Before I go too much further with this post I should point out that I wasn’t some yogic saint during my two weeks in the States! Yes I made it to some classes, managed to fit in a couple of gym visits and wolfed down some green juices and acai bowls (as an aside, why oh why aren’t these easier to come across in London?!), but I also let my hair down and tucked into some really yummy burgers and sampled a lot of California wine and beer. So I don’t want it to look like I spent my whole time on my yoga mat, but I do think sourcing yoga studios and events is a different way to explore an area when you’re on holiday and I was very grateful that I maybe didn’t have to work quite as hard as I might have done to work off all that yummy American food once I got home as I might have done had I not done any exercise….!
Before I went, the one name that kept coming up when friends gave me yogic recommendations was Annie Carpenter who was teaching a regular class at Yoga Tree in San Francisco when we were there. San Francisco is pretty chock-a-blocked with yoga studios, which left my boyfriend a little bemused as to why I was making him walk past seemingly hundreds of other studios to get to Yoga Tree’s Potrero Hill location, but Annie’s reputation was enough for me to make sure I gave up one night of my holiday and trekked across the city to make sure I attended. It was well worth it. Annie’s class was packed, despite being in a massive room, but she had the skill that all really great teachers do of making you feel like she’s giving everyone in the studio individual attention. She’s coming over to London to workshop at Triyoga in a couple of months and I’d highly recommend signing up for at least one session while she’s here.
From a teacher whose reputation preceded her, my next trip onto the mat was at a studio whose reputation did the same. Core Power Yoga is a huge hot yoga franchise across America which teaches its particular brand of yoga at well over a hundred studios. I’d heard a lot about the company and fancied experiencing it for myself, so signed up for a class in Santa Barbara. One of the things I really noticed about American studios is the extra costs of things – I’m happy to pay for towels and water but was surprised that wherever I went the cost of hiring a mat was in addition to the cost of the class. But this seems to be somewhat standard; when we went to a class at Soul Cycle we discovered there’s an extra three dollar charge for hiring cleat shoes, which you need to get on the bike and aren’t quite as cheap as a yoga mat to buy yourself! The Core Power Yoga class was a set sequence, which a lot of students understandably knew well, but which I enjoyed. There was a lot of moving around the mat and facing different directions and it certainly worked up a sweat. I don’t think a franchise on this size is always going to work, but if you’re in a new town and want a class where you know what to expect then it’s a reassuring option.
For the second week of the holiday I didn’t manage to fit in as much yoga as we were on the road a lot, bar a jokey attempt at meditating amongst the slot machines in Vegas! I think it’s safe to say we went from being some of the slimmest people in Sin City to feeling like some of the most unhealthy by the time we got to the sunny seaside LA outpost of Santa Monica, so I was ready for some more yoga.
Santa Monica feels like an extremely fit and healthy town, with Whole Foods as frequent as 7-Elevens, and on our first day I was super excited to find a sign for free yoga every Saturday morning on the town’s iconic pier. We also managed to fit in a couple of other workouts while there, including a trip to Soul Cycle to see what all the fuss is about (it was good, but not as good as Psycle) and a gym session at Equinox, thanks to a lovely friend of mine who was able to get us on the guest list. But it was the pier yoga that I was most excited about, and bounced out of bed at an hour I hadn’t seen since jet-lagged let go of me to head down to the pier. It was absolutely packed but, whereas in the UK this kind of event would be considered a huge deal (particularly if it hadn’t rained) Santa Monica yogis seemed to be very relaxed about it, as though it was just another yoga class, albeit one outdoors and on a pier.
I was really lucky to get to experience some brand new yoga experiences on holiday and would highly recommend it as a way to get to know a new place in a different way! I got to meet some lovely new fellow yogis and teachers and learned a lot of things that I can take with me. Yoga is a universal language so it’s well worth scheduling some classes to your holiday, particularly if like me you struggle to keep up a home practice. And if anyone has success meditating in Vegas, please let me know!