Photo by Keeley Smith.
Forget the perfectly square images of beautiful yogis in expensive clothes doing insane and competitive poses, striving to to be better than everyone else, shot after shot.
Never mind if your instagram is full of those expert practitioners (like mine). When you get to Yoga on 3rd, Bikram-trained owner, yogi and nutritionist Danielle Morrill hopes you toss out any self-consciousness and hard-core competitiveness.
“There’s a pretentious attitude at a lot of studios—everyone wants to be good at just what they’re doing—not building on a movement where everyone’s getting better together,” said Morrill. “I didn’t want my studio to be like that. That’s not the point of yoga [to buy expensive yoga clothes and show off]. It’s to make you feel good. That’s why my students stay.”
Yoga on 3rd opened in July 2013, in a downtown Long Beach that was gradually developing. It stands now, with the closure of Sunkiss Yoga, as the only studio located downtown.
Morrill, who lived in Long Beach in the early 2000s and worked as a bartender, had decided to move back to the city she loved after attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York and practicing and teaching yoga for 10 years. She was trained by the founder of the Bikram practice of yoga, Bikram Choudhury, herself.
Morrill found the empty space in the East Village, at Third and Atlantic, at a time when she was looking to open her own studio. Other factors in her life and the fact that the space was once a yoga studio made her decision seem like a given: open her own studio in Long Beach and return to her roots.
“I was like, can I go home?” she said. After a lot of thought and more than a few contemplative yoga sessions, she decided that yes—it was time to return.
At this point, the East Village is a neighborhood filled with a bit of contradiction: a combination of up-and-coming businesses, like Fingerprints and Berlin, smoke shops, cheap motels, that large, renovated Vons and churches.
Morrill said, given the proximity of the churches, some of the neighbors were concerned she’d be peddling some sort of new-age ideology, or Buddhism—none of which she preaches in her class.
As she says, she hopes people take what they get in class and apply to their everyday lives, regardless of the spirituality they practice.
“I want you to improve yourself so you can be your best person,” she said. “That was my most important thing. I’m not very granola-y.”
Upon arriving at her studio, it’s all about chatting and smiling with Morrill, who teaches roughly 90 percent of the classes, as you sign in. Quick to laugh, Morrill has the gift of gab, welcoming yogis old and new.
Each class begins with participants lying on their yoga mats on the wooden floor of the studio, which is room temperature.
“At the beginning of each class we’re all on the ground, lying down,” said Morrill. “Everyone’s equal. It’s the most humble thing you can do, you know?”
Since Morrill started the business, which has attracted yogis near and far with a 10-class Groupon deal, she has enjoyed watching her business grow and change.
This is perhaps most evidenced by the addition of aerial yoga classes and her guest teachers. Morrill said she likes to merge multiple styles of yoga in her daily flows, unless it’s a class strictly focused on Hatha or Vinyasa. Current class offerings consist of Hatha yoga, Vinyasa flow, basic, restorative, wildcard, aerial, and Danielle’s signature: hip-hop yoga.
"When Straight Outta Compton came out, the whole class went to see it," she said, laughing.
Photo by Keeley Smith.
Additionally, Morrill’s background in martial arts and as a gym trainer lends her a unique perspective to yoga: one that will both exercise the mind and body, in a holistic way, marrying different movements in one cohesive routine.
And her workouts are no joke: Morrill’s more energy-driven classes always work up a sweat and result in soreness the next day.
Of all the yoga studios in Long Beach (which, as it turns out, aren’t very close knit), Yoga on 3rd contends most directly with the Yoga on the Bluff crowd, who offer yoga for free. Morrill said it’s her job to balance running a business with attracting these newcomers who are used to the outdoor free-flow off of Ocean Boulevard.
When asked which yoga studio legacy she’d like to follow, Morrill cited Purple Yoga, where she once taught. It currently has three locations, including one in Long Beach.
“I would like to build up to that type of status,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s following her yogic mantra and taking things one day at a time, Long Beach-style; personally taking pride in each and every one of her students. She said sometimes, just having a place to go to regularly is all people need.
“Everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere,” said Morrill. “Long Beach is a melting pot—everyone wants to be a part of something."
As it turns out, Yoga on 3rd appears to be a pretty appropriate place to gain that feeling.
Above, right, and below: Photos by Abner Soto.
Yoga on 3rd is located at 301 Atlantic Avenue.