So I’m walking round my local neighbourhood of the Venice Beach area of LA trying to get my bearings and also get a feel for the place – and for the people, when as luck would have it I stumble across a yoga studio. Well to be honest there was no luck involved – yoga studios are two a penny here, it seems there’s one literally on every street corner. Anyway I thought I’d go in say hello and make some ‘connections’ with my fellow yogis. The owner / founder bloke was sat on his tod in reception – let’s call him Dave for now. I introduced myself to Dave told him I was new to the area and that I taught Ashtanga Yoga – have done for over 15 years and that I’d been to Mysore a bunch of times. ‘Oh no-one is interested in Ashtanga anymore buddy’ Dave informed me. ‘I mean I practice Ashtanga myself but it’s all about the Vinyasa Flow now – check this out’ to which he hands me his studio’s timetable. A quick scan of his timetable tells me that it IS all about the Vinyasa Flow for his studio – no shit! There were no other classes other than Vinyasa Flow on there! I wanted to make a sarky comment about him saying that he practiced Ashtanga, and then I doubted whether he could SEE his toes let alone touch them , but I held my tongue and tumbled back out onto the street feeling completely bewildered my mind all in a tiz – has Ashtanga really bitten the dust I thought to myself. Is it time for me to go with the (vinyasa) flow and do some new fad yoga 200 hours teacher training programme*. Have things gotten that bad that I’ll have to start teaching Boxing Yoga™ ** or maybe even much much worse … the dreaded Hot Yoga. I could see the headlines now ‘Yoga teacher who never had anything good to say about Hot Yoga now teaching Hot Yoga’ I nearly collapsed at the thought. The next day I decided I was going to ‘take practice’ at the local Ashtanga Yoga studio up the road– usually I just practice at home (as this means I can do it in my (under) pants and can break wind anytime I bloody well want to without fear of offending anyone). I’d not been to this studio before but if Vinyasa Dave was correct I guess I’d be there on my own with a couple of tumble weeds blowing round the studio. I got there nice and early and parked up the motor and then proceeded to walk into a jam packed studio full of Ashtangis – my heart leapt with joy – ok maybe that’s a little poetic for a sarcastic Mancunian let’s just say I was reet happy ! I felt like running round and high fiving every one – I actually felt like taking a short video and messaging it to Vinyasa Dave with a caption saying ‘Ashtanga’s not dead, BUDDY’ but didn’t. After class I’m driving home with that lovely post Ashtanga buzz with a big smile on my face. It’s almost like smoking a medicinal herbal cigarette but without the paranoia and halitosis. I’ve mentioned this countless times before but to me practicing Ashtanga makes me feel great, it’s a no brainer – why wouldn’t anyone want to feel like this. It makes life that little bit sweeter, and easier to navigate. Yes it’s hard to get up in the morning especially when it’s cold wet and damp but boy oh boy oh boy it is worth it – try it for yourself. You might just might start to like your boss – or even accept his/her terrible witticisms. So just a heads up to Vinyasa Dave , Ashtanga Yoga is alive and kicking – and has been for hundreds ( if not thousands) of years my dim-witted friend. It has an ultra-rich history ,  heritage and tradition that other ‘Johnny come lately’ yoga traditions can only dream of.( I must say it does feel good to know that this practice that I am dedicating my life to was borne out of a want to improve the self and not the self’s bank balance). Ashtanga Yoga will still be going strong when you’ve turned your studio into a Cage-Fighting Yoga emporium or any other completely whack form of physical practice that the money men have paired up with Yoga.   * Can I just say for the record that God only knows who or what team of imbeciles / con men came up with the magic number of 200 hours as an appropriate length of time to deem someone capable and competent to teach yoga. Meh! ** if the person that teaches Boxing Yoga In Manchester is reading this please please please stop emailing me about hosting a Yoga Boxing workshop – I have no interest what so ever about the ridiculous money making scheme of pairing yoga and boxing and even less interest in supporting a workshop. Many thanks – have a lovely day!
When I first told a close friend that not only was I off to the good ol U S of A, I was going to be living in the sunshine capital - California. He remarked that within six months of being in Los Angeles I would have had my teeth bleached white, have an all over tan and be telling everyone how 'awesome' they were. I told him to piss off (obviously) and that I would stay true to my Mancunian roots.No way was I going to turn into a fake. When I finally arrived in LA, whenever I spoke to the locals they couldn't understand a word I was saying - I got asked plenty of times if I was from Australia or New York. Outraged at even that suggestion I would carry on with myself that I was in fact Mancunian first and English second. The person would smile in that slightly bemused 'sorry I asked in the first place' kinda way. This happened a few times before the wife asked me was I really that upset at someone suggesting I was Australian or even American. And you know what I actually wasn't upset at all - my offence was pretty much imaginary - like an old default setting that needed a conscious update. So I plugged in got conscious and got updated - and I don't kick off anymore if someone asks me if I'm American or Australian or from the moon! The above story highlighted to me how easily it is to get caught up in a particular story and get attached to places and attitudes without really thinking it through. It's the same with Yoga - there's so many different brands of yoga these days - different people and personalities are drawn to different yoga disciplines. So y'all (sorry) know I'm an Ashtanga teacher and according to a mate of mine Ashtanga Yoga is a practice for obsessive westerners - cheers Dan. So I'm an obsessive westerner , sue me already ( I've got to stop that) ( I'll be bleaching my teeth next) ( I must ask Dan what personality types are drawn to hot yoga!) And I more than most can get caught up in my ‘brand of yoga is the best’ rhetoric - it's just so dull and meaningless and most unyoga like. And more importantly it's just an idea - another part of the 'story' we get attached too - I'm Mancunian , Manchester is the best and I teach Ashtanga yoga , Ashtanga is the best too blah blah blah - how bloody ridiculous does that sound ? It feels twice as ridiculous writing it down ( try it for yourself - go write down your attachments and ask yourself just how attached are you to your story -does it do you good or harm to be attached to it). So wanting to immerse myself in American culture without having to bleach my teeth, I'm reading Henry Miller's 'Big Sur and the oranges of Hieronymus Bosch ( don't worry I've got a couple of Mad comics to balance out the literature) and a line in the book hit me right between the eyes - he says
One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things
Errr hello talk about perfect timing - read that line a few times and let it sink in. That is such a heavy heavy line and suggestion that I think we could all learn from - in our yoga practice too. Maybe you can't nail a posture or maybe an injury is preventing you from doing your usual practice - this ‘destination’ where you’re at is a chance to do things differently, to see things differently. To not get caught up in 'it shouldn't be like this'. So yes I'm a Manc living in Los Angeles but today I'm also just a person too -when I can step outside of my attachments. I'm also a yogi that practices no name yoga and that my fellow people and yogis is a very liberating brand free AWESOME feeling.
So I’m hanging with my homeboy JayTrav shooting the breeze (excuse me whilst I slip effortlessly into my new home town’s vernacular) and he’s new to Los Angeles too. He has just moved from Atlanta on the East Coast of the U.S. to live with his honey – who is a colleague of my wife. He threw into our conversation that a friend had advised him that in order to succeed in LaLa land he must ‘exaggerate his skills / abilities / qualities / C.V. by 30 % ‘.That made me laugh out loud. So basically in order for me to get along here I’m gonna have to BS people (by 30%) . Ok, Houston we have a problem! As many of you know I’m a born and bred Mancunian, and one of the things we ( us Mancunians) don’t do is BS people – can’t stand it when other people try it on me either , I can smell it at a 100 yards. If any of you read my last blog about the reasons exactly why I do Ashtanga , you’ll know I have suffered with this crazy bat shit anxiety disorder called depersonalisation and without going into too much detail (read the blog if you want the too much detail) it makes you feel as mad as a box of frogs- no joke. To BS someone is to be dishonest in my book – to say something that basically isn’t true or real – my problem with the DP stuff was all about not feeling real. So not only am I unable to BS people as a matter of principle ( and of course being a Mancunian) I can’t do it as my default setting now is a need for the real & the honest – the BS’ing is neither. Looks like ‘am a gonna need a plan B to get jiggy wit it in Los Angeles. For similar reasons I became a Zen Buddhist a good few years back. Ashtanga Yoga in its entirety as an eight limbed practice can be construed as a scientific endeavour rather than a spiritual one , but it will always be inextricably linked to Hinduism and it’s many forms. Now if you’ve ever dipped your toe into the Hindu religion then you’ll know it has various denominations each with an interwoven diversity of beliefs and practices. And there’s a million and one fantastical stories about the million and one different Gods and deities. After a while of just practicing Asana (physical yoga postures) the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga I came to realise – as some people do , that the physical practice alone is not fulfilling enough – I needed something more than throwing myself around a rectangular shaped sticky blue mat. I needed something beyond the physical, I felt in my bones the need for the spiritual too. So I immersed myself in the Hindu and Yogic texts – you name it , I’ve read it – I probably didn’t understand it , but I’ve read it. And to be honest it just didn’t do it for me – it felt too ‘out there’ ie nothing tangible for me to hang my ‘need to be real raincoat’ on. I mean I loved all the stories like the one about Lord Shiva cutting his son’s head off and replacing it with an elephant’s head and hey presto Ganesha was born but that’s all they meant to me – just stories. And these stories were not real – I needed real. I’ve had enough of unreality in my life and I didn’t need any more. I also love to chant – I can chant OM with the best of them and even though I’m enjoying it I’m not exactly channeling the spirits of the Ganges! It was around this time that I chanced upon a book called Hardcore Zen by author and Zen teacher called Brad Warner. I’d bought a book on Amazon and Hardcore Zen was in that section ‘if you bought that book then you might like this one’. I liked the front cover and the title of the book so I bought it. It changed my life – no shit. It gave me the spiritual practice I’d been looking for and then some. And the best thing about the Zen Buddhist path was it was all about the real – the here and now – no bizarre beheading stories and nothing that I had to suspend all my ideas about reality in. The Zen path is all about the practice of Zazen – the seated meditation practice – which consists mainly of sitting in lotus position an hour a day eyes open staring at a wall – sounds like a right barrel of laughs doesn’t it? Well I can tell you nothing can be more real than a wall and the experience of watching the fluctuations of the mind – or the witnessing of the zillions of insane things that the mind can conjure up without any encouragement. Slowly learning through it’s practice to creatively respond to oneself and the world as opposed to habitually reacting to it. So when someone tells me I’ve got to exaggerate by 30% I can laugh rather than telling them to sling their hook. So I now feel I have some REAL balance to my internal (Zazen meditation) and external (Ashtanga Yoga) worlds. I am definitely not enlightened, I am flexible though (but I can’t do Tuesdays).    
First of all a very big fat sorry to everyone who was wondering just where the hell did I get to. I did want to have a big thing to say goodbye but I’m terrible at goodbyes so I took the easier option and snuck out the Yoga Manchester back door*. So where am I ? I’m in the good ol’ U S of A – Los Angeles to be precise and before you go all W.T.F on me , let me explain. In January 2015 my wife’s company Vidal Sassoon asked her if she wouldn’t mind relocating to Los Angeles to be the Creative Director at the Beverly Hills salon ( my wife is a pretty fancy smancy hairdresser ). It was a dream come true for her as she loves L.A. having spent a good deal of time in the City. So last April we did a 3 week reconnaissance mission to see if it was possible – especially with a 2 year old daughter. And to cut a long story short we decided to go for it – who am I to stand in the way of my wife’s dream eh ! So we’ve now been here 4 months and let me tell you it ain’t been a bed of roses – far from it. Lots and lots of bureaucratic hoops to jump through. For me personally it’s been perhaps the hardest 4 months of my life. Due to the laws here I had to apply for a work permit before I could get my yoga freak on, and this has dragged on and on and on. So during this waiting game I’ve been playing I have been looking after Boo my 2 year old daughter which without wanting to sound like a right drama queen has been extremely difficult. Yes I thought it’d be easy peasy to babysit my own flesh and blood for a few months after all my 2 hours of yoga and an hour of meditation every day gives me the patience of a saint. Well not quite. I managed just one week before I had just a few strands of hair left as I’d pulled most of it out. Yikes, child care was no easy ride let me tell you!! Within a few weeks Boo was in day care 3 days a week– which to be honest was great for her to be playing with kids her own age rather than her grumpy father. There’s a great book called ‘Wherever you go, there you are’ by mediation teacher Jon Kabitt-Zinn ( a must read for anyone who breathes ) (i.e. that means everybody including you!). And nothing puts that title into perspective more than my last 4 months – yes I’m in LA , yes the sun shines pretty much every day , but I’m still Matt Ryan , I still have the same nonsense going round my head that was going round my head when I was in Manchester. My yoga & meditation practices that help to ease the grip that nonsense has on my mind continue daily – they are both lifelong commitments. Finally just last week my work permit has been issued and I can start to teach yoga over here – yippee !! I’ve set up a new website www.mattryan.yoga – so if you are ever in the area look me up and come and say hello and if you’ve got any ‘mates in the states ‘ pass them my number! See you on the flipside y’all ! PS And don’t think you’ve got rid of me that easy , I’ll be pestering you all with regular LA updates let you all know what I’m up to , give you the low down, man ! * Even though I crept out the back door , I did it with the knowledge that the good ship Yoga Manchester would be kept sailing beautifully with some of the best Yoga teachers not only in Manchester but the UK – a big shout out to Marie , Lianne , Paul , Charlene , Hannah and Teresa.