Laurel Canyon Insider: A Yoga Teacher's Urban Retreat

Yoga teacher Joseph Van Arsdale tells us why Laurel Canyon is the perfect, peaceful, Los Angeles oasis to call home.

Name: Joseph Van Arsdale

Age: 30

Occupation: Certified Hatha yoga yeacher, blogger

Neighborhood: Laurel Canyon

Abode: One-bedroom apartment

How long have you lived in Laurel Canyon? Five years
What do you love most about your neighborhood? That it is completely sheltered from the city life. At night it's so quiet, it seems quieter than the farm in Maryland I grew up on.

Do you talk to your neighbors?
Oh, yes! I have great neighbors who you want to talk to and know. Two neighbors have been up here for more than 40 years; they are treasures. My younger neighbors are interesting and unique, mostly creative people. It's nice because only a certain number of people can live in the area, so it keeps it intimate.

Best Kept Secret in Laurel Canyon?
People often think that I live in a tree house, so I think it's the feeling of being in the forest, in the trees, because it's a canyon. Even in the (Hollywood) Hills it doesn't have that same dark, sheltered feeling. The Laurel Canyon Country Store is a little store and it is a treasure trove of historic facts and community- and of course all the staples you need for the house.

Why would a yoga teacher pick this part of town? Being a yoga teacher I spend most of my day in a quiet setting, either someone's home or a quiet studio, and there's a lot of meditation involved. So, when looking for an area to live in I was drawn to match that, which is what Laurel Canyon offers. It's quiet, meditative and when I practice my yoga that's very important. I wouldn't want to be in an urban area, or any area that's loud or congested.

Most people in cities do live in loud areas. How can people use yoga in their busy city lives?
My number one suggestion is to go against your intuition. You think you need bells or chanting music, basically something to cover up the sound of the street, but the best is to cover the windows and don't add any other meditation music. The less music the better. As Mr. Iyengar said, when you practice yoga the best way to think of it is as a student at the desk. When a student is engrossed in his paper, he can't hear the noise in the street, it goes away. Don't add any more noise. You have that quiet forest setting anywhere, it's all about you.

Do you ever consider moving?
I am drawn to a warmer environment, like Hawaii, where there is not even a winter like there is sometimes in L.A. So I toy with going to a warmer spot, yes. But in L.A., Laurel Canyon has a unique bohemian feel to it and it's quiet, so it's the best spot for me.

Yoga tips? Look for classes that don't contain music. Don't be tricked into liking those classes with music because it actually destroys your practice. At the end of savasana you are to be calm, so look for a practice without music. It's important not to stimulate your body for an hour in that way.
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