Santa Monica, CA

One evening after stalking the neighborhood in Riverside I started wondering if COVID 19 had caused rents to decline – and a few weeks later I indeed found myself living on Mullholland Drive at the top of Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills. Crazy world – I couldn’t find a place this affordable anywhere on Long Island. I got very very lucky. I live in what they call a “guest house” out here but it’s not a Kato/OJ situation by any means – it’s a group of nice sized bungalows constructed by film noir scribe Earl Felton in the 1950’s – probably a writer’s retreat. 

I moved in May 1 and hung in with Corepower Online’s excellent yoga classes. But in mid June things opened up – temporarily – here. I found a place called ‘shefayoga” in Venice Beach. It’s a beautiful contemporary designed studio – just short of being over-the-top opulent. The first class I attended there were about 10 students. Everyone separated by 6 feet at which point we were free to shed our masks. It felt great to be back and I bought the typical new student introduction discounted package. The teacher was not memorable – and the music was thankfully very quiet. The second class I went to I was the only student. The teacher was very personable and did not instruct me as if she was addressing a full room of students as many teachers often do when faced with the same situation. So I went back for a third time a few days later. The young lady instructing the class was extremely animated – and eventually asked us to exhale our “lion’s breath” and “throw it out there!” For those of you who don’t know – lion’s breath is when the yogi breathes outwardly as robustly as possible! Wow – it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. The next day LA county shut down all the studios and gyms again.

I started searching for outdoor yoga classes and found a studio called “Laughing Frog” and went to my first outdoor yoga class in Gandara Park in Santa Monica, about a 20 minute drive from my house. It’s a little weird not being on a perfectly flat floor but practicing out in the sunlight makes it worth it. I go almost every day to a 6pm class when the sun is still bright but not blazing hot. The park is active  – family picnics, dog walkers, sports teams, homeless people – but not too crowded and we always find enough space. I’ve taken class with about 8 different instructors and I like most of them very much – a few are a bit – bland – not too effusive – but still good enough. I’m noticing that it’s difficult for teachers to present their own personality and sense of humor while still instructing and keeping a class moving. Some don’t try and just give in to pedantic instruction. But a few Laughing Frog instructors retain their own lovable personalities while getting the job done. However, practicing outdoors – now 8 feet of separation is the rule – and pulling on the mask as soon as one leaves the mat – the communal feeling of practicing together is not particularly tangible – but then again it also takes me awhile to get comfortable around new people anywhere.

Laughing Frog classes are often accompanied by live music. I prefer no music but what I hear during these classes is much better than the synthetic world music most teachers call up from their Spotify playlists. One guitarist in particular really has the right style for yoga classes. He plays very consonant mid-tempo repetitive chord sequences – pretty, simple melodies that are soulful without drawing too much attention to themselves. Nothing self indulgent. Pretty much the best yoga music I’ve ever heard. Recently another guitarist played and while he wasn’t Oz Noy or Cornell Dupree (two of my favorite guitarists)  – he was too good – too interesting – I found myself listening too much and being drawn away from concentrating on yoga. Although he played fairly quietly, he still was too loud. I bet he couldn’t hear everything the instructor was saying. That’s when a musician knows he’s playing too loud – if you can’t hear what everyone else is playing – you’re too loud!

Classes are also offered in a park overlooking the ocean – great view but no grass – just a rocky dirt floor – feels like a dog park. And yoga postures demand containment so being in an expansive environment doesn’t always work. As thankful as I am for having these classes and having something to do outside, I think I still prefer indoor classes. I do miss Yoga Blend and Silverlake Yoga out here. But the word is that most studios won’t open up until there is a vaccine. I can’t believe it’s already been over 6 months since everything shut down! I guess we actually can get through this.

I have no job and it will be at least another 6 months before anything comes up – at least as far as theater is concerned. Having regular yoga classes is more important than ever. I feel sorry for my NY friends who won’t be able to practice outdoors too much longer!!! Come out and visit!

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