From the designer duds to the specialty mats to the classes that can top out at $25 apiece, taking yoga can feel more like a bank breaker than a body bender. Here are ten quality yoga classes that are either free or donation-based (with low-to-no pressure to pitch in the full amount) so that you can stretch your limbs instead of your wallet.
One of LA’s most well-known yoga personalities, Kest has turned his two (1410 2nd St and 522 Santa Monica Blvd) by-donation Santa Monica studios into a powerhouse yoga community, with classes that regularly draw more than a hundred students (show up early!). No matter how large the class, the charismatic Kest draws everyone together, creating a collective sense of focus and intention that keeps students from all over town coming back. If you’re aiming for yoga posterity, hit the 4pm Saturday class at the 2nd Street studio—most are filmed for Power Yoga’s online channel.
• Suggested donation: $15
• Check website for class times
Get a side of Downtown history with your downward dog at Yoga Circle, which has been holding by-donation classes in the Old Bank District since 1999. The studio is located in the same building as Pete’s Café & Bar, one of the pioneers of the latest wave of Downtown renaissance. It’s also right next to the wildly popular Bäco Mercat, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to indulge after you cleanse in class. Another plus? The giant gong that's rung at the end of nearly every class, closing out your day’s practice with a harmonic hush.
• Suggested donation: $16
• Class times are subject to change, so check the website before you head over.
The best way to combine yoga and a trip to Malibu? By-donation Sunday morning yoga at Gladstone's, right on the PCH. Though it’s held in a private room in the restaurant, this is a Vinyasa Flow class that’s accessible to beginners, making it an equal draw for visitors who want a double dose of LA lifestyle and yoga girls who want to earn their brunch-time Bloody Mary. The restaurant, of course, encourages you to stay for breakfast (not free!) afterwards.
• By donation
• Classes are every Sunday at 9am
A warm, nonjudgmental operation (with locations in Studio City and West Hollywood), City Yoga’s free classes only happen a couple of times a month, but they’re excellent for those who are new or returning to the practice. Occasionally, there are free acupressure or meditation classes offered in lieu of the community yoga sessions. Dates and times vary so check the website for details.
• Classes announced a month in advance online
In a city of actor-model-waiters, Brad Keimach is an unusual multi-hyphenate: conductor-lecturer-yogi. This Julliard-trained conductor (he’s appeared at Carnegie Hall) teaches free yoga on the beach in Santa Monica every Saturday and Sunday, plus a special sunset class. His 90-minute class can attract up to 50 students a session, and he leads them through a slow and steady flow that may involve moving off the mats and into the waves.
• Minimum donation: $10
• Sat-Sun at 10:30am-12pm; sunset yoga, sunset yoga varies (check online each week for start time, as the sunset changes).
Here’s the way we like to do it: Enter Runyon Canyon from the butterfly gate off Vista Street, hike to Indian Rock via the narrow path that veers left just before the second gate, and follow the approximately 2.5-mile loop, descending just in time to join a yoga class at the east end of the park, in the grassy area by the Fuller Avenue entrance, where you can have a friend meet you with a yoga mat. This incredibly popular Hollywood hiking spot offers two to three free yoga classes a day—many taught by the founder of the program, the tough but friendly Yogi Steve.
• Classes are offered Mon-Fri at 8:45am, 10:30 am and 2pm; Sat-Sun at 10:30 am and 2pm
This cozy, stylish spot is in the middle of Echo Park’s mini-retail row, down from Tavin boutique and Cookbook food emporium. A two-room studio with at least one pay-what-you-can yoga class each weekday (including three Power Yoga sessions), Yogala is also something of a one-stop-shop for healing, with acupuncture, sound healing, chair massage, energetic bodywork and tarot readings, as well as a more literal kind of cleansing: a Matsana mat sanitizer that students can use for $1.
• Pay what you can
• See website for class times
Teachers from Long Beach’s Trilogy Yoga lead free classes every day of the week at Bluff Park, a gorgeous stretch of green that overlooks the Pacific. Classes at the studio itself are by donation, but these daily outdoor sessions are completely free as part of founder Dharma Shakti’s Yogalution movement to bring yoga to all. And she really does mean all: Toddlers abound at these classes, and there are occasionally canines in the mix, demonstrating what downward dog really means.
• Daily classes at 11am, plus an additional class Friday at 9am, are held at Ocean and Junipero Sts in Long Beach.
This ashram style studio in Santa Monica reaches beyond fitness to the more spiritual origins of yoga. Most of the classes are vinyasa flow, but Bhakti’s founders Govindas (née Ira Rosen) and wife Radha are also devotees of kirtan, a form of spiritual chanting, which often becomes a part of their classes. Instead of just the traditional harmonic "om" at the beginning or end of class, you might find yourself voicing Sanskrit mantras while flowing through a set of poses. The studio is a couple blocks from the beach, so you can continue your practice on the sand on warm days.
• Suggested donation: $10-15
• Check website for class schedule
Every single person in your yoga class is already wearing Lululemon pants; you might as well do yoga in the middle of their store! Led by experienced local teachers, and infused with the brand’s trademark quirky positivity (the exterior of their new Robertson store proclaims: Rock & Peace, Love & Dove, Hare Krishna You Groovy Cats), these classes accommodate yoga neophytes but are still challenging enough for the experienced. The only downside will be your increased desire for yet another pair of Lululemon bottoms.Read more