WHAT ARE LA’S YOGA STUDENTS LOOKING FOR in their teachers? In a town with
countless teachers, hundreds of teacher trainings, and even more styles of yoga, as well as
classes held in settings from home garages to slick studios, this can be a challenging and
somewhat controversial question.
The answers are as spread out as the region. Our diversity, in part, determines our connection
to yoga. One view is, “Students on the Westside want body sculpting. In Hollywood,
they’re looking for cheerleading and validation; and the Valley is a hodge-podge, a little bit
of everything,” said Matt Schwarz, a Shadow Yoga teacher and acupuncturist.
So how do LA yogis choose their teachers? We look to our teachers to serve us up what
we’re seeking from the practice. What we’re seeking will change over time. “If you’re with
a good teacher and stick around long enough, something will shift. Your practice and your
life are going to change,” says long-time teacher Patty Pierce.
To be sure, classical yoga is taught and practiced here, but over the past ten years, yoga has
been blended with other movement and exercise systems including: acrobatics, martial arts,
aerial flying, spinning, weight lifting, surfing, and even pole dancing.
When students first come to the practice, they’re seeking the physical benefits of yoga,
which include everything from increasing flexibility to relieving stress to lifting their
yoga butt. In the beginning, we may see our teachers as trainers, but ones with distinct
characteristics. For some, it’s the aspirational aspect of the practice that attracts them. In
this group, we find the tricksters - people practicing to master big poses like inversions and
arms balances. This group also includes folks looking for ritual to help make their lives
better, such as therapeutic, devotional, and ecstatic yoga. These practices lend themselves
to creating social connections and community building led by inspirational teachers.
Other students, albeit a more select group, may be seeking the profound transformational
experiences promised in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Here, teachers become something more: a
person guiding us towards self-knowledge and higher consciousness. >
Surveying the Scene
Behind the Scenes in LA
BY JULIE BUCKNER
PHOTO COURTESY OF INYOGA CENTER