This weekend I will be teaching a workshop in Los Angeles, organized by my old friend and student Jodi Blumstein. Recently I read that there are now over a hundred yoga studios in Los Angeles and someone was comparing the atmosphere of L.A. today for yoga teachers as similar to Paris in the 1920’s for writers and artists. Certainly there are a lot of talented and creative yoga teachers in Los Angeles and it has come to be regarded as the cutting edge of the yoga scene. I’ve even had Indian people that I met in Bangalore tell me that one day they would like to come to Los Angeles and study yoga!
Located in Larchmont Village at the site of a former Masonic temple, the Center for Yoga was the first yoga studio to open in Los Angeles in 1967. Owner/Director Ganga White drew inspiration from many different teachers during his 25-year tenure there, including Pattabhi Jois, who he hosted for a single class in 1985. I met Ganga and his partner Anna Forrest when they came to Encinitas to practice with Pattabhi Jois earlier that same year. Ganga invited Guruji to come to the Center for Yoga to teach a class, promising him a big turnout. Guruji accepted and was flown in a small plane to the Burbank Airport along with a few of his advanced students, brought along as assistants. I was one of those assistants, and witnessed what was perhaps the first guided ashtanga yoga class ever taught in Los Angeles. Seventy-five people showed up for the class, most of them with no experience of the ashtanga method. Before the class started I was watching a guy trying to teach an attractive young woman Suryanamaskara B. He had it all wrong and, trying to be helpful, I stepped in to correct him. He gave me a murderous look and told me to mind my own business. This was my first experience of the “L.A. attitude”, where some people become legends in their own mind. Guruji did his best to humble and educate those seventy-five students, but obviously it was a long-term project.
The first workshop I taught in Los Angeles was in 1987, also at the Center for Yoga. There had been a little bit of exposure to the ashtanga method over the subsequent two years, but it was still virtually unexplored terrain for the 50 students who showed up. The class was memorable for me because it was the most money I’d ever made teaching a yoga class—close to $500. That same year I hosted Guruji again in Encinitas and during his stay Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty met. Chuck and Maty fell in love and became the owners of Yogaworks soon after this. Over a period of sixteen years they developed a thriving business and employed many of the best yoga teachers in Los Angeles, including Ana Forrest, Erich Schiffman, Rod Stryker, Brian Kest, Shiva Rea, Sean Corn, Steve Ross, and others. They also hosted many visiting teachers to lead workshops, including myself. Coincidentally, I met my wife, Carol, for the first time while I was teaching at Yogaworks in 1990. Her first impression of me was that I was an arrogant jerk and asked Chuck and Maty to never invite me back. We got a chance to know each other the following year when we were both practicing in Mysore. Eventually she decided that, although I needed a lot of work, I had some potential.
Chuck and Maty ran the ashtanga program at Yogaworks until they sold it in 2005. During that time they developed a strong ashtanga community in Santa Monica. The new owners of Yogaworks bought the old Center for Yoga a few years ago. Jodi Blumstein now teaches Mysore classes there. Don’t show up there for this weekend’s workshop though. The classes will be held at the Hayworth Ballroom, 2501 Wilshire Blvd.