LA vs NYC: Yoga

Updated: Apr 18, 2018

The Elements that Make up the Perfect Practice in Each of these Distinct Cities

Pitting New York City and LA against one another is a divisive and passion-driven pursuit. But it’s hard to ignore the glaring differences between these two cities—and what if the answer to which is “better” is actually both? They each bring something to the table that the other does not. That holds true whether we’re talking about incredible restaurants, style, and even how they approach fitness. That’s why Furthermore is introducing a new series in which we explore a subject, in this case yoga, and how it’s unique in two disparate places. You can maintain your city pride, but you just might learn something valuable if you expand your horizons.

Sarah Girard began practicing yoga in Venice Beach, California when she was 14 years old. At the time, she had recently beat a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma. Diagnosed at the age of two, she lived her childhood in and out of the hospital. “Growing up with that sense of fragility of life really inspired me, and still does inspire me, to live each day, live each moment, as a gift,” she says. Ultimately, she went through yoga teacher training as a way to pass that message—that present—on to others.

Fourteen years later, at 28 years old, she felt a “massive calling” from the the opposite coast; from New York to be specific. “I saw the move as a way for me to begin again and to unlearn, to re-evaluate my relationship to yoga, to expose myself to a broader context and therefore to expand my practice of “union” more inclusively,” says Girard.

While teaching at studios including various Equinox locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Girard, now 33, noticed glaring differences between how yoga was practiced here—and how it was done back home in LA. “These fundamental variations stem from the very lifestyles the two cities encourage,” she says. “If yoga offers us a chance to balance out our habits inclusively, wouldn’t it make sense then for the practice to present the opposite qualities of the requirements to live in each city?”

For instance, New Yorkers walk everywhere—quickly—amidst the chaos of people (see: the Instagramming tourist about a minute into the video above) and noise. A slower, more structured yoga class can be the yin to their day-to-day yang. In LA, the car-bound lifestyle begs for more dynamic, energizing movement on the mat.

Even the weather affects the postures Girard says best befit each city. Bone-chilling cold on the east coast calls for the addition of supportive props. A block underhand during half moon can help not-yet-warm muscles ease into the pose, for example.

But don’t underestimate their abilities: blocks are not crutches. New Yorkers know they’re a means to furthering their practice. “Classes which resonate in NYC are ones with progressive sequencing toward a specific goal (i.e. upward-facing bow pose),” adds Girard. “It’s a city of high rises and goal setting; a place for climbing a ladder of your own design and achieving goals far beyond comprehension.” While New Yorkers quietly work towards long-term mastery, those in LA may be a little more… showy about it. “LA is influenced by the glamour of Hollywood so it’s common for a highly Instagram-able arm balance or inversion to be thrown into the sequence so that, with momentary mastery, we can show our followers,” says Girard, who posts her own impressive yogic feats.

Girard underscores that there are exceptions to these observations and of course, one city is not superior to the other when it comes to yoga. Instead she simply makes the case that LA dwellers can benefit from a yoga practice that takes a page from the way New Yorkers live their lives—and vice versa. In other words, since those who inhabit the California city experience a more laid-back, chill routine, their flow can be a bit more New York-like: It can be fast-paced and hyper-productive. New Yorkers live at that pace constantly—so their poses can help balance that out, and borrow some of the calmer vibes from LA. 

“I originally moved to NYC to gain something I wasn’t finding in LA. And in my search for satisfaction, I have started cultivating elements from each city to feed my hunger for inquiry and experience,” Girard says. “After all I’m a yogi: One who seeks connection after exploring and investigating opposition.”

For inspiration, watch as Girard flows through two unique yoga sequences in the split screen video above—one in NYC and one in LA. Then, scroll down to get two 20-minute flows. The first is for New Yorkers (or those who live their lives like them); it’s focused on supported postures and static holds. The second is for those on the west coast (or those who relate to that lifestyle); it’s focused on dynamic movement, creating strength in the legs and mobility through the front body.