I can’t help but wonder, when gazing upon pictures of Madonna’s sinewy limbs or Christy Turlington’s perfect ass to muster some positive energy for my yoga debut, why I didn’t cast off my gym membership and chant myself to chiseldom long ago. After all, it’s not like the secret to Madge, Christy, and millions of women around the world’s flawless figures and centered psyches is much of a secret. As bestial as the downward facing dog looks and as silly as the sun salutation sounds, yoga is emphatically an exercise that, well, works.
Fortunately for me, my first time wouldn’t require moaning in a room full of sweaty strangers. I left the legions of yoga studios in Los Angeles behind and headed to the hills—to the White Lotus Yoga Center in Santa Barbara where guru Ganga White was to give me a lesson. In the ’60s, White was among the original instructors, and with 40 years of teaching the likes of Sting and Muhammad Ali, he’s just published Yoga Beyond Belief.
“I want to inspire people and show them how to do 'their' yoga, instead of just learning how to practice someone else's yoga," he says. White Lotus seems as good a place as any—with private kivas (circular ritual rooms), on-site yurts (teepee-type alcoves), and an outdoors swathed with apricot trees, waterfalls, and shaman caves culling yoga aficionados from as far away as Taiwan and Africa for some peace, quiet, and White’s easygoing approach.
On the mats, White is not at all as intimidating as I expected, considering his repertoire. He’s an expert in all things yoga, but his MO is more like, he says, “stepping on sacred cows”, or taking seeds from the vast history of yoga but weeding out what is no longer applicable. Before I know it, I’m breathing deeper and bending it, well, beyond belief
. "The asanas, or poses", White says, "are similar to 'standing waves' in nature like water going over rocks, which can channel a great deal of energy.” While I don’t imagine my reaching for the sky, inflating my chest, and lunging in warrior stance looks the least bit wave-like, I am, admittedly, pretty energized. And later, my drive back through the L.A. smog is somehow sunnier than usual.whitelotus.org