Stretching into the community: a look at local yoga studios

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Author: Annie Chien

Yoga is traditionally a spiritual practice intended to lead individuals to enlightenment through controlled breath, meditation and exercise. However, according to the Yoga Health Foundation, practicing yoga has also been associated with a myriad of health benefits ranging from stress management to a reduction in chronic pain and heart disease symptoms. For these reasons, among others, practicing yoga can be beneficial for college students. Luckily, there are several close-to-home locations available for Occidental students looking to practice, whether their goal is to relax, to exercise or to heal.

Mockingbird Yoga
4777 Eagle Rock Blvd.

Mockingbird Yoga is conveniently located 15-minutes walking distance from campus, across the street from Señor Fish (presumably in case those Downward-Facing Dogs make patrons hungry). Upon entering, I found myself in a warm, candlelit living room with a rustic plywood bench on which students are invited to leave their belongings during class. Next to the bench sits a wooden coffee table stacked with various books describing the basic poses of yoga, words for strength and common yogic vocabulary — “asana,” for example, means to sit firmly cross-legged, and “vinyasa” means to match movements to breath.

A fireplace to the left of the entrance boasted more candles, contributing to the cozy environment. A face — co-owner Ariel Rodriguez — popped out from behind the doorway to the next room, quickly followed by co-owner Steffany Vance, who led me into the studio. The space allowed for about eight to nine mats to be laid out comfortably. As students waited for Steffany to begin instruction, the studio cat sauntered across the hardwood floor, dodging outstretched hands.

Class began, and I navigated my body through the poses to the beat of organic, instrumental music. As the session continued, there were several poses that some students couldn’t grasp — even with the help of blocks. Rather than adjusting one individual at a time, Steffany would stop the class and talk all of the students through these exercises. In more difficult poses, she would break down each muscle that needed to be flexed.

Mockingbird Yoga has been open for seven months. Both Ariel and Steffany said that a majority of events they put on, such as cooking with students or hosting healing workshops for individuals with injuries, are ideas pitched by their students in order to foster community within the studio.

In order to expand that community, both Ariel and Steffany have expressed interest in holding an Occidental event or coming to Occidental to host or help with events.

This yoga studio is best for those who enjoy a smaller, more intimate setting and seek a close-knit group of familiar faces. Mockingbird Yoga offers $10 walk-in classes.

Namaste Highland Park
5118 York Blvd.

Namaste Highland Park is another small studio located among the variety of stores and restaurants on York Boulevard. Before walking in, the first thing I noticed was the large amount of tea leaves in the window — and, after class, the freshly brewed drink was waiting on a small tea tray for students to enjoy. Inside, an opaque plywood wall separated the waiting room from the practice space, an area fitting about 10 to 15 mats easily.

Sondra Sun-Odeon, who teaches at the studio, offered me a tour. We passed through the first classroom to the bathroom, which was decorated with tiny white Christmas lights, small plants and motivational posters, before arriving at the outside garden separating the main building from their second classroom.

In this garden, Namaste hosts a free weekend oatmeal bar on the first Saturday of each month, as well as an occasional gardening class, at which seasonal plants are given away. This yoga studio also offers Sound Baths, a event in which musicians play a combination of singing bowls and gongs, among other events.

The 8:10 p.m. Candlelit Yoga class, taught by Steven Arcos, took place in the front classroom. Accompanied by a playlist of modern beats, Steven’s class focused on holding easy to intermediate poses for extended periods of time. Throughout the class, he would come around and lend a helping hand, pushing and pulling more assertively than the average teacher.

During Shavasana (a common meditation at the end of most practices, in which students lay on their backs with palms facing upward), Steven came around and adjusted students’ bodies to better relax their shoulders or to release lower back tension. He then dropped a tiny bit of rosemary oil in the palms of each student. He explained that the oil would have a cleansing effect on the body.

Rosemary oil, which also is said to stimulate memory, is the official scent of the studio. Each instructor has their own signature scent, and sometimes they will bring their own flower oils to share.

Namaste is for students who enjoy a more open space that is still intimate and a chance to enjoy different philosophies of yoga practice, including various methods of cultivating breath. Occidental students can enjoy three weeks of classes for $30, with a 20 percent discount the second time a student renews the special. Namaste also offers a work-trade program in which the student is given free yoga classes in exchange for helping out with studio activities.

One Down Dog: Eagle Rock
2150 Colorado Blvd.

The entrance to this bright studio is painted with joyful blue, white and black shapes, which standing out boldly against the white building exterior. Illuminated by dim Christmas lights, the lighting in the hallway that leads into the studio transitions from a warm glow to a fluorescent, square waiting room where One Down Dog-brand merchandise is available for purchase. As I walked in, a tiny corgi called Arrow — the canine resident of the day — looked at me with his head cocked to the side.

Jessica Rosen, the owner of the One Down Dog Eagle Rock location and the original location in Silver Lake, stated that dogs are always welcome in the studio and that there are often dogs lingering at the location as their owners finish class. Jessica’s dog Patrick is One Down Dog’s mascot, embodying her goal to situate the studio’s image around these furry friends.

Jessica decided to open a yoga studio near a college campus because she feels that the studio is a place to re-experience a self-love that students often lose as they transition to a high-stress environment. Like Namaste, One Down Dog offers work-trade opportunities in an effort to make yoga classes more accessible for Occidental students.

Jessica introduced me to my teacher for the night, Jennifer Jordan, who was teaching a class simply called “CHILL.” One-word class names, common throughout One Down Dog’s schedule, were chosen for their simplicity and straightforwardness. Jennifer, who played a mixture of house music and catchy oldies, led us through multiple versions of a vinyasa flow.

Currently, Jessica is planning a clothing swap and a potential yoga dance party, which will all be announced on One Down Dog’s Instagram account, @onedowndog. Students can also learn about class specials and discounts through the studio’s Instagram. One Down Dog offers Sound Baths on the last Friday of every month, which cost $20 online and $25 at the door. The studio offers an $85 monthly unlimited classes special, $120 for ten classes or a walk-in special of $15.

Beginning Yoga & Yoga Club
Occidental College

Without even needing to walk off campus to York Boulevard or Colorado Boulevard, students can practice yoga in locations as close as the Dance Studio and Lower Herrick. In the Dance Studio, beginner classes are offered four times a day on Tuesdays and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The intermediate yoga class is offered from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Wednesdays only.

The Dance Studio is incredibly spacious, easily accommodating 30 mats, and is a relatively comfortable and cool room. As there are generally only 10 to 15 students per class, this leaves each student with ample room to spread out.

Laura Vandenbergh, who teaches Beginning and Intermediate Yoga at Occidental, has been practicing yoga since she was 7 and has been teaching for nine years. Laura uses her extensive knowledge of the principles of yoga to help students deal with ongoing issues and cultivate healing, whether mental or physical. She also works with an organization called Uprising Yoga that teaches trauma-informed yoga to incarcerated youth and other communities that have high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder.

As is the case with every physical education class on campus that the Physical Activities Department hosts, students are charged a mandatory fee of $125. On-campus classes are ideal for students who don’t mind paying the fee and are open to more limited class time slots. The school will not charge student accounts until a week into the credit or no credit course, so students have time to drop if they decide the activity is not for them.

For students interested in practicing yoga who prefer to pay less or who are unable to attend the official course, Yoga Club offers a biweekly practice Wednesdays and Sundays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Lower Herrick. The entire semester is $15 during pre-registration and $20 any time after the first class. This fee can be charged to student accounts or paid in cash.

All of these yoga studios have one goal in common: to create a sense of community and to cultivate relationships between people who want to better themselves and others around them. By keeping their own individual spaces open for students to bring new ideas and enjoy collectives spaces for relaxation and self-love, these studios are providing a place to unwind from life’s pressures — even if it’s only for one hour.

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