On a recent sun-dappled afternoon, a dozen women—and a stray man or two—are gracefully bending their bodies in unison, like synchronized swimmers run aground. They've gathered at the home of West Hollywood hostess Nancy Stoddart for a Kundalini yoga class taught by her friend Anna Getty; it will be followed by an Indian-inspired tea party that complements the cleansing spirit of the exercise, with soymilk and yogurt instead of cream and butter.
Perhaps inevitably for this ZIP code, the group includes two producers and four aspiring actresses. "Actors are artists," says Getty, the daughter of oil-fortune heir and erstwhile thespian John Paul Getty III and herself a producer and a star of Confessions of a Burning Man, a forthcoming documentary about the annual Bohemian bacchanal in the Nevada desert. "They're looking for ways to get in touch with themselves, and that's what yoga does for you."
Getty and her friend Akasha, a caterer and personal chef who has worked for Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand, have formed the company Pure Style to throw parties—Getty's yoga classes followed by Akasha's organic food. (They had planned on naming the company New Age Divas but changed their minds after consulting their spiritual coach.) Before each party, Getty and Akasha meet to establish "an intention and a vision." "We have an affirmation: like, we see this event going really smoothly, everyone enjoying the food—even guests helping clean afterwards!" Getty says half-jokingly. "The universe picks up on that." A trial fête held at a hotel during last year's Oscars left stars like Farrah Fawcett and Daryl Hannah "blissed out," Getty says. "People could walk away with a bit of experience versus just getting a bag of swag," Akasha says, referring to the usual Oscar party favors.
The women met about seven years ago when Getty was working for a catering company that shared a kitchen with Akasha's eponymous outfit. "I was 23 and busy smoking and drinking and being toxic," Getty says. "My mom was a hippie. She did Japanese drumming and tai chi, and I was about doing everything the opposite." Her father, the victim of one of the most notorious kidnappings of the 20th century, was once a wild child himself.
On Akasha's recommendation, Getty attended a yoga class taught by Gurmukh, guru to Madonna and Cindy Crawford, and spent the session in tears from the emotional release. "I knew that should be my lifestyle," Getty says.
Akasha, on the other hand, had been practicing yoga for 25 years. "Since before it was hip," she says. "It was way different—funky. We were getting up at four in the morning and chanting for an hour and a half and doing retreats to tents in New Mexico. It wasn't about fashion." But she and Getty agree that there is room for a few lighthearted touches in the stark, sacred space that yoga has long occupied. Getty says, "Akasha and I are healthy people, but we both like Kelly bags"—the sought-after Hermès purses.
The pink sheepskin rug Getty lays on her yoga mat is an example of this outlook. (According to Kundalini lore, sheepskin acts as a buffer between the energy of the practitioner and that of the earth.) "Gurmukh's husband laughs when he sees it," she says. "He calls it my rock 'n' roll sheepskin. But everyone asks me about it, and it's nice to personalize your practice."
Akasha's specialty is giving classic vegetarian Indian dishes a healthy American makeover. "Indian food can be heavy," Akasha says. "Lots of oil, ghee [clarified butter], cream." As an alternative, she offers dishes like her pear salad, tossing toasted almonds with cayenne, cumin and coriander, then adding pears that have been sautéed with turmeric ("Good for your joints—the best anti-inflammatory"). "You know how pears always look ugly after you sear them?" she asks. "Well, because of the turmeric, these stay a beautiful golden-yellow color." Akasha favors the griddle over the deep fryer, using it to cook pot-sticker wrappers stuffed with potatoes spiced with mustard seed and ginger, her variation on samosas, and little chickpea-flour blinis that are similar to pakoras, Indian fritters.
Not surprisingly, Pure Style has gotten lots of calls to do wedding and baby showers. Getty thinks that people are ready to infuse these typically materialistic events with spirituality. "They don't want to just be sitting there opening gifts," she says. But that doesn't mean they want asceticism either. "We create a whole atmosphere," Getty says. "A healing, caring atmosphere."
Indian ingredients, such as tamarind concentrate, chickpea flour (besan), ground dried mango (amchoor) and the spice blend garam masala, are available at Indian groceries and by mail order from Kalustyan's (800-352-3451 or www.kalustyans.com) or from Grocery Babu (www.grocerybabu.com).
Alexandra Jacobs, a senior editor at the New York Observer, plans to try yoga again now that she has moved to Los Angeles.