Have you ever heard of ‘grade inflation’ when you were in school? Certain professors would grade more generously than others or a C average in a science class equals an A in a history class… or something like that?
I have a theory that this occurs in yoga in terms of class level. You see, I live and regularly practice at a suburban studio quite distant from the Los Angeles Yoga Mecca of Santa Monica and Venice (also referred as city yoga for the purpose of this article). Having ventured away from my regular studio lately, I’ve come to learn very quickly that level 2-3 at my regular suburban studio is like a level 1-2 in Yoga Mecca. From only a handful of visits to the city, I have ‘downgraded’ my practice- while I thought I was an intermediate practitioner in the suburbs, I appeared to myself as a beginner yogi in the city. In addition to this very humbling observation, here are my other observations of city yoga vs. suburban yoga:
First, a note about my suburban yoga- LA is huge with its whole urban sprawl. My ‘suburb’ is in an area away from the beach with mostly families, with one state university in the neighborhood. It is definitely not yuppy, and it’s diverse economically and ethnically. I say this because many neighborhoods totally unlike mine are also in the suburb. For example, Manhattan Beach is on the water and very wealthy. I will refer to these yuppy beach neighborhood studios as beach city yoga.
Class size: City yoga tends to be mat to mat, Yoga Mecca studios with celebriguru guarantees mat to mat attendance. Suburban yoga tends to be more spacious. Beach city yoga is also very packed.
Parking: (Sorry, as we are in the LA area, so this is a big deal). City yoga means very limited parking. Need to allocate at least extra 10 minutes to find parking. There is almost never free parking, so need to have lots of quarters handy. Oh, the yoga mecca studios tend to be close to the beach. In this summer, parking is sometimes impossible. (yes, you can take the bus, or ride a bicycle, but I am driving from 40 miles away) Having been a suburban yogi, I didn’t realize I have been so spoiled as there is always ample free parking.
Room Temperature: Most of my suburban classes tend to be airy and comfy, the city & beach area classes are always not air conditioned, few ventilation of any, HOT, steamy, smelly.
Prices: Except for a few well known national chain studios (these tend to be more expensive), the individual class prices at independent studios in both the city and the suburbs are actually quite similar. My suburban studio has a generous discount offered at the beginning of the year for unlimited one year pass. I paid about $550 for one year of unlimited yoga at my suburban studio.
Class Variety: City yoga studios seems to have a bigger variety of classes. My studio has basically 2 types: easy hatha/flow to more vigorous vinyasa flow, and there is 1 prenatal class weekly. However, some suburban studios have a diverse set of classes, as they offer ‘meditative yoga’ ‘chakra and yoga’ and ‘candlelight flow’ class. There are no anusara classes in the suburban area near me, though.
Teachers: This is interesting and undoubtedly controversial. I am only basing my observations on what I have seen here in the Yoga Mecca city area (Santa Monica, Venice). The yoga mecca studios tend to feature celebrity teachers, as that is the main draw. I do appreciate that a common peasant yogi like me can take a class from internationally known instructor. This is not to say in anyway that the teachers at the suburban studio is less capable.
I have seen many newer teachers (teaching for 3 years or less) at suburban yoga studios. Many of my instructors from the suburban studio took their training with Yoga Works.
The city teachers tend to be quite well known in the Los Angeles yoga scene, if not the overall yoga scene. The suburban teachers tend to be very familiar in the local region (for example: South Bay, South Orange County, North Orange County…etc.)
Classmates/Fellow Yogis: I am definitely biased. I’ve been going to the same suburban studio for 6 years now, so I am probably a ‘regular’. However, if I am next to a new person at my regular studio, I usually greet the person next to me.
At the super yoga mecca studio, my visits has always been mat to mat. However, it just seems more aloof to me. At least for me, there was no eye contact or ‘hello’ or anything.
The apparel choices are always interesting to me. There is one beach studio where Lululemon is the unofficial uniform for all the students AND the teachers. Lululemon and Hard Tail have a strong presence in the Yoga Mecca, but the clothing choices seem more diverse. The suburban studios are the most diverse, and you don’t see as many brands represented. People just wear whatever they feel comfortable for practicing yoga. I know this is so superficial and super petty, but I am just a freak who likes to observe petty things…
This is enough triviality for the night. In summary, I appreciate all the convenience and comfort at my regular suburban studio- short drive, easy parking, friendly teachers, comfortable temperature. BUT, both my body and my ego is craving a beat up, drenching sweaty practice to make me physically stronger. Talk about all that heat to make 2 gallons of sweat come out of my body. I can finally appreciate the meaning of ‘tapas’. Yes, going to the city yoga mecca or the beach is a pain in the arse: the long drive, the headache parking, the class fee, the crowd. But, I want to get stronger.
I will always be a regular at my suburban studio. As for the ‘city yoga’, I will take it one class at a time… drive, park, get a beat down, sweat, repeat…
Wanderlust Yoga in the City- Right there on 3rd Street promenade in Santa Monica, where there are 3 studios just within 3 blocks or something crazy like that… of course, Lululemon is within walking distance too