More yoga dangers: When yogis invade your gentrified public park

We’ve pointed you toward the Sinister Yogi article that otherwise is a great review of the new Smithsonian yoga exhibit and to the problem of yoga’s being too New Agey, but here’s another yoga danger:

Yogis in your nice public park.

It seems that some residents of Los Angeles’ gentrified and hip Echo Park — which, despite what some people will tell you, isn’t on the Eastside of Los Angeles but is actually north and west of Downtown (try Boyle Heights if you want some authentic Eastside food and culture) — are upset that a yoga class has set up in the recently reopened park by the Echo Park Lake. Here’s how the Eastsider (which covers my parenthetical rant about places in LA on its site) sees things:

Since the lake and park reopened to the public this summer, one of the few relatively flat grassy areas of the park near the corner of Echo Park and Park avenues has hosted Yoga Echo Park, a series of regularly scheduled day and evening classes organized by instructor Steven Arcos.


But are these yoga classes, which has attracted 25 students, taking up too much room? On the Echo Elysian Forum, one resident observed that a “good sized hunk of the northeast lawn” had been taken over by the class:


The yoga classes are not part of a city’s Recreation & Parks Department program  but it’s not clear if permits are needed.  As others have noted, the city’s Recreation and Parks Department often requires permits for private group activities.  The Eastsider has contacted Arcos for details about the classes and about the permit issue.

Arcos does not charge for the classes but there is “a minimum $5 donation suggested,” according to his Facebook page.

Arcos, in a response to the Eastsider’s email, notes that he grew up in the area and remembers when the park was a hangout for gangs and that part of his intent is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

But still. There’s an average, apparently, of 20 yogis in the class, taking up prime park real estate. The horror, right?

There seems to be two issues bubbling here, especially if you take the time to read through the comments. They are:

  1. Whether someone should be making money while using public space (without a permit, especially). If you are firm on this line, then the comparisons of the yoga class to swap meets and food vendors might be valid. Or, as some are calling all three: illegal pop ups. (It’s about time there are pop-up yoga studios, right?) There then are issues of fair business competition (if this class stealing students from nearby yoga studios?), loss of revenue to the city especially for a business that is explicitly using city property (no taxes are being collected is the guess) and, my favorite, the threat of a “yoga gang” taking over the park (most likely a tongue-in-cheek concern, but you never know!).
  2. Whether people have too much time on their hands and will just complain about anything that annoys them even mildly. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s the case.

Let this tale be a warning to all of our readers in places like Brooklyn, Madison and Arlington. First come your fancy coffee houses, next come your wandering gangs of yogis.

Now then, to avoid being accused of just offering up the blog equivalent of empty calories, I point you toward Tim Miller’s latest blog post, all about Indra (a sinister yogi?) and a fine blurb for the latest Ram Dass book:

It is a tribute to his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who passed from his body 40 years ago, but who is still very much alive in Ram Dass. Krishna Das does a program with Ram Dass in Maui every December. I recently asked K.D. how the old guy was doing. He said, “His body is a wreck but his spirit is beautiful. He’s finally become the guy we always thought he was.” It’s a beautiful book, the best one yet.

That’s saying something, right, with Be Here Now on that list. I wonder, though, if that seminal tome feels a bit dated today. It is very much of the ’60s.

Posted by Steve