Sara Falugo, owner of Yoga Nest Venice, prepares for her next pose.
By Solange Castro
Yoga teacher Ally Hamilton kicks up into a beautiful handstand on a recent weekday at Yogis Anonymous in Santa Monica.
“This may not happen today,” she tells a class of about a dozen men and women trying to perform variations of the move. “But just play with it.”
Hamilton, who began teaching yoga in West LA more than a decade ago, said she’s noticed an obvious surge in new studios in recent years. While the area’s long held a reputation as a mecca for health and fitness, less than 10 years ago, yoga was still somewhat of a fledgling activity.
“More people are looking for something deeper,” Hamilton says. “When I came out here in 2001 there wasn’t a ton of yoga on the Westside. It’s definitely over the past ten years that it’s exploded in relation to the level of interest.”
These days you can follow the trails of women in ubiquitous “yoga pants” with rolled up mats and it invariably leads to new yoga studios that have popped up with a density rivaling coffee shops in some neighborhoods. No one keeps exact numbers, but a cursory search on Yelp brings up 222 studios in West LA, not including classes offered at gyms.
Sara Falugo, owner of Yoga Nest Venice, said she’s not only noticed a trend towards more yoga studios, but an increased sense of community that makes studios more than a place to stretch and get centered.
“More and more people want to feel known,” Falugo says. “People are really hungry for something unique.”
While the Yoga Nest has only been in business for a few years, Falugo has been successful in drawing students from the local community.
“I don’t feel any competition,” Falugo says. “I think people are going to find their home. They’re going to find the studio that resonates with them. So I don’t need to compete or worry that somebody else is going to take my customers.”
Unlike gyms, the higher consciousness-seeking nature of yoga lends itself to a personal experience and many studios strive to create a welcoming atmosphere.
“I think every studio has its own heartbeat, its own personality and vibe,” Hamilton says. “It usually has a lot to do with the person that opens the studio and what they represent. They’re all different. And there are a lot of great places for someone living in Los Angeles. It’s one of the perks.”
Sara Falugo of Yoga Nest
While the mental and physical benefits of yoga have always been an intrinsic part of her teaching, Hamilton’s vision for Yogis Anonymous goes beyond instruction in the class.
“I want to build a community,” she says.
With that goal in mind Yogis Anonymous hosts events and other non-yoga related activities, including a “movie night” in which the studio hosts a screening of a film followed by a talk with the director.
“It’s a way students can get to know the other people in class,” says Hamilton.
Beginning yoga students have a vast range of options in West LA, a fact that can prove overwhelming for those wanting to test the waters for the first time.
“It’s a good idea to try different places and see what feels like a fit,” Hamilton says. “You want to feel like you’ve found a home where, at least a few times a week, you feel like you’re being cared for. You’re not just a number. “
Most studios offer an affordable introductory rate that allows potential students the chance to try classes before investing a sizeable amount of money.
“I think more and more you’re going to see community studios opening,” says Falugo of Yoga Nest. “The Yoga Works of the world will always be there, and you will always have your superstar teachers. But more and more people want to feel loved, safe, respected and honored.”
She said it’s not uncommon for students from The Yoga Nest to go out to dinner after class. “I have seen so many friendships form through this studio,” she says. “I think there’s going to be more and more of this.”