dani’s adventures in yoga.

Dani is currently in India on an adventure.  This post was pre-written to entertain you while she’s gone and to pimp out all of the instructors who have shaped her yoga journey so far.   If you are looking for yoga recommendations in Portland, Oregon or Los Angeles, California, you’ve come to right place.  Scroll down and click on the links below. 

I did the calculation, and as of setting foot on the plane to India on May 31st, I had been practicing yoga for exactly 18 months. 

So let me just clarify that, despite the fact that I’m doing yoga in India, I am NOT an expert yogi.  Not even close.  I’m like…level 2.  So what the hell am I doing?

For the first year after I graduated from college  I got a desk job, I lived with awesome friends, I went to happy hour, and I just generally tried to enjoy being a twenty-something-year-old in the fabulous city of Portland.  The only problem was this fire burning inside me like a disease that prevented me from fully enjoying my awesome life.  I was floundering artistically, physically, and spiritually. 

So one cold and rainy Portland afternoon when I was doing my best to pretend to do my job kind of, I bought a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Vancouver Bikram Yoga.  I had never done yoga before.  I didn’t know what the hell I was getting myself into.  It just seemed like a good idea and the thought of being in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes sounded amazing in December in Portland.  Maybe the heat would somehow satisfy my inner fire.  

I got to Bikram and I was mediocre at best.  I totally sucked at locking my knees, which they ask you to do like every ten seconds, and I was forced to stare at my lumpy, imperfect body for 90 minutes straight while trying not to pass out.  It brought back flashbacks to my mediocre athletics career, and getting heat stroke during a Middle School track meet after coming in last place in 1600 meters.  

But each day I felt progress in subtle ways as I felt myself getting stronger and more focused.  I took naturally to the breathing and meditation, and felt cleansed and unburdened in the heat of the yoga studio.  I swear I learned more about myself in that first ten days of Bikram than I’d learned in the last two years of college.  It was amazing to look into my own searching eyes and experience compassion for my self in all my flaws and assets, for all my incapabilities and strengths.  

So began an 18-month smorgasbord of yoga, as I tried out as many studios and yoga styles as I could get my paws on!

Let the yoga journey begin!**

**NOTE:  I can’t do any of the things in these pictures.  Except number 7.  I kick ass at number 7.


the crack-monkey

Next I bought a three-month Groupon for YogaNW, so I could see what normal yoga was like without the strict parameters of Bikram.  YogaNW is great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Portland looking for a studio.  The instructors are  patient, kind, and great at adjusting your alignment.  At YogaNW, I began to see the wider world of what yoga can be.  From the spiritual focus that Sheila brings to the practice to the personalized vinyasa practice that Jennifer encourages to the deeply restorative practice that Aimee provides.  


the foot-hat

Then I went back to Sellwood Bikram Yoga for another month of good, hot fun.  This studio features some of the same instructors as Vancouver Bikram, but with the added benefit of Tom Leimert, a physician-turned-yogi whose knowledge of the body is so helpful.  Sellwood Bikram also has a more competitive atmosphere and more sexy men with six-packs.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t question it.  


the WHY, GOD, WHY?

Next in my yoga journey I met Julie Hunicutt while at a one-month acting workshop in Monterey, California, and because of her incredible expertise and communication, I re-learned some of the standard hatha yoga poses with better alignment.


the pac-woman

She introduced me to Yogavidala in Los Angeles, and it was at Yogavidala that I found a spiritual home in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, because of a major rent increase, this gem of a studio is shutting down at the end of June, but I met some amazing instructors here who I’ll continue to study with.  Some of the gems are Jennifer Netherby, who made yoga fun and helped me conquer the headstand, Nina Snow, who made my Dad feel welcome in class after a 20+ year hiatus from yoga, and Robyn Bennett, whose deeply spiritual classes always left me on cloud nine.  


God’s teardrop

I try to quit you, Bikram but I just can’t.  I felt compelled to do another month of madness at Bikram Yoga Silverlake.  The Silverlake studio is super super crowded, the floor there is a little weird/uncomfortable, and I like some instructors there more than others… If you go to the super early classes,avoid stepping off your mat onto the hard floor, and choose your instructors wisely, you’ll be fine, but ultimately it’s not my favorite studio.  



Brazilian Yoga and Pilates!  I’ve been studio hopping a little bit in the past few weeks, since I’m trying to find a new yoga home now that Yogavidala is closing.  This studio has a super laid back and hippie vibe, the classes are always super small and personalized, and they sometimes have classes in Capoeira, Samba, and Pilates, as well as host the occasional drum circle.  I went to a Samba class last week and it was an absolute blast.  The best part about this place is that it has the cheapest monthly rate I’ve ever seen–$69 a month!  The class schedule is pretty sparse, but if you tend to be free in the afternoons and/or evenings, you will be able to get your money’s worth.  Unfortunately, in my real life I am in school from the asscrack of dawn to the dead of night, so I probably won’t be going here. :/


Urth Yoga.  This place has $5 “happy hour” classes 3 times a day during the week, and it’s within walking distance of my house.  Because I live in Silverlake and it’s cheap, that can mean only one thing: HIPSTER YOGA!!  

It kind of felt like what would happen if you were in a hipster singles bar and everyone decided to drop into downward dog.  It’s mostly anusara yoga. with is a spiritual/philosophical viewpoint more than anything, but for some reason it was super ass-kicking.  Definitely $5 well spent. 



Ummmmm…. Who the hell knows what this will hold.  I’m in Rishikesh, India right now.  When my friend Tarah invited me to come with her to India this summer I said,

“Hey, did you know that you can study yoga at yoga ashrams in Northern India and live there for very little money and extended periods of time?”  

And she said, “Hell. Yeah.”

So now we’re in Rishikesh–a couple of amateur yogis in India.  

…I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. 




hot and sweaty

Ha!  I bet you thought this post was gonna be sexxxxual.  PSYCH!  

Nice try, suckas.

But wait… what exactly are we talking about here, Dani?

Well, Britt…this post is actually about this guy:

Bikram Choudhury photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Bikram Choudhury
photocredit: bikramyoga.com

Ohhhhhh BIKRAM! How I love you!! And your crazy hat!

SO HOT!  Hmmm… Wait a minute, we can make this sexier…  Let’s go with this:

Bikram Choudhury, age 17

Bikram Choudhury, age 17
photo credit: bikramyoga.com

Ooooo that’s much better. Nice work, D.

Why thank you, Britt! So this guy is a yoga guru who used yoga to completely rehabilitate his mangled knee, and thereby came up with an absolutely insane brand of yoga all his own.  Bikram Yoga, practiced at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and at least 40% humidity, is 26 yoga postures practiced in a specific order so you can get fresh, oxygenated blood to the deepest, darkest, most forgotten regions of your body.  You have to arrive to this 90-minute class 15 minutes early, and stay 10 minutes afterwards, just to lie there in “dead body pose” and let your body acclimate, making this whole thing a two hour experience.  And there’s only one rule in Bikram: YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM. 

I remember hearing about Bikram  and the “YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE ROOM” rule for the first time. I remember thinking, “What the hell?? Is this some kind of torture method disguised as yoga? No thanks.”

Actually, I was looking at Bikram’s website, and he ACTUALLY calls his yoga studios “torture chambers.”  Aren’t y’all soooo excited to go out and try it???

The whole experience sounded like an ordeal to me and I don’t do too well in the heat anyway. Needless to say, I never considered giving Bikram yoga a try until Dani mentioned to me she was practicing it.

What sold me about Dani’s experience was how certain poses unlocked certain emotions for her–for example, experiencing an impulse to laugh or cry –and I am incredibly fascinated by how our emotional life can be triggered by our bodies. As an actor, my body is my instrument. I often find it difficult, as many actors do, to lift my guard (both emotionally and physically, in the way I carry my body), to let go, and to release my too-firm grasp of control. Bikram presents an incredible opportunity to simply let go. And the results you get from pushing your body to the limit and practicing the mindfulness of the present moment (meditation, yo!) are incredible.

 I couldn’t agree more!!   With all of those things!!!   You HAVE to let go of control and just exist in the present moment, because the physical intensity of the experience gives you no other choice.  If you start thinking about whatever wacky-ass pose you just attempted, you will get disheartened/distracted; if you start future-tripping and wondering how long the torture will last, you lose all hope.  Any distraction will cause you to compromise whatever posture you are currently in, and therefore lose the essence of the whole experience.  It is the most delicious torture.  

But wait, let me back up to how I first got into this whole yoga thing:  Groupon, bitches!!!!  In Fall of 2011 I tried Bikram yoga for the first time by plunging in for the recommended 10 days in a row, and I felt like a new human being afterwards.  I went like crazy  to Vancouver Bikram Yoga for the rest of the month until ye olde Groupon ran out, and I was totally hooked on this yoga thing.  Each class literally felt like a 2-hour trip/spirit quest, and taught me so much about myself, mind, body, and soul.  

It looks like little something like this: 

Notice to the left of the “Salted Pretzel” is the “Wind Removing” pose.  That is ACTUALLY the name of that pose, and it ACTUALLY literally squeezes the farts out of you.  Bet you never thought about that before!  Next time you have a big burrito before a big date, make sure you remove some of that wind before leaving the house.  Thank you, Bikram!

Seriously. One time I was in class and the gentleman next to me farted an unrealistically loud fart. In 6 months of taking class, I had never actually heard some one rip one. And especially not like that. It was… alarming. No one acknowledged Fartzilla of course, but he then proceeded to let out gigantic farts throughout THE REST OF CLASS. One after another. Long, loud, sustained farts. There must of been, like, at least 15 farts joining us that session. It took everything in my power to keep from losing it. I’m sorry, but I had to let you guys in on that one… I’m not about to suffer through that memory alone. (You’re welcome.)

Oh my God I’d never heard that story!  Daaaaaamn!  Well I bet that guy had such a great date that night all fart-free and glowing with health and wellness.  FRIENDLY TIP:  If you do choose to go to Bikram, leave plenty of time to completely reassemble yourself before going out on your fart-free date afterwards.  You will sweat more than you ever thought possible in this class.  

Yes! But Bikram is sexy so that should give you extra points.

No, seriously, it is.  I mean you saw the picture of young, studly Bikram.  Sexy!  Despite all of the sweating and farting.  God we are making this sound so appealing!!  Well good luck on your hypothetical post-Bikram date.  Hooray dating advice with Britt and Dani!!  

For the record, I don’t regularly practice Bikram yoga anymore, since it is rather cost-prohibitive without ye olde Groupon.  However, at least twice a week I go to normal yoga classes at my favorite place in all of Los Angeles, YogaVidala up in Los Feliz.  Actually, it was really the intensity of my experience with Bikram yoga that turned me on to all yoga, and since then I have been having a blast exploring all the different schools of thoughts and ways of practicing.  If you live in LA, have never tried yoga, and DON’T want to try it out in the Bikram torture chamber, come on down to YogaVidala on the last Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m. for a FREE Intro to Yoga class.  If you are anything like me, and even if you’re nothing like me, it will probably totally change your life.  

Without a doubt. It changed mine. Even if you only get into the studio every once-in-a-while (the situation I am currently living in), your body remembers this stuff. It lives in you. Like your farts.

…Until Wind Removing pose removes them. 

So venture forth, new Bikram Yogis! Fart no more! Spread the Good News! Be free!

Your beginning-yogi-partners-in-crime,

~Dani & Britt