Walking Westlake: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Hope

I wish I could tell you, dear readers, that I spend 100% of my time teaching yoga, but that is not the case.  🙂  I do work a full time job in addition to teaching and managing our yoga team.  I think that is part of what helps me understand better the modern machinations of corporate culture and how wellness fits into it…but I digress…

The real point of this post is to talk about some recent thoughts I’ve had on the state of the “wellness economy”.

3 times/week on my morning train commute to work, I get off a stop early to walk an extra 30 minutes to work.  This simple lifestyle adjustment has had some profound effects.  This morning I was musing on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of my morning walk through Westlake, a neighborhood just west of downtown Los Angeles.

If you check out this map, you’ll see the general area I’m walking through.  I start at 7th and Alvarado and end up at 6th and Grand, where I work downtown.

The Good

  • Activates the brain.  Take a look at the brain scan image: the one on the left is your brain when you’re sitting quietly at work.  The one on the right is your brain after a brisk walk. I get into a very meditative, thoughtful state and the result is a blog post like this, or a new song idea, or a solution to a problem.
  • Sunshine! Vitamin D deficiency is a huge epidemic in modern city life, even in sunny Los Angeles.  If there’s ONE vitamin you should supplement with, it’s D.  I make sure some part of my body is exposed (sans sunscreen) to the sun so I can have a chance to manufacture some D naturally.  The morning sun is very gentle, so I really don’t anticipate massive skin cancer from this endeavor.
  • Regular, gentle exercise.  This is a reasonable and gentle way to increase your regular activity.  Many people make New Year’s Resolutions to get fit, sign up for a hyper-aggressive fitness bootcamp class, then bail after two weeks. Walking’s a ritual you can easily fit in with some planning and can maintain.
  • Manages stress.  Cortisol (“the stress hormone”) is typically at its highest for us in the mornings.  Gentle exercise like walking or yoga can lower it, whereas something aggressive like running can elevate it.
  • For a 135-pound person like me, walking briskly at a pace of 3.5 mph for 30 minutes burns about 100 calories.  Doing that walk 3 x week = 300 calories. Enough to justify my occasional cookie indulgence!
  • Appreciation of the city.  There’s nothing like truly appreciating Los Angeles and its many cultures and mysteries than when you are on foot.  Being in your car all the time just puts you in a dream-state;  you’re observing the world going on around outside your car like a TV show.

The Bad

  • Prepare to sweat, especially if you’re really putting some energy into your walk.  Maybe this sounds like a gross way to start your work day, but I manage it by wearing an old t-shirt and jog bra on the walk, then change into a fresh top, etc at work.
  • If you color your gray hairs, like I do, take note that the sun exposure will lighten your hair.  Fading the precious hair color I make the budget for is a bummer, so I started using this protectant spray from L’Oreal on it.
  • Car exhaust is not the best to be inhaling.  This is just a sad fact of modern life in a big city.  I’m going to gamble that it’s healthier for me to be outside walking for a few extra hours than it is to be sitting on my ass in air conditioning.
  • A blond white chick in motorcycle boots who probably appears to be younger than  she is (we’re talking about ME) occasionally draws unwanted attention from male strangers.  That’s why I do the walk during the day, keep the headphones on low, and my awareness on high.

The Ugly

Finally, we get to the “ugly” part…

  • Parts of Westlake are really depressing to look at and are full of garbage.  I wish the Obama administration had considered revitalizing this neighborhood, as well as East Hollywood, in addition to Koreatown.  Frankly, Koreatown always seems like it has been kicking ass of its own accord.
  • People in Westlake are not lookin’ too good.  So many are overweight, have a stooped over posture, and are eating Cheetos.  The majority of residents are Latino and a few black.  Income and education are on the low side in Westlake, not just for L.A., but the country overall. Everyone, judging by posture, looks older, yet the majority of people living in the area are young.  It’s the old cliche of “privileged white yoga woman with trendy digital job and her organic yogurt” vs the “poor old chubby brown people” thing.  It made me really think about how blessed I am to be able to afford healthy food, to invest in yoga and fitness classes, vitamins…about the economics behind being healthy.  We need to be doing more outreach and education to communities that do not have access to good food and healthy habits.

The Hope

  • Near the metro stop at the corner of 7th and Westlake, there’s a morning Zumba class that is always bumpin’.  I sneak a peek as I walk by in the mornings.  Somebody had the wherewithall to find a space, get some music going and get people moving.  I bet they made have gotten some funny looks at first, and then, one by one, people started joining in because it looked like fun.  Sometimes it takes just one spark to light a fire.
  • McArthur Park continuously sponsors great community events.  I’ve been to a big public gathering for Nich That Hann that was truly inspiring.  There were huge, diverse crowds.  McArthur Park seems like the perfect place to sponsor a farmer’s market, where people can get better quality food.  I looked and looked, but can’t seem to find anything about farmer’s markets.  Not sure if people in Westlake will want to make the trek to the Farmer’s market on 7th and Fig and rub elbows with “the suits”?  Finally, I’ve seen lots of meet-ups for free yoga in McArthur park.
  • More young people are moving to Westlake due to its proximity to uber-trendy downtown.  This will probably mean that trendy restaurants with “grass-fed” and “gluten-free” this ‘n’ that are soon on the way, but that could also mean that housing prices will go up as the neighborhood improves.  Time will tell.

Lots of things to ponder above.  However, in the meantime, I’ll continue my meditative march through Westlake, and I’ll gladly take the Bad and even the Ugly along with the Good.

McKenna Rowe is the Founder of Chakra 5 Mobile Yoga, an experienced team of corporate yoga instructors that provides mobile yoga classes on location and by appointment at businesses, schools and organizations throughout greater Los Angeles. Call us to start your corporate wellness program today: 310-853-3885.

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