The Emperor is Naked: LA v. NYC.

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For years I have casually joked amongst my friends about people who sell things that aren’t real – be it their personality, their intentions or their beliefs. I usually respond to these situations by announcing that the Emperor is naked!

I love using this reference to the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen, because it sums up this phenomenon in a light and humorous manner. In the book, the Emperor is sold the idea of a new suit custom made with fabric that only those who are suitable for their positions can see. When he cannot see the fabric, he is over-ridden by fear of being perceived incompetent as the Emperor. His response to this fear is to pretend that he does see this magic fabric.

It’s no surprise that the truth speaker of this story is a child. While the Emperor is parading his new outfit through the streets, a child in attendance of the procession yells out,

“But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

When I moved to Los Angeles from NYC 14 years ago, I remember feeling a similar disconnect.

I didn’t feel the bold reality that I felt while living in NY. This bold reality makes life so much easier because you don’t have to waste time wondering what is true. If someone doesn’t like you in NY, they just let you know. You can then happily move along, instead of feeling confusion as to why a person who doesn’t act like a friend pretends to be one, or even continuing on a path that isn’t based on truth. In LA, it’s about “who you know to get what you want.” Herein develops the unseen dimension that is based on an illusion. People predominantly seem to care more about maintaining their positions than to acknowledge the truth, even if it means sacrificing their dharma.

Maybe it is my years of living in NYC, maybe it is my years studying Psychology, maybe it is a result of having a very bold and realistic father, maybe eleven Vipassana meditation courses clarified my senses, or maybe I developed new skills of perception after dating Prince Charming who turned out to be a stalker of yoga instructors and a sociopath. It is probably an accumulation of them all. The resulting keen sense of truth and infrared radar for BS do help while maneuvering through the Emperor’s parade.

This topic has been on my mind since I returned back to Los Angeles from a trip to NYC last week. Here are two highlights from my time there: 1) getting a coffee at Starbucks without the cashier / future motivational speaker singing ways for me to “manifest my destiny today!” I honestly do not recall the cashier at the Starbucks in NY even looking at me – but she gave me my coffee exactly how I asked for it! I found this very refreshing. 2) I took a yoga class during my visit. The teacher didn’t grope me, suggest wine, or chocolate, recite excerpts from The Secret or offer any other esoteric, co-dependent illusion of sweetness before, during or after class. Instead, she gave a great yoga session – again, exactly what I was looking for. She honored my presence with accurate, mindful adjustments and gave the respect of reality based conversation. HEAVEN!

It will take me about a week to acclimate back to LA, but now I have a stronger sense of humor about this coastal disconnect, because I see it even more clearly for what it is, and I do believe strongly that everyone on the path of Yoga will eventually find their way – even Hollywood, the land of illusions. In the U.S., we are very fortunate to have so many freedoms that offer us the ability to work out our kinks without judgment. Find that honest voice of a child within you; like the Balloon Boy who only knew to tell the truth when the news asked him why he was in the attic, while the world thought he was trapped in his father’s flyaway balloon. We learn how to lie so as to avoid shame, punishment, guilt, loss, and so on. More often children haven’t learned yet how to lie.

Practice, practice, practice.

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About Alanna Zabel

Alanna Zabel is the founder of AZIAM Yoga. She is passionate about spirituality, health, wellness and fitness. In addition to her Ashtanga, Iyengar and Chopra Yoga certifications, Alanna is both a certified fitness and Pilates instructor. She leads yoga and fitness retreats nationally and internationally, including Yoga Detox retreats, Surf/Yoga retreats and Seva Retreats. Alanna focuses all of her work on the personal self-realization of those she is working with. She holds a double BA in Psychology & Child Development with a minor in Theatre & Dance from the University at Buffalo and is currently working towards her Masters degree. Alanna is the author of As I Am: Where Spirituality Meets Reality has written and illustrated seven children's books, including The Seven Doors, a children's book teaching Deepak Chopra’s, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Outside the studio and off the mat, Alanna is the designer of AZIAM Active Wear. Alanna has been featured in Self, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Yoga Fit, People, Life & Style, Harper's Bazaar, Details, Martha Stewart's Whole Living and C - California Style magazines, as well several yoga & fitness productions. For more information on Alanna, please view her website at


7 Responses to “The Emperor is Naked: LA v. NYC.”

  1. Carrie says:

    Excellent Alanna! Can't wait until your next visit to NY. And I now know why it always took so long to get a coffee in L.A…..

  2. Queenofcups says:

    Speaking from 50 years of experience in LA, rather than 14, I must ask… Why do you live here? I find the homegrown local coffee and yoga communities in the city of Angels among the most dharma/bahkti-driven in the world. The "coastal disconnect" diatribe is as old as the first nickelodeon The p.o.v in this post is as stale as corporate coffee beans.
    And, having worked in NYC off and on for decades, I can assure you a healthy percentage of their employees are hyphenates too…. singer/designer/cheesehostess/pilates instructors. In addition, Bux is far from a company who engages in sustainable practices. Dig deeper than any mermaid you happen to see.

    For a list of homegrown institutions, with deep roots and authentic expertise- gimme a jingle!

    I heart LA. And NYC –
    (its the endless expanse
    of Applebee's in between
    that's got ME down)

    • Alanna Zabel says:

      You have some good points! haha – but I, personally, still feel the contrast when I travel from LA to NY and saw it as a segue into my topic of sincerity. I saw some cheesehostess dancers in the NY brewing beaneries. They radiated experiential confidence while working on their task at hand. If I saw Heidi Montag at the Malibu Cross Creek Java Jug, I assume that she would be desperately scanning the room for victims to advance her empty fame instead. I do love LA (hence why I live here) and I, too, have found great communities in this rough (westsider), but nothing beats the raw realism of NYC…
      Thanks for the honesty, the humor and the referral offers….stay clear of Applebee’s. 🙂

  3. Derek says:

    Good read Alanna. Thanx – D!

  4. Rebekah says:

    I teach in the mountains of NC and haven't experienced yoga in NY but I have been to a charity yoga event in LA. I found the place I was at and the teachers who were there to be very "look at me, look at me!!" It was a round robin teaching and the teachers who were walking around, supposed to be adjusting, were actually having conversations that had nothing to do with what was going on there and were quite loud and distracting. The way my friend I was with described it was that LA women who practice yoga are women who want to be photographed (she actually does live there). Now, granted that is my only experience of LA yoga, but it left a not so nice impression upon me.

    • Alanna Zabel says:

      Hi Rebekah. There is no doubt that teachers will be a reflection of the city where they live, and LA is home of the film and TV industry. I would say that 90% of the instructors here in LA are or were actors/actresses/models. I have been part of yoga communities in NY and San Diego, and I never felt the competitive, phony energy in those cities. Yet, there is strength in overcoming one's weaknesses, and this is what makes LA so appealing at the same time. Swimming in this neck of the sea only makes me work harder at compassion and non-reactivity… 🙂 Thanks for your comment….continued bliss in your teaching.

  5. Once I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any means you’ll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!

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