June 30, 2013

discover the curious city

I have been wanting to share my thoughts on yoga for a while now but never felt entirely confident since I am still fairly new to the practice. Luckily my good friend from college Lara Estrada is a yoga instructor here in LA and was more than happy to be our guest blogger.

Yoga is so popular in LA and it brings in many different crowds. There are the physically fit people who come for the sweat, the spiritual souls who come to meditate, and everything in between. Our bodies weren't made to sit in chairs and drive in cars all day; they were made to move and take us places. Our lungs weren't created for shallow breath; they function for depth, energy, and connection. Yoga can bring us back to the true core of our being by first allowing us an opportunity to use our bodies as they were meant to be used - to move and to explore. With consciousness in movement and connection to breath, there is a development of focus and awareness in this busy world that's always providing more ways to distract.

[(1+2) Believe Fitness Studio; (3) Yoga at the Raven]
My first real yoga experience began a little over a year ago. I use "real" because I've dabbled in yoga prior through workout videos like P90X. It's a little embarrassing to admit but what got me to try yoga at a real yoga studio was Groupon. I have always been a believer that you shouldn't have to spend a lot of money to workout, especially when you can just do videos at home or go for a run. But after my first class, my entire perspective changed.

I had always associated exercise with the physical. I need a tight butt or toned abs. Before yoga I swam, ran, did pilates, and various barre workouts. None of these addressed the mental or spiritual. Yoga challenges both the mind and the body but in the most non aggressive way. One of my teachers once described it as the calm within the storm. For me, the calm is the mind and the storm is the body or the calm is the self and the storm is the world. Yoga is the conduit for helping me find the calm within the storm. It is a means for me to convey energy which might otherwise have been clogged.

The yoga community is so embracing. These are the studios that I frequent on the Eastside, each with its own wonderful qualities.

Yoga at the Raven - This is the yoga studio that started it all. Tony Guiliano was my first teacher and is still the best I've come across. He makes yoga relatable and challenging. He can break a pose down to its molecular level so that the entire class can understand it and approach it individually. He makes me want to give 110% and I always go home feeling more accomplished. The yoga studio itself offers many difference classes, one of them being AcroYoga which is so fun. It combines acrobatics with yoga and is a partner based class. The studio also has various workshops and events like yoga to live music, which I highly recommend.

One Down Dog - This is a pretty new yoga studio that I started going to because it is walkable from my place. I am happy to have found it because it is a fun and energetic studio. It offers three types of classes: chill, flow, or sweat. I really like the sweat classes taught by Jessica Rosen because it is essentially a yoga dance party. She plays awesome music and encourages free dancing and moving in your yoga poses. If you are looking for a combination of both cardio and yoga then this is the place.

YogaLA - This studio is very community oriented. They have special donation based classes so that everyone who wants to do yoga can do yoga. They also have the largest variety of classes, some even for kids. My favorite class to take here is Yoga and Sound which incorporates the sounds of live gongs and crystal bowls to the flow of your movement.

Still Yoga - I've taken many different classes at this studio but my favorite is their therapeutic restorative yoga. If I had a long day or have any back pains I go to this class to wind down and stretch it all out.

Believe Fitness Studio - This studio is on the Westside and I've only taken one class here but I wanted to mention it because it is so different. Lara and I took an Anti-gravity yoga class recently which utilizes a fabric hammock to suspend you in the air while you do various poses. It was a very cool experience and the inversions were amazing. I definitely want to try it again.


What draws me to this practice is the connection and flow that happens when coordinating breath with movement, and movement with spirit. I enjoy soulful classes, where the body is challenged and the mind is brought to a calm center. The peace and connection is what I love the most, what I seek out in other teachers, and what I try to bring to my classes when I teach.

I consider myself blessed to be a yoga teacher, but first and foremost, I am a lifelong yoga student. Yoga has given me so much awareness and sense of purpose in my life in the short time since I've been practicing, and it's the only thing I'm willing to spend time and money on to learn about in more depth. I am beyond excited to travel to Bali in a few weeks to complete my 300-hour graduate training! There's so much more to discover, and I can credit much of my progress so far to the teachers I have been blessed to connect with on my journey. These ladies are my faves on the Westside! If you're looking for a class that will leave you energized and spiritually lifted, book a class with these amazing women!

Linda Baffa (Equinox, The Green Yogi, Yoga Vista)
When I first moved to LA and was searching for yoga teachers to connect with, Linda was the first one that felt like home. I loved her flow and when she sang a Sanskrit chant at the end of class, the beauty of her voice brought tears to my eyes. I had the pleasure of taking an Advanced Asana training with her earlier this year, and I learned so much from her ability to teach complex poses in a way that makes sense to the body. In our workshops, she was able to guide me further into postures than what I thought I was capable of. Linda will definitely challenge your body and mind, but is also one of the kindest souls you will ever meet! 

Casey Coda (YogaWorks)
I had the absolute honor of completing my 200-hour teacher training with Casey through YogaWorks in Costa Mesa. I like to call her my Yoga Mom because she nourishes my spirit with so much love that it can only be described as motherly. I love taking her gentle yoga classes. Sometimes people don't understand why I enjoy gentle and restorative classes when I'm capable of handstands and arm balances. I don't always need to sweat. I like to feel supported and move my body gently too. Casey is a an absolute sweetheart and a true yoga guide that makes everyone in her presence feel comfortable and safe.

Malachi Melville (Equinox, Exhale, YogaWorks)
You can feel the depth of Malachi's wisdom and soul in the way that she teaches. She exhibits her expertise with clear and precise instruction for alignment. She also gives the best hands on adjustments that are so skilled and therapeutic that it often feels like you're getting a massage. She teaches with joy that springs from her true connection with her practice. The end of class meditation and savasana is always my favorite with Malachi. She speaks with knowledge that awakens your spirit, inspiring courage and positive change. I literally cried when she stopped teaching at South Bay YogaWorks! I miss being able to take her class every week.

Shelley Williams (YogaWorks, Yoga Loft)
Something magical happens when a person with years of dance experience steps into the realm of teaching yoga. Shelley has such a refreshing and cool energy. To me, her teaching style embodies the ocean, with its waves and fluidity. Her classes are lyrical in movement, with sequencing that flows like a dance. Although her classes are physically challenging, her manner of teaching is so encouraging and lighthearted that you are able to push past the discomfort with a calm state of mind. And she goes to Costa Rica every summer to teach yoga and spend time with her family-- how cool is that!?

There are many amazing teachers in LA and I haven't taken enough classes to experience them all. Everyone brings something unique to the practice. If you're looking for a soulful class that has more depth than just a physical workout, I highly recommend any of the teachers above. They have greatly inspired me in my practice, in my teaching, and in my life.

Come practice with me in Downtown at The Yoga Place, 7:00am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. You can catch me subbing on occasion at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City or LiveYoga Wellness in Westchester. Visit my website Lara Loves Yoga and find me on Facebook. I wish for everyone to find joy in their yoga practice and in every part of their life!


  1. WOW, the anti-gravity yoga looks so fun! I wonder if there are any studios like that in the SF area!

    1. It was super fun and kind of scary but exhilarating at the same time! I hope you can find one in SF or if you come down to LA we can go together (and drag Junette with us haha)!