The term “wellness” doesn’t always have the best reputation. These days, it comes tied to all sorts of associations, both good and bad. On the negative side, the spectrum ranges from meaningless marketing mumbo jumbo to pure snake oil. Still, plenty of people build their entire routine around the concept. My personal opinion? Striving to improve one’s mental, physical, and spiritual state is a worthy goal, and bears investigation.
Over the past months I’ve gone on my own wellness journey. Researching, testing, and now writing about my favorite ways to incorporate wellness into daily life using what’s around me here in Los Angeles. In this guide, I highlight ways to awakens your senses, reset your mind and give your body some special attention. If that sounds like something you’re in need of, read on.
Mindful Meditation with the Hammer
Every week The Hammer hosts a 30 minute class led by instructors at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, conducted over Zoom. Over 200 people joined during my recent session and it was not just limited to folks in Los Angeles. I saw logins from Chicago, Maine, New Mexico, and even Brazil. It opens with a meditation prompt, and concludes with a few blissful gongs signaling you to open your eyes.
I am not a meditator by nature, but this session gave me a different perspective on the practice. Rather than ritualistic chanting or recitation of mantra, mindful meditation can include just sitting still and not letting thoughts take over the moment, which was how I approached the session. Afterward I noticed myself in a much calmer state for the rest of the day. The experience gave me pause, prompting me to research the benefits of meditation, and consider whether I ought to make it a part of my daily routine.
Made possible by an anonymous donor, The Hammer’s Mindful Meditation is free to the public and held every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. There’s also pre recorded sessions from the past that can be accessed at MARC (Mindful Awareness Research Center.) Get more info here.
Sometimes just being a beautiful environment is enough to change your state of mind. In that respect, L.A.’s botanic garden spaces offer a way to incorporate wellness (and some sun) into your life. But if you are looking for something more event driven, you’ll also find ticketed programming, from yoga to special dog walking days.
The Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Garden offers morning as well as evening Yoga in the Garden for $20 per person. They also offer sound baths on select days for $17 per person. If you are in need of some laughs but also some stretching, consider Goat Yoga. The one hour session includes 45 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes for photos. Tickets for Goat Yoga cost $45 per person. All events mentioned can be found on the arboretum’s calendar of events.
Descanso Gardens offer a variety of yoga sessions from yoga for balance to yoga for bone strength. Each class includes a 25 minute garden walk. Classes range from $20 to $58 and can be found in their monthly calendar page.
Taking a walk is a nice and easy way to destress. And for dog owners the South Coast Botanic Garden hosts Dog walking days monthly on their 87 acre space. General admission is $15 per adult, $11 per senior, $5 per child and $5 per dog.
Wellness Studios & Workout Classes
Over the course of the summer I had the chance to “test drive” a number of local fitness studios and classes. Below are the ones that really stood out, followed by a few free ideas if you’re trying to stay on budget.
Reset your intentions and quite your mind through a number of restorative services at Santa Monica’s IntoMeSea. Recharge with a soak inside a crystal bathtub, detox in a red-light sauna or float your way to serenity inside one of their signature float suites. I highly recommend experiencing the float if you have trouble letting go, surrendering and lighten the heaviness that sometimes come with life. IntoMeSea also hosts workshops, events and community gatherings in their Labyrinth that can include yoga, gong bath and lunar specific events. Prices vary, with some services starting at $33 and workshops at $22. IntoMeSea also offers a number of promotions each month.
Earlier this year I took a Wim Hof breathwork lesson with certified instructor Joey Hauss. The session concluded with taking a two-minute ice plunge. It was intense. But I applied the breathing techniques to regulate my nervous system and literally breath away the discomfort. From that day on I continued exposing myself to cold environments.
About a month later I stopped into Pause Studio for a cryo session inside their Arctic Chamber, which reaches temperatures of -140 °F to -220 °F. Again, an intense experience. I felt like I was standing in a wind storm half naked, but I applied my breath work techniques and survived. So why put myself through it?
Enthusiasts claim the benefits of cold exposure include muscle recovery, tighter skin and a boost of energy. Right now, the hard science to back up those claims appears to be growing slower than the popularity of the application, but there is evidence that cold exposure reduces inflammation and helps regulate metabolism.
Personally, the cryo instilled in me a mental clarity and confidence I can do anything. At Pause Studio a cryo session cost $40 and you’re monitored the entire time. Other services include IV drips, full body LED light therapy, floating and sauna.
Founded in Washington D.C. [solidcore] expanded to Los Angeles in 2022 introducing Angelenos to a new type of pilates designed for maximum exhaustion and muscle break down to rebuild a stronger you. The 50 minute sessions takes place on a machine named “sweatlana” fully equipped with dumbbells and cables. While pilates is a low impact workout, at [solidcore] the moves are high intensity. The first time I took a class my body was sore for days. As I committed to showed up, I became more confidant on the machine focusing on the movements versus how I compared to the rest of the class. After my fifth visit, my body recovered much faster. My core and arms were stronger than ever. [solidcore] taught me to trust the process, be open to hard things and the consistent practice of difficult tasks build you up to not only to be physically stronger but mentally too. Single classes cost $39, with package and member options that start at $136.
I enjoy classes versus a basic gym atmosphere. I also get bored with workouts easily. If that sounds like you too, consider a membership at TruFusion, where the sheer amount of workout classes kept my mind guessing and my body moving.
Opened in 2022, this is the first Los Angeles location of TruFusion. The members only “fitness sanctuary” offers both heated and unheated group workout classes led by a roster of high caliber coaches. Personally I recommend the Tru Boxing, Strength Circuit and Candlelight Yin + Sound Bath classes. The locker rooms are really nice too, equipped with squeaky clean showers and amenities such as blowdryers, hair ties, razors and shower products. A three pack of classes for first timers cost $59, one class cost $45 per visit, and a monthly membership can cost between $169 to $249.
Feeling pissed off lately? You know, like you need to hit something? Punch it out at Previal. You even get to spar with another human. Be nice to your classmate though and instead take your real stress out on an actual punching bag. Designed like a circuit class, the sessions offer a full body circuit workout, with gear like wraps and gloves available for rent. Classes cost $35 for a single session with several packages that start at $99.
A Few Free Ideas…
I get that not everyone has hundreds of extra dollars to burn each month on a new gym membership or individual classes. But take heart knowing there are plenty of free yoga classes and fitness groups that recur weekly/monthly/seasonally around Los Angeles. Here are a couple ideas to point you in the right direction:
- On the last Saturday of every month (usually), the Santa Monica Mountains Fund hosts a free “Yoga on the Mountain” session at King Gillette Ranch, featuring chill vibes and live acoustic music. Check the SaMo Fund calendar to see the upcoming dates and RSVP via Eventbrite.
- Once a month The Wallis in Beverly Hills hosts Sunday Funday an outdoor family friendly event that includes kid friendly entertainment and dance instruction from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Each month is a different type of dance which can include salsa, jazz, African, vogue to hip hop. Currently Sunday Funday runs October 2022 to June 2023.
- In the spring time, Grand Park does bi-weekly (Wednesday + Friday) yoga sessions on the lawn of the park around lunch time. If you live or work in DTLA, could be the perfect way to break up your day. The 2022 schedule ran April to June, so keep an eye out.
- The California African American Museum hosts (usually) monthly yoga classes led by yoga/meditation instructor Constance Hartwell. Totally beginner friendly.
- The DTLA Running Group has been around for years, organizing meetups around routes in and around Downtown. The current schedule is Tuesdays and Thursdays. The group also has an informative Instagram page with meet up announcements and maps of routes.
- Saturday Stairs is a fitness community that meets at the Hollywood Bowl every Saturday at 8 a.m. All levels are welcome but be prepared to run up hills and stairs.
- November Project Los Angeles hosts free workouts every Wednesday at 6:15 a.m. right in front of the Griffith Observatory. All levels are welcome.
Hiking & Walking
Nothing clears the head like a proper walk, and contrary to popular belief, there are tons of places to enjoy on two feet in L.A., and lots of people do it! We recently created a walking guide series called L.A. on Foot that takes you around the city hitting up spots that include the Silver Lake Reservoir, L.A. River Path, or the Santa Monica Stairs.
If you want something more challenging, consider a hike. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have over 4,000 acres of land, criss-crossed by trails, sitting smack dab in the middle of our city. During the pandemic, Griffith Park offered my partner and I a respite and a welcome sense of normalcy even as the world seemed like it was being tipped over sideways. I especially like some of the man-made gardens and lookout points throughout Griffith, such as Captains Roost or Amir’s Garden.
I don’t consider myself a hiking expert, but Modern Hiker founder Casey Schreiner is, and he has authored two excellent guide books I recommend, one for Day Hiking in Los Angeles and another for Discovering Griffith Park. We use both often, and both are available in ample supply at Los Angeles Public Libraries if you prefer to try before you buy.
Learning something new or making something with your hands is a great way to take a break from daily life. Maybe you are suffering from writer’s block or your mind is trapped in a negative feedback loop, focus your attention to something creative instead, even if it’s just for a few hours. Sometimes things fix themselves when you step away from it.
Makers Mess offers a variety of fun workshops including picnic basket weaving, tie dye, floral arranging to making a sweet collar for your pet. Workshops are offered in-person and virtual. Workshops are also a good way to catch up with friends or connect with other people.
Try your hand at pottery at Still Life Ceramics. Sit in front of a wheel to create a bowl or free hand a variety of objects like cups, vases and planters. Each class cost $60 and multi week classes that include making a dinnerware set can cost up to $225.
There is No One-Size-Fits-All
Even as the definition of “wellness” evolves over time, so too do the needs of the individuals who seek it out. We’re all different. We all have issues, many of them too big or too complex to be properly addressed here. You’ll need more than blog post advice to fix a marriage, find a better job, or face down a horrible boss. But I can remind you that details are important.
Maybe it’s something as small as finding a new podcast to reorient your mind (I’m a fan of Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic) or putting fresh eucalyptus over your shower head to invigorate your morning routine. My experience tells me that small steps taken repeatedly over time lead to big changes. On that account, I hope this guide sparks a bit of joy and helps you find your path.