Like a lot of you, I first came to yoga because my friends were so annoyingly persistent about talking me into trying it. I was living in Venice (almost the Western Mecca of the yoga revolution), it was 1995, and I was heavily involved in the West African dance community. Quite frankly, there was no way to avoid yoga. I was doomed from the start.
Back then, the idea of sitting still (which is what I then thought yoga was all about) held about as much appeal as, well, being bored. At the same time, I had always harbored a deep reverence for and interest in the things that make a life extraordinary. Somehow, something inside me knew that yoga, and possibly even sitting still, just might be one of those things. So I started looking. I took classes everywhere. At the beginning, many of them didn’t resonate with me…as in, I didn’t like them. At all. But again, somehow I still knew there was something important here and I wanted to know what it was. So I kept looking. Then a friend introduced me to Steve Ross and his fabulously fun, flowing, loud, happy, kick-butt Vinyasa classes. A bunch of us affectionately called it rock-n-roll yoga, and I loved it. The music took my mind away from its chatter and moved me into a place of joy and stillness, and the difficulty of the class meant I could actually lie still at the end because I was so dang tired. About a year later, I met the inspiring Max Strom. His combination of focus on breath, deep devotion to ethics, sense of humor, authenticity to self and, yes, music, really spoke to me. I started studying with him regularly, completing his teacher training programs as well as other advanced studies. Max is one of those rare and wonderful teachers who so clearly lives in the way he teaches. All these years later, Max is not only still my teacher but has become a dear and trusted friend. I owe him so much. Yoga is, to me, the continuing process of opening the heart through opening the body, of exactly who we most truly are, is the person our world needs most. We don’t need to balance on one hand. We don’t need to touch our toes. We just need to let ourselves be what we already are. The idea of Groove Yoga came about as a happy accident. I had moved from Los Angeles up to a part of Northern California where I couldn’t find a single Vinyasa class. There was plenty of yoga, but it all seemed mellow and sleepy to me. The town itself seemed mellow and sleepy. If ever a town needed rock-n-roll yoga, this was it. I had been certified through Max’s school, but had never intended to teach. Now, however, something changed. This was the place, and this was the time. I wanted to mix the fun, the flow, and the music of a rockin’ Vinyasa class with the heart and depth of a sweet, internal meditation. I wanted to make playlists filled with music I loved, even if it wasn’t traditional yoga music. I also wanted to be sure the people who found my class were people who wanted that type of music and practice, so I came up with the name Groove Yoga so people would know to expect something different. The name was originally intended merely to let people know I played a different type of music, but it came to mean much more. It came to mean practicing with a deep intention of self-kindness to a mix of music made with great care and love to follow the arc of the class and create community, music picked with great attention to not just the rhythm and feel of the piece but to the lyrics and emotional resonance as well. The music became another teacher in the room with me, and a spectacularly good one at that. The name Groove Yoga also came to mean a class where people felt like they could be exactly who they were in exactly the body they had. If you need (or want) to modify or change the practice, wonderful! If you want to rest in Savasana the whole class and just be there to soak in the vibe (believe me, it’s happened) or if you want to go deeper and really challenge yourself with additional poses, great! Most of all, Groove Yoga became a place to have fun and feel good. And I couldn’t have asked for it to become anything better than that. One thing led to another, and in 2008 I co-founded Om Shala Yoga, a premier yoga studio with 20 teachers, massage, sauna, and boutique. I loved owning the studio and I loved the community that grew up around it, but I never stopped missing Venice Beach. So in 2011, I sold the studio to my partners and moved home (whoo-hoo!). Now I teach at Yoga Nest Venice, two blocks from my apartment and in the heart of the city I love. Yoga has given me so many gifts. One of the biggest ones is, in fact, the ability to sit quietly in one place (my mother is still amazed at this one). Another is the continual growth and abundance of, quite simply, love. Whoever you are, whatever body you currently inhabit — with all its quirks and issues — you don’t need to transform into anything but what you already are. Really. It’s exactly right.
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Enamored with how yoga can remind us of who we most truly are, Lori infuses her classes with a heartfelt joy for being alive, intelligent sequencing, philosophies of kindness, and eclectic, soaring soundtracks. She has studied with her primary teacher, Max Strom, since 1996, has also trained with Erich Schiffmann and Sherry Brourman, and is happily indebted to her first teacher, Steve Ross, for showing her you were allowed to turn up the music and laugh during yoga. She now teaches at Yoga Nest Venice and, occasionally, up in Arcata when she goes to visit. In the rest of her life, Lori is a fiction writer with an MPA (Masters of Professional Writing) from USC. She has studied ballroom, jazz, Brazilian and West African dance, worked as a marine biologist and expedition leader on a boat, booked music and slung coffee in a Hollywood coffeehouse/nightclub, and taught science and language arts (the subject formerly known as English) to countless kids. She is the founder of Yoga:edit, offering editing services for the yoga community. And she’s really, really happy to be home in Venice.