My Life in Words
Tips, travel, yoga, mentoring, life, and everything in between.
A few years ago, I took a journey through southeast Asia to practice under all sorts of teachers, did a yoga retreat, learned heaps of how to become a solid yoga teacher after receiving my certification. I then spent nearly a year in the Philippines teaching, fine tuning my style, training with a well versed Hatha Pradipika Indian and Filipinos. When I came back to the states (mind you I still need to finish a few blogs I had started this year of my life in the Philippines prior to this blog), I didn't have a home studio, I was an unknown. Fast forward to October, I'm a manager at a small studio in Mission Valley named Hidden Gem Yoga and also a teacher at Reach Yoga in Pacific Beach.
Now, a friend of mine whom I use to work with years ago in Hollywood moved to Sydney, Australia a few years back and got certified to become a yoga teacher before me. From there, he now lives in London but came back to LA to visit friends and family so I drove up to see him since it's been years we hung out. Our plan was to catch up of course, but also take a yoga class together up in Santa Monica seeing that he knows a few heads up there who teach. I packed my bags and headed north for a few days back to la la land. This time, rather then partying and doing it up, it was about friends, energy, yoga.
It was Friday morning and my friend told me there was a class at YogaWorks under this teacher who is quite popular in LA and apparently LA is the scene for yoga. It was at the YogaWorks in Santa Monica, and I myself have never been to YogaWorks, knowing it is highly admired in the yoga world. I was keen to check it out outside the comfort zone of my home studios in San Diego considering it has such a highly valued reputation. I came with an open mind. But $22 DROP IN at Yoga Works?????? Dafuq?!?! Wow.
I arrived relatively early to the studio and signed the waiver. The receptionist at the front desk was easy going and asked if I practiced. I told her I was a teacher from San Diego and a friend had recommended the class and I was to meet him at the studio shortly. I asked what the temperature was and she said it wasn't too hot, she sweats in this teachers class, it's an excellent class to attend and word has it it get's pretty busy. I was basing it on my mat as well because I only brought my Tapas Basic Mat that is about as jainky as it can be, and that's exactly what I told her. She did ask if I had a 'traveling mat' which I said yes I have six mats, and my best mat is in storage back in the Philippines so I use whatever. (I think a practitioner can use any type of mat, provided you have a towel). Anyway, I almost spent money on a new mat, and then I thought.....Why??? I'll make do. Then I almost bought a $40 shirt, and stopped to say, "Really Des?" Besides, I already dropped $22 for one class, yes I'm kind of cheap. Already intimidating price for the regular Joe Shmo, twenty two dolla? Good lord. Quality over quantity right? Well who knows anymore in the yoga world, let's be honest.
Since I arrived an hour early, I went next door to a cafe and checked email, ordered a double espresso while waiting, killing time, taking it all in that I am taking a class at YOGAWORKS. 'Do I check in and tell people I am here, or do I just drink my espresso and not check-in?' Silly verdad? But that's todays' norm. I opted NOT to check in and just humbly wait for the 12:45 pm class to start with this teacher who has quite the following and of course my Asian American Kiwi London imported counterpart, Michael Wong. When it was close to the time, I slammed my double espresso (I'm adopted European since I lived there years ago, I like it straight black and probably not the wisest decision just before yoga. Mistakes are to be made). I walked next door and saw Michael whom I haven't seen in years, we gave each other a big hug, laughed, giggled as if it like we just saw each other yesterday. Quickly, more people were arriving, and then I saw a guy who looked strikingly similar to someone I know. I asked Michael if he was the teacher, and he said yes. Then, the studio doors opened, rush casting call or yoga practice? Mission was to plant the mat in a good spot ASAP.
Michael and I parked up mid way in the studio, people had their locations, shirts off, Lulu Lemon attire, mats, yoga paws, yoga toes, the blissful mindset, I now saw the 'SCENE' in full affect. The teacher had tats, not going to lie he was a good looking dude, but also gave me that awkward feeling since he closely resembled someone I know. Whatever, I'm there to practice and I was a little wired. Rather then a calm and collective mind, I was ready to run 4 miles, thanks to that espresso. The class was packed. The teacher did not introduce himself, didn't ask if there were injuries, just stepped up to the top and we began. That's cool, cause other places I've practiced overseas, the teacher most of the time does not introduce him or herself, nor asks about injuries, etc... So I took note as I've seen it done over seas, but at some other studios they really emphasize introductory. That didn't bother me a bit. His demeanor was cool guy, laid back. He opened with Sun A and B to which we did partially on our own to some semi-mainstream edm music, loud mind you. I was sweating and shaking since my heart felt like it was about to pop out of the chest, and I haven't practiced under different teachers in a while as I usually just do a home practice or solo studio practice so I definitely enjoyed being a student and getting my yoga on. I kept looking over to Wong and said, 'I am WIRED.' I can feel the shakes, but my breathe wasn't choppy, I was still very much in control. He just laughed at me, but it didn't hinder my practice too much suffice to say I probably would of been better off not slamming a double just before. Again, mistakes.
Looking around to people wearing mala beads, again the LuLu Lemon, all the gizmos and gadgets of the industry, let's notice this yoginista. I had a $12 shit mat that no one would probably touch due the quality, a tourista towel that was bright yellow clearly imprinted SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, cheap shorts, sports bra, shirt off, and hair in a samurai bun. I looked the least hip to the rest of the posse, not to mention in the beginning of the class while others were practicing their handstands or warming up, getting into the zone; I laid down and kicked it. I was not part of the 'cool kids' club with my gear. Needless to say the class was a good work out as I bathed in my espresso sweat and achieved almost every pose I was aiming for. I couldn't nail a couple due to the race my heart was competing in, I just couldn't stick a pose or two but it's cool why bother? I kept the ego at bay and only made due with what I was capable of, but not eliminating what I know I'm capable of. My right shoulder lacks strength due to injury so every time I went from Uttanasana (forward fold) to plank, I opt to pike up, and then land one leg first floating into chataranga dandasana (four limb staff pose) in almost a modern dance like manner to control the breathe movement, then rolled back into a down dog. The teacher came to me and said my right shoulder dips in. I thanked the acknowledgement. I'm half blind people, and I'm a lefty, blind in the left eye. It's all about sensory now for this yoginista.
As the class came to a closing, everyone around me were blissfully resurrected as if this was their mid day siesta. People really loved the class, I took note. I took note on how the studios I teach at operate, what some studios expect, how good it is to have an open mind, what I learned overseas, what I gathered in this studio, what I can fine tune, what I get, what I don't get and what can I offer as a teacher, what I learned as a practitioner. YogaWorks has such a high profile reputation that honestly I didn't know what to expect from a teacher, but I did feel like I lost $22. Maybe because I am cheap, and they say you get what you pay for, but that's the question I asked myself, did I?
The following morning while I was keen to do it up with Michael going to a UCLA game, the very last minute I decided to opt out, and go for a hike. followed by more yoga in LA. I wanted to really understand the scene and why LA is known for the 'scene'. I did research on the top 10 yoga studios in LA and it was interesting to read up on them but I also trusted Michael's recommendations of yoga teachers and where to go. He told me to check out Bryan Kests studio, Power Yoga in Santa Monica. Donation based, SOLD! I have always felt yoga should be donation and if I were to ever open a studio, I FIRMLY believe in donation based yoga.
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many people have said, you can't make money doing donation based studios, and I stand by my belief you can! Don't get me wrong, I love making money, let's be real - I'm American. But I am also an artist to my field (can I say that? I'm ballin' on a budget and live in a studio. I don't make a lot of money doing what I do, but I love it.) So when he said it's a successful donation only studio by someone who also curses and does it his way, I'M IN!!!
There were two back to back classes Michael suggested I go to and prior to that at 8:00am I decided to go on a hike in Temescal canyon just north of Santa Monica. Not ever seeing this trail before, I hiked my little bum two miles up, and two miles down to kill time. I felt fabulous, this was a good day to practice and solo adventure. When I was done, I hopped into my car and drove over to 2nd street, parked the car and walked to the studio. Whoa... Bryan Kests studio! Michael said he's a homie and of course I'm a fan of Kest. Not because of his practice so much, but because of the journey he took and how modern he is. That, my friends, is right up my alley. I've been told not to curse in class, but I do at times (whoops, it slipped out). I get his style, but I was there to do yoga not drool over someone.
The two teachers Michael suggested I take, were back to back and 90 minute classes which I love love LOVE! However, when I arrived to the studio, I was already 15 minutes late. Bugger.I approached the receptionist who was sitting there playing on her phone, she said I could walk right into the class and jump in anyway. I said I don't want to interrupt the class nor the teacher, but she said people do it all the time and it was no big deal. Fabulous! I ran back to my car, grabbed the jainky mat and tourist looking towel for round one at Power Yoga.
There are two studio rooms, and the one I was about to attend is the back room, with a neat little corridor outside, I dig it. My feet were dirty from the hike, and I looked like I, again, was a hot mess trying to be cool showing up fashionably late to class. Luckily it was just post Durga - Go, flexion and extension exercises so I found a nice little spot in between other practitioners and set up shop. Samurai bun in full effect. There was no music and the instructor had an accent either from South Africa or New Zealand. It was slightly heated, not too much and I was locked into my pranayama. My breathing stood out from the moans and groans other people were letting out. I thought to myself, 'Are we having sex in here?' I tried not to get distracted with the sensuality of other practitioners and remained in full effect of pranayama engagement. I was connected I was hooked, I wasn't wired off espresso, I was definitely tight from hiking, I got LOST in my practice and I LOVED it. My breathe internally heating me and I was sweating more then anyone around me because of it. I applied different techniques to reset my postures, knowing it's ok to reset the foundation to maximize transitions, keeping the integrity of the pose, whilst stabilization in both mind and body. I was able to maximize my practice as a full blown student this time around apart from the yogaworks the day prior. I enjoyed the teachers class, and it was the teacher that I enjoyed. He was anatomical.
After the class had ended, I put money into the donation box, waited for everyone to leave and made the effort to shake his hand saying thanks for the class. I mentioned I taught in San Diego and the studio was recommended by a friend, I just came from hiking and I was going to stay for the next class after. He complimented my practice and asked how I had so much energy to hike nearly 4 miles in the mountains and do a back to back. I said, I'll sleep in Sunday morning. :-) It was a short conversation with quality, then he left while I waited for the next teacher that Michael recommended.
When she came in, it was five minutes after the class was set to start. I started seeing people trickle in (I guess that's how they do it at this studio, fashionably late, totally laxed). I unfortunately, was not feeling the second instructor. I don't know if it was because I had a great physical and mental practice just before hand, or something wasn't clicking with her. Michael mentioned she was more philosophical in her instructing and had a great following, I just wasn't feeling it, something was off. Rather then try and push through, attempting the connection, I left. I paid my donation of course and took note of both sessions, both teachers. She wasn't bad by any means, just something was off with her energy and mine. No worries, maybe I'll take it again next time I'm up to give it another chance. The great thing about Power Yoga, is it's DONATION based and though I wasn't feeling the teacher, I gave money regardless and felt blessed to be able to be there that day to experience it over all.
So after experiencing both studios, different teachers, and different approaches, I drove home reflecting. Why is it that the scene in LA is so different then San Diego? Why is it that YogaWorks is so bloody expensive and I didn't feel completely satisfied? Why is it that I still firmly believe in donation based yoga? Power Yoga seems to do rather well keeping it donation, so why do people look at me funny when I have said before, if I ever open up a yoga studio, I want it to be donation based? Then I started reflecting on my teaching again, what can I hone in on that will satisfy everyone? I noticed a few things. Of course I'm not going to go into criticizing all three teachers, we all teach very differently. I came with an open mind, and an open mind allowed me to think of how I can improve my teaching. It's one thing to have a strong practice, it's another thing to lead. I, admittedly, do get torn at times of how to teach, and when I do teach a certain way, the energy I encompass to reflect on the class. What is it do I want to get across to the practitioners? That is YOGA, to question ourselves, to alter, to experience, to connect, to detach, to suffer at times, to feel lost and be lost while going on the journey.
Back in the Peens, most of the teachers go through YogaWorks or Dominique Renucci for training. I was the only certified Hatha teacher there and even back here in San Diego, I teach differently to other teachers I've been told, thanks to my training in the Peens and while in Asia. I don't know if I were ever be able to teach at YogaWorks, it's cool. I believe the universe will work itself out for me down the road as long as I keep at it, and continue to learn.