We had the good fortune of connecting with Erica Morton Magill & Spiros Antonopoulos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erica & Spiros, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
In the creation of our yoga shala, books played a vastly important role. And literature and words continue to shape us, our ways of thinking, and our imagining: our community. Our work. We named our umbrella organisation, Ardor Yoga Lab, after a favorite book—Ardor, a dense tome by Roberto Calasso—that explores the sparse remains of Vedic culture—its alchemy, intonations and magic as gestures of mind, rhythm and sacrifice, various forms of heat. Soma. Marco Vassi’s Lying Down: The Horizontal Worldview was also instrumental for us, as we shaped a yoga school based on breath, energy and focus rather than on idealized end shapes, or aspirational yoga bodies. Vassi writes, “More than anything else we need, as a species, to heal ourselves, and to let the Earth heal from our predations. We need to dismantle all our unnecessary and excessive vertical structures or let them decay from disuse — our hierarchies, competitions, skyscrapers, thrones, missiles. We need to get out of the way of the Way and let pure intelligence flow through unobstructed organisms and uncongested cultures. We are poised between breakthrough and breakdown, and we are exhausted from maintaining that stance. It is time that we lie down.” This idea that lying down (and by extension rest) is revolutionary, nuanced and dynamic, felt incredibly important to us as space holders. As teachers and studio owners, we aim to create non-hierarchical communities of support and consent that diverge from the deified guru model and also the yoga-as-fitness model. Practice, for us, is a compass; a guiding force; a daily rhythm that supports us from the ground up. This ethos drove us to hold a community gathering following the cascading #metoo allegations in the yoga world. Instead of turning a blind eye, or dropping out entirely, we turned to Donna Haraway, anthropologist, feminist and consciousness studies explorer, whose book “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene,” emphasizes collectivity, connectivity, and community problem solving. Since reading her work, we’ve been seeing yoga lineage and tradition as a string figure model, rather than a vertical stack – which has opened us up to creative and new ways of thinking and responding. Rather than viewing lineage as a top-down, single-threaded strand, we’re imagining it as an evolving, woven process, that makes space for new connections, alliances and ways forward. In this way, “lineage” is not stagnant and predictable. Rather, it is a co-creative, multi-stranded, unpredictable, and dynamic storytelling device that will continue to evolve, shift, and take shape the more we listen, learn and share, the more we expand to include all our kin. We, as Lost Angels Yoga Club, are always reading, evolving aiming to widen our circles, and our knowledges.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We’ve always been a bit business shy, preferring to focus on the practice and sharing of yoga. Having a business has therefore invited us into uncomfortable spaces, asking us to cozy up to what we don’t know, particularly in the areas of accounting and marketing. Though challenging at first, this is what yoga is all about: sitting in the fire of discomfort, and emerging transformed. This is in many ways what the COVID crisis is teaching us too: how do we sit with the uncertainty, the fear, and the grief? Alongside the rest of the world, and in concert with our community, we are learning, growing and evolving as a business and as business owners. In fact it has been an important moment for us to re-evaluate our work from the inside out and it has afforded us the opportunity to collaborate with friends and fellow teachers in a unique virtual way, as well as to teach folx from around the globe without geographical limits. We believe that magic lies in rhythm, and the spaces in between, so as practitioners of yoga and business we seek out the interstices, and stay with the trouble. Good trouble, as John Lewis reminds us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We always take visitors to any of LA’s incredible parks. The fact that there is so much open space in the middle of the city is a blessing. Folx are always surprised when we lead them to Dante’s View in Griffith Park, where on a clear day you can see the ocean to the West, and snow-capped mountains to the East. Debs Lake is a treat, particularly when schools of turtles are swimming about. The Wisdom Tree is an inspiring stop, while the Hollywood & Silverlake Reservoirs make for nice loops. Elysian Park on a sunny day is the perfect picnic spot. When we need a pick-me-up, we’re pretty loyal to Dinosaur Coffee in Silverlake or Woodcat in Echo Park. And Ys Plz Coffee comes to us from Echo Park via USPS each week Covid-friendly style! Ramen Hood, MHZH, Botanica and Manuela are standout restaurants that are vegan and vegetarian friendly which is super important to us and many of our guests. Manuela has the added bonus of being couched inside of the Hauser and Wirth complex, so we can take visitors on a tour of the galleries – their shows are often interesting and thought provoking. The Underground Museum, the Vista Theatre, and if you can find a magician, The Magic Castle are some of our favorite cultural stops. Zebulon hosts our favorite musical performances around, but if friends prefer to peruse records then Mount Analog as an imaginal and aural zone is well worth a visit. For the readers that come to stay we steer them to the main library downtown for its architectural majesty, and its mind boggling number of books. The Last Bookstore is a complementary bibliophile haven and their events are worth leaving the house for (or zooming into). Skylight Books in Los Feliz also regularly hosts favorite and celebrated authors.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The City of Angels has been instrumental in shaping us, our business and our ethos. We honor and acknowledge the people, the land, the history and the light of LA that allowed us to shape LA Yoga Club into its current iteration. We have deep gratitude to our teachers (human and non) who have walked before us and shared their knowledge with us, and to the amazing beings we walk and practice beside each day.
Other: The LAYC Almanac comes out on the new and full moons and can be read here: http://layc.substack.com
Martha Weir and Jesse Gordon