Writer, yogi, and El Segundo resident Jenny Gardner can’t get enough of the city’s newest yoga studio.
By Jenny Gardner
Over the last five months, I’ve found my new happy place in El Segundo: the aptly named Yoga Bliss. Three mornings a week, I enjoy an hour of self-care, flowing my way to fitness in a comfy and welcoming space.
One of my favorite teachers is Lara Estrada (pictured), the owner of Yoga Bliss. The studio at 206 West Grand Avenue is her second location, and her path to El Segundo came through a series of fortuitous events.
Lara grew up and attended college in the Bay Area. “I started doing yoga about 12 years ago, after starting my first office job. One of my coworkers invited me to go to class with her,” she said. It felt good to move in a way that reminded her of the dance classes she took in her youth. She enjoyed the experience so much that she took yoga teacher training, just to learn more about yoga and enrich her practice.
“As it turned out, I wasn’t really made for the corporate world and I hated working in an office,” Lara said. She and her best friend saved money and quit their jobs to go backpacking in Asia for six months. On the trip they volunteered with local communities, and Lara realized she had a passion for helping people.
Upon returning to California, she moved to Los Angeles with the intention of working at a nonprofit or university. She took a job at the USC School of Social Work and began teaching yoga classes at the USC gym and other studios in her spare time. “The more I taught [yoga], the more I wanted to do that and the less I wanted to do my office job,” Lara said. She also realized that yoga provided a way to enact her desire to improve the lives of others. “When you think of a yoga studio,” she said, “it’s helping people in a way that’s uplifting” — for both their physical and mental health. The business makes minimal impact on the environment as well, using relatively little energy to operate and creating nearly no waste. “It’s a simple business, but it’s good for people and for the community,” she said.
So in 2015, Lara decided to open her own studio. At the time she lived in Playa del Rey, and looked at locations there and in the surrounding areas. She found a space that fit her needs on Manchester Boulevard in Westchester, and Yoga Bliss was born.
Over the next four years, Lara settled into a happy routine with her studio, enjoying the life she built, both personally and professionally. But in early 2019, her realtor called her about a newly available site in El Segundo. “The expansion wasn’t really planned,” she said, but when she visited the location on Grand, she loved it and committed to opening her second studio. Construction went quickly, and the new Yoga Bliss opened on August 10.
I began practicing there that very week, thrilled that a new studio had opened so close to my house. Lara and her fellow instructors were kind and welcoming, and I immediately loved the vinyasa flow classes, which provide a great workout. The studio also offers restorative candlelit classes as well as vinyasa basics, for those looking for a more relaxing or introductory experience. All classes are gently heated, not in a way that makes you sweat profusely, but rather just enough to get you warmed up and ready for movement. In addition, every weekend the studio features special workshops, such as sound baths, yoga and massage, and kids’ yoga, and Lara leads teacher-training courses there as well.
In the midst of settling into her new studio, Lara made the decision to live in El Segundo. She appreciates the commute, since her home is within walking distance, and has begun making connections and building new friendships. “I just want to enjoy being in this community,” she said. “People are so welcoming here.”
Reflecting on her future plans, Lara observed that she’s open to what may come: “I’ve never been one of those people to make big future plans, and I feel like it’s gotten me to a good place. Everything has been a pleasant surprise,” she said. “I wasn’t originally planning to start a business. For now, I wouldn’t say I want to grow more, but who knows?”
This story appears in the January 2020 issue of The El Segundo Scene.