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I Tried It: Free Yoga

Courtney Lund, 27, Pacific Beach

I’m on a tight budget. I’m saving for my wedding this summer, trying my best to stay zen and not turn into a Bridezilla. Yoga has always helped me find an open heart, clear mind, and stretched body. I decided to look for free or donation-based yoga classes. In San Diego, I found there’s at least one happening every day of the week.

The first place I discovered is the Bergamot Spa in Encinitas. It is packed with Buddha heads and bamboo, succulents, and plumeria. The instructor turns on a portable plastic fireplace to heat the yoga room. Jimi Hendrix plays on low, and we start on our backs in Shavasana. By the time the two-hour class is over, I am so sore I can barely walk to my car.

The next day, I opt for Laughter Yoga. I meet the class in Balboa Park, south of the playground at Spruce Street and Sixth Avenue. We stand in a circle and warm up by laughing. I have never felt so awkward. By the end of the class, though, I’m laughing naturally with them. “Laughter gives us a different way to react to the things life throws at us,” says Michael Coleman, founder of the nonprofit Laughter Matters. I leave the class feeling like nothing could awaken the Bridezilla inside me.

“The yoga is not too challenging and I leave with a tan.”

On day three I drag my mat to the beach for yoga with Namasteve, a local P.B. celebrity. The grass where he teaches every weekend at the end of Law Street is packed with more than 100 yogis.

On the fourth day of my yogic journey, I am craving some furry companionship. On Facebook, I find Sara, who teaches Puppy Yoga behind the Ocean Villa Inn, for some gentle Hatha yoga. The class takes place in O.B.’s dog park. On this day, it’s just the instructor’s Chihuahua. The yoga is not too challenging, and I leave with a tan.

On day five, I visit a class taught by Lauren, who is part of One Love Yoga, an online community that lists free and donation-based classes throughout the city. Inside the Swedenborgian Church in University Heights, we practice Vinyasa with Ashtanga inspiration in the downstairs hall. No organ here—the instructor has chosen a mellow playlist. Still, I feel as if I’ve had a kind of spiritual experience.

On the second-to-last day, I head to Lorna Jane in La Jolla for a free booty yoga class, which works the abs and core. The clothing store has its own private studio, with free classes offered every day. Luckily, there is no pressure to shop, nor mention of merchandise. 

On the final day, I drive to Yoga One on Seventh Avenue, downtown. The place has a natural om vibe. The room is dark, with candles and smells of cinnamon and honey. The free weekly Candlelight Flow class is soothing and relaxing for my body and mind. As I leave my final class, I take a deep inhale and think about this journey. Great things in life can be found at little to no cost at all. Namaste.

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