Donation based yoga- more than just exercise, it’s medicine for your soul.
Something powerful is happening everyday in Los Angeles. Yes, we all know that LA is the place for auditions, clubs, celebrity spotting and amusement parks, but increasingly, it has become the place for yoga! Not just yoga in fancy, pricey studios, filled with wealthy white woman, but yoga in parks and canyons, and in studios from Santa Monica to the inner city- with participants of all stripes, sizes, ages and demographics. Donation based yoga is a newer facet of the yoga craze that has taken hold of LA and it is a powerfully equalizing component, instead of being a status symbol, donation based yoga has become more of an actual movement, one in which all are welcome and all are reminded of their own inherent potential and greatness.
Often times people shy away from yoga because they think they aren’t flexible enough, at a recent donation based yoga class at Long Beach’s eponymous ‘Yoga on the Bluff’ the instructor, Erin Grissom, shared her thoughts about these types of sentiments, “I love it when people say that they don’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible enough. That’s like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath.” Yoga offers something entirely unique in the health, wellness and fitness industries- the concept that you are right where you are supposed to be and if you meet yourself there you have already succeeded. Sounds radical right? That’s because it is.
Yoga empowers you to be present with yourself and your circumstances and gives you the tools to handle life’s adversities. Long Beach based yoga teacher, Blakwatter, said, “yoga has allowed me to navigate life, because I think that’s the most important element, being able to deal with the challenges in life, yoga’s helped me, to breathe through it.” The core tenet of yoga is presence and quieting the mind, which loves to criticize (itself and others) and loves to strategize and ruminate about past decisions and future dilemmas; practicing yoga is like giving your-self a vacation from all of that. It is a mini mental break where your only real job is to breathe and follow along in the poses to the best of your ability. The poses are of secondary importance to the breathing itself but when combined they can have a powerful impact on your health and wellbeing.
Donation based yoga has taken root in cities all across Los Angeles, from Long Beach to Santa Monica, from the Wilshire corridor to Echo Park, to Boyle Heights and onwards, you can find studios and parks offering daily classes, many donation based. Yoga is no longer something that only those with extra disposable income can enjoy. Yoga student Jessenia Galvan-Lloyd, who has been practicing at Yoga on the Bluff in Long Beach since January noted a ‘huge improvement in her back,’ and said, “I’ve done yoga very sporadically throughout my life, I started with my grandma when I was a little kid but it has never been a consistent thing, and especially because I can come her for free, that’s a huge part of it, that’s why it’s consistent now.”
Milagros Camarena, a local pre-school teacher and student at yoga on the bluff said, ‘It’s a powerful tool for living, because anytime that you are coming off from work and you have the time, you can just go, you can just jump in, have your mat always in your car, it’s an amazing experience to know that we can go, stretch out, breathe and get ourselves more grounded, that we need everyday, to get grounded for the next day.’ Many of the donation based yoga studios also offer extra health and wellness classes such as reiki (energy healing) and tai’chi, also on a donation basis. In addition many offer yoga classes in English and Spanish and are doing a great job of serving their communities’ individual needs.
Yoga has the power to heal people on so many levels. Donation based yoga also creates sacred community spaces; something that Los Angeles is notoriously lacking in. Although we don’t have public squares, gardens and museums the likes of Paris or even New York City, increasingly we have a donation-based yoga movement and the opportunities for creating community that it brings. Blakwatter notes that Yoga on the Bluff, ‘has united a lot of people from different backgrounds. I hear people reference it all through Long Beach. Personally, it’s helped me connect with Long Beach more, I’m not originally from Long Beach and I didn’t really have the connection with Long Beach that I have now, through yoga. If it wasn’t for that experience, sharing space and holding space with people, certain people I know on the street that I come across, I probably wouldn’t have the same relationship.’
‘Yoga on the Bluff’ in Long Beach was created 10 years ago by Dharma Shakti- yoga teacher, owner and founder of Yogalution Movement studio, in the beginning it was a group of 5–10 people who would meet and practice yoga under the coral trees that adorn the bluff on Ocean Blvd. overlooking the pacific, today it is a treasured jewel of the community with it’s own designation on Google Maps and is widely referenced in many travel guides. It is also a place where people come together and get to know their neighbors, friendships are made, hugs are exchanged, babies and dogs are welcomed and people can’t help but stop and watch.