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Hidden Yoga

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

You have options for yoga in Los Angeles: (A) You can take classes at the gym, in a glass-encased room with a newbie instructor more focused on fitness than fulfillment (and prone to excessive alliteration), where people will inevitably be watching you through the plate-glass windows. (B) You can take classes at a Big Famous Studio, where they cut you a deal (80 classes for $20!), push you out the door before you’ve rolled up your mat and leave you isolated and yearning in the city. Among the implicit guarantees is that none of their classes will ever bring you any sense of community or belonging. You will never go out as a class for martinis — or even coffee. (C) Find yourself a small, spiritually lighted place, where one of the 10 best instructors in town holds forth for a tiny and loyal following, and invites you all to breakfast at the Farmers Market after.

Obviously, the third option is the only one for you. But how to achieve it? Below are three places to start:

1. Tanya Beilke’s community classes at Bala Yoga. Tanya practices Anusara Yoga, a method evolved from Iyengar by John Friend of Houston, Texas, and you will not find more precision, patience or devotion in a yoga teacher anywhere in Los Angeles County. Her class is a place to go to straighten your crooked spine, sturdy your wobbly handstand or otherwise set straight your roiling brain. Class begins with a guided meditation that will, for at least 90 blessed minutes, set your mind free from replaying scenes from last night’s bad date. Classes are donation only. 145 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 939-6424, balayoga.net or info@balayoga.net.

2. Ross Rayburn’s classes at Yoga Inside Out. You won’t find Yoga Inside Out’s tiny second-floor studio unless someone tells you it’s there. But when you do find it, and crawl in exhausted from a week of your boss looking over your shoulder and bushwhacking through traffic, someone will be sitting at the desk happy to see you. Often it will be Ross himself, the studio’s owner, who, if he’s met you once or twice, three or five years ago, will remember not only your name but what hurt so bad that it brought you to yoga in the first place. Following Ross’s lead, other students will straggle in and greet you, whether they know you or not, and when you set up your mat in the studio’s small, orderly room, fellow students will make room for you. Sometimes, on a rare and rainy Sunday morning, the teacher holds class for the people who call to say they’ll be late. But all this is just a prelude to a fun-centered yoga class that may very well fix that trick knee, realign that ornery shoulder or simply make you happy. Ross has an understanding of both anatomy and the human spirit that borders on psychic. 8741 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 855-YOGA (9642), yogainsideout.com or info@yogainsideout.com.

3. Chris Chavez, at home or in the park. On the first day of sixth grade, Chris Chavez told his class he could run six miles. His teacher, then, made him do it. And he did, counting off one agonizing 440-yard segment after the next until he finished. He learned that the body can do more than the mind thinks it can. At his yoga class, held in his home at various times through the week, you will hold poses until your knees tremble, bend until your vertebrae surrender and try mightily to press up from a forward bend into a handstand. Best of all, you will like it. Chavez might kick your ass, but he’ll always make you laugh. Chris is also an excellent musician, and often accompanies your savasana on guitar. Classes often fill up or overflow, so contact him for times and other details at chris@chrischavez.com.