Many consider Los Angeles the epicenter of all things yoga in the United States. Thousands of yoga teachers hustle day in and day out to provide instruction to exponentially more students across a dense landscape. And the seemingly endless growth of this billion-dollar-a-year industry has bled into other facets of life: what we eat, what we wear, what we drink, how we think, what we listen to, who we revere — what we consume in general.
The amalgam of what yoga has become in the West came together in early January with The Yoga Expo at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Upon approach, you’ll hear the murmur of voices, background “yoga music” and an instructor on a microphone. Friendly volunteers accepted $25 payments and welcomed guests in. In the large open space, there were about 60 yoga mats closely layered across the floor, filled with eager practitioners.
Just beyond the open practice was the warehouse-sized room that hosted numerous vendors, businesses and artists hoping to spread awareness and information (something I like to call “awaretion”…it’ll catch on, I’m almost certain.) Decorating the walls and corners of this large space were yogis (a better term might be acrobats) performing what felt like a hybrid of gymnastics and break dancing. It turns out there were a few competitors in Asana performance-type tournaments and competitions, an odd and very American phenomenon to arise out of yoga’s popularity.
Among the many vendors showcasing were those selling clothing (from the fancy to the flashy to the eco-chic), jewelry (your mat better be flossy!), vegan snacks and supplements, palm readers and mystics (self realization only gets you so far, folks), wonder energy drinks (I found a new drink called Guru — insert eye roll here), crystals, essential oils (my personal favorite!), tools for physical therapy, and lots more.
The hidden gem weaved into the enthusiastic chaos was a company touting Orgasmic Meditation (cleverly ordained “OM” for short). Any type of meditation is great, but teach people to connect their mind to their bodies in a way that is primal, curious, slightly taboo and all around fascinating says they’re on to something good.
Probably the best offering the expo provided was a full schedule of classes throughout the eight-hour day. Eighty classes, lectures and workshops were held at eight times in 10 different rooms. However, the event was so full that each room filled beyond capacity, forcing many to find another class outside of their interest or experience level, often being left with no class at all.
Overall, the expo serves as a way to welcome the public into the beautifully weird cocktail yoga has become, and any exposure to yoga is certainly better than none. But here is where the expo fell short and could improve for next year:
~ Students practicing in the large lobby space were monitored by one teacher — at times a very adept instructor, and at others a little less so). Many fell out of poses they were unsafely attempting, forcing them to collide into the person next to them. The expo needed more assistants, or to get rid of the large class in general.
~ Stagger the schedule to help remedy the over crowded nature. No one wants to practice reiki with someone’s ass adorning their elbow.
~ The emphasis was on consumerism — sell sell sell, looking the part and fitting into a mold. In truth, the actual practice of yoga is antithetical to all of that. It’s a life-long, hard-as-hell, often dark, heavy and ugly practice that ultimately leads to true metamorphosis and authentic growth. You don’t have to perfect a handstand, believe in astrology, eat a vegan diet or wear a certain brand of clothing. The expo could’ve used a few more details that better appreciated the essence of yoga and the thousands of hard-working teachers.
Bottom line: check it out, but with a sense of humor and a grain of salt. It’s a bit of an introvert’s nightmare, so bring a loved one and see how it tickles your fancy. And find a local yoga studio and teachers you love, and practice!
The Yoga Expo will hold events all over the country in 2016 and will return to L.A. in December.
Note: Attendance to The Yoga Expo was complimentary. All photos courtesy of The Yoga Expo.