Get Your Sweat On With The Founders of Modo Yoga LA

Author: 4 / Photos: Angelo Vasquez

If you haven't heard of Modo Yoga, it's the next level hot yoga studio that you should 100% add to your list of places to try out a new class. Founders Emily Morwen, Alice Toyonaga, and Deena Robertson all stumbled upon yoga in different ways and have a unique personal relationship with the practice. They themselves are proof that anyone and everyone can benefit from yoga, and how pushing yourself on the mat will give you invaluable confidence off of it. Read through our Q+A with them to find out what makes Modo more than your average studio.

Have you always been active? What led you to pursue yoga specifically?
Alice: I was not always active - in fact, I was quite the contrary! I have always had high stamina and energy but never prioritized sport or active living. I focused on studies, work, paying back loans (everything but a healthy, active lifestyle), and I spent a number of years of my adult life morbidly obese (over 220 lbs). A reality check in 2004 made me realize that this was not the best life I could be living and I started moving my body more and taking control of my health. I started running and as my body got tighter from running, I happened to get into yoga.

It wasn't love at first sight - my first hot yoga class was one of the longest hours of my life. But the feeling after was undeniable. As days, weeks, and months went by, more and more of what yoga offered me started to reveal itself - I was more confident, calmer, I stood taller, I felt healthier in my body, and overall, I was a better version of myself. Through yoga and running (which led me to go from being totally sedentary to completing over 70 races, including qualifying and running the Boston Marathon), I found someone who craves movement, the love of feeling my heart pumping, and a good sweat.

What makes Modo different from other yoga studios?
Deena: We are founded on 7 main pillars. I’m absolutely in love with this stuff, so I’m just a wee bit biased… okay, very biased! That being said, I don't think there is anything like Modo in LA for all of those reasons.

Be Healthy - Healthy in how you think of yourself, healthy with what you put in your body, and of course, healthy in the activities you ask your body to do. Our series is designed for long-term health benefits. Our goal is to make people feel awesome right now and 50 years down the road.

Be Accessible - This is a big one for us, especially right now. We support and welcome all races, genders, religions, abilities, sizes and sexual orientations. Be exactly who you are and know that whoever that is, we welcome you with sweaty arms.

Live Green - This one really sets us apart, especially in the world of hot yoga. We are completely eco-friendly. From cork floors to the most energy efficient heating to only using natural cleaning products. We don’t sell plastic bottles and we donate a tree for every Modo Yoga LA upcycled shirt or canvas bag purchased. The list goes on and on.

Community Support - We believe that we amplify our own potential when we support each other. We have tons of sweaty and non-yoga events where we can all just hang and have fun. This is one place you will always feel like you belong.

Reach Out - Each studio (there are over 80 across the globe) puts on at least one yoga class a week that is completely donation based and all proceeds go to amazing charities. These karma classes have raised millions over the years.

Live to Learn - We strive to learn new things and feel young and free forever. In the world of yoga, the truly “advanced" student is the one with the beginner's mind.

Be Peace - We leave 30 minutes before and after classes so that people can have a silent room to just rest and be still. Silence is golden these days and more and more studies are proving that our bodies and brains need quiet and rest to recharge. Find peace inside yourself and we might just be able to find peace in this world… one sweaty yogi at a time - no biggie!

These Pillars are what the studios are built on and what we strive to sweat and live for on and off our mat.

"Be exactly who you are and know that whoever that is, we welcome you with sweaty arms."

Favorite healthy snack?
Deena: Watermelon. Ahh… I love that stuff! I literally used to cut a watermelon in half as a kid and eat the entire thing. I even ate the watermelon seeds, dirt, and water because my kind and supportive older sister told me I’d grow a watermelon in my stomach and my mouth would always taste delicious like the fruit.

Post workout routine?
Emily: After yoga, I usually make sure to chug a bunch of water! Then a quick shower cause this hot yoga stuff is sweaty business. I’m usually pretty hungry after class so I will often grab a yummy snack - a muffin, tuna sandwich, and lentil salad are some of my faves - from the juice bar next door. As a new mom, the next course of action is to either pump or breastfeed, usually followed by another snack. The hot yoga and breastfeeding combo makes for quite the appetite!

How do you stay fit while on vacation/days off?
Deena: To me it’s less about staying fit and more about keeping healthy. When you feel great inside you make great choices in the outside world. I travel a comical degree but the amazing thing is because there are over 80 Modo/Moksha studios worldwide, I can get sweaty so many places. Just this year I’ve practiced at Modo Yoga Paris, Portland, Seattle, NYC, and a whole bunch more. Traveling can make you feel displaced but by walking into a Modo studio, no matter where in the world it is, I always find home.

What are some tips for yoga newbies looking to improve?
Deena: It doesn’t matter how flexible you are and always remember you can take a break. I used to be considered the anti-gumby because I was so inflexible. I also recovered from fracturing my back by literally going into the hot room and laying down for 98% of the class. But, the incredible thing is, I would still leave feeling amazing. That 98% started to be 90%, all the way until I could do a full class. I still have days where I feel like I just need to rest and that’s okay. Know that just showing up for yourself and making the time will change your life! And remember that the best way to get a yoga body is to one: have a body, and two: do yoga. Voila… yoga body!

If you could have a yoga session with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Deena: Probably my grandparents on my mother's side. Both her parents passed away by the time she was 21 and I grew up hearing such special stories about them. They were definitely NOT yogis but it would be such an honor to be in the same place as them and be open to the learning that came.

What are 3 hidden gems in LA?
Deena: So many! I guess my three things that make me feel like “hell yeah I live in LA” are food, nature, and entertainment. For food, there are so many good places but one of my favorites is Wolf and Cafe Gratitude which I love! The hikes in Malibu are also incredible and taking a paddleboard out on the ocean while having dolphins beside you is pretty next level - kind of like dream life meets real life. Then there’s getting to see LA band Magic Giant play in legendary venues like the Troubador. Those three things make me pinch myself because I can't believe I get to live in this kickass city!

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
A woman who can be confident enough to support other women; be exactly herself and drop the stereotypes of what a woman should be. A woman who is authentic and nice!

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