaman-ess who blends power yoga with spirituality in a seamless fashion. In her classes you will sweat, connect and transcend.
Julian is an enlightened soul who takes his students on a heart-journey in different formats throughout the week. Often he will weave Rumi, Hafiz and other poetry into his flows. Julian is a modern-day Shaman, totally authentic and the real deal.
Lisa earns the title of Master Yoga Teacher because of her vast experience. She is one of the major contributors to the YogaWorks teacher training curriculum, which is one of the best in the world. Go to her class and assume your beginner's mind.