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When I was down in L.A. recently, I was staying at the house of friends in Silverlake, and they happened to live at the top of a hill.

At the bottom of that hill, past the hamburger stand with the sign erected in the ‘70s, past the store selling sex toys and kink supplies, past the ramen noodle restaurant and the “corner store” that made 93% of its revenue from selling cheap alcohol, past douche-magnet Mexican restaurant Diablo (actual slogan: Urban Taco Fabricator) , is Urth Yoga.

Urth had a fantastic $39 introductory special for all the yoga you could do for a month. Which I signed up for, and then did yoga every day I was there, doing yoga, in fact, 13 times in 12 days.

I could say this was a transformative experience, that it opened my eyes, changed my life.

It didn’t.

But it did calm me, strengthen me, and get me through a few days that I couldn’t have reached the end of without it. By the end of the two weeks, I couldn’t imagine NOT going to class, and I tried classes at 7 a.m., 9 p.m., and every time in between. I tried restorative yoga, flow yoga, hatha yoga, open yoga and basic yoga (which has nothing in common with basic D&D, to my disappointment.)

My favorite teacher was Stephen, but don’t try going there just to learn from him, he’s gone.  It turns out my first class with him was two weeks before his last class. He’s now sold his house and gone on a two-year bike ride around Europe and Asia with his wife.

Sold all his things, basically, too. He was from Canada, lived in L.A. for a bunch of years. Fell into yoga, I think, and now he’s falling out of Los Angeles. I went to several of his last classes—last “open” class, last Thursday class, etc.—and I saw he inspired and healed and educated a lot of students who were damn sad to see him go.

Except they weren’t sad, really; hardly any of them were actually sad. Wistful and not wanting to have to say goodbye, yes, but they were happy to see him head off into a new adventure, into a new place, a new pattern, to see him doing what he wanted to do, to have a dream and make it real.

Maybe by supporting that, by being happy for Stephen, they could feel happy themselves; maybe that joy counteracted their own sadness.

Or maybe Urth has a lot of good yoga instructors and they were going to be just fine.  That’s true, too.

But it made me think a lot about who is happy or sad for me—and whether I should be happy or sad for myself.

=-=-=

As a belated Valentine’s gift, Sarah gave me a t-shirt she had custom made. It is a yoga joke she made up and drew herself:

Coincidentally, she does yoga all the time too, and it does wonderful things for her. She even knows the names of all the poses, which I don’t know, other than the one that means “bend over”—and I think they all end in -asana.

Yoga is all around me these days. Laura introduced me to it and it did good things for her, at a time she needed it, and yoga classes were her Christmas present to me. Lululemon’s headquarters are in Vancouver, which is even nicknamed Lotusland.

And yoga is deeply facinating. It’s a personal challenge, a calming influence, a way of keeping fit and gaining flexibility. I wrote about meditation recently because I’ve been doing that in yoga classes, and that reminded of my start.

Yoga is a religion, a philosophy, a culture, an exercise routine and a type of clothing.  It’s associated tightly with Vancouver and as I get involved in it, I see the intertwining of Vancouver and yogic thought and actions.  But the most telilng thing about yoga for me right now, is this one line from Wikipedia: “Generally put, yoga is a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal.”

=-=-=

Yoga ties in to big questions I’m interested in right now: two of them, actually. Its philosophy and opportunity for introspection help me have the time and space to ponder these questions.

First of all, and most importantly: Is there something, you know, bigger in the world than what I have been focusing on—not just “does god exist,” or “what is the purpose of life,” but rather holistically, “how should (my, or one’s) existence as a living, thinking, growing person actually work”?

And the second one, if I start to think about that first question, is “What does that mean I should do in practice?”

More on that in the future.  For now, I’m going to see if I can touch my toes.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

Super! I'm no yoga aficionado, as you know. But I know enough for it to be clear that it's one of the best possible things for you. Great work!

 

Posted by Jason
  at 3:37 pm on Apr. 1, 2013

 

 

 

dude, the tee rocks!! I need me one of them!

 

Posted by kathryn
  at 8:21 pm on Apr. 24, 2013

 

 

 

Travis, just stumbled upon your blog - loved reading about your time in LA and your experience at Urth. Your observations on my students are spot on. I hope (know) that by leaving them to go on this journey they are growing more, learning more, and exoeriencing more. Namaste from Slovenia!

 

Posted by Stephen
  at 10:52 pm on May. 6, 2013

 

 

 

I was catching up on your blog and noticed the mention of yoga and LA and remembered that a friend of my brother's became a yoga teacher in LA. And I'm 99% sure that's Stephen. A friend/acquaintance Matthew, who I met in a hostel in London in 1999, was the drummer in Stephen's wife Jane's band the Lollies and my brother became a fan of theirs and eventually one of Matthew's flatmates in London. I think I might have met Stephen at a Lollies concert in 2001 but maybe not.

Which doesn't have much to do with yoga but I like what a small world it is and maybe you do too. Thanks for the link to their bicycle adventure website and I'm wishing you luck and insight with your big questions.

 

Posted by Christina
  at 10:46 am on May. 23, 2013

 

 

 

Hey Christina - that is me you are describing. Who is your brother? What a crazy small world. We may indeed have met all those years ago at a Lollies gig. Crazy.

 

Posted by Stephen
  at 4:08 pm on May. 26, 2013

 

 

 

My brother's Jason, goes by Arthur, sound guy and space hijacker. I know he mentioned seeing you and Jane in LA last year or the year before. I'm enjoying the travel diary entries I've read. Bon voyage to both of you!

 

Posted by Christina
  at 4:13 pm on May. 29, 2013

 

 

 

Of course I know your brother. He is an amazing person, always doing amazing things. What a fantastically small world! Thanks Travis for helping keep us all a bit more connected.

 

Posted by Stephen
  at 7:24 am on Jun. 17, 2013

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