Hardcore workouts abound in San Francisco—from kickboxing to power yoga, finding an intense fitness class in the city is no sweat. But while a heart-pumping workout at Barry's Bootcamp can be satisfying, it's also important to slow down and find balance.
Restorative and rejuvenating classes for gentle yoga, meditation, and other forms of healing can be useful to help reset your body and mind, whether you're nursing sore muscles or a hangover, rehabilitating an injury or illness, or simply looking to chill out on a Thursday night. Such classes can even lead to deeper and more regular sleep, increased body awareness, even alleviated tension.
Here, are a few low-key classes for San Franciscans looking to unwind without all the huffing and puffing.
What: "Think Savasana. Think lie down and take a nap," said our instructor at Yoga Garden, that little studio with the quaint sidewalk trellis over on Divis, as we settled in for Yoga Nidra. Also known as 'yogic sleep,' Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation class meant to stimulate the nervous system's rest and relaxation response in order to lead you into that cozy state between wakefulness and dozing off. You'll lie down, your mat well padded with blankets and a provided foam pillow for extra comfort, in a cool, dark room for what is basically adult nap time with 20 or so others. As you settle into your resting pose, the teacher will guide you through the methodically relaxation and release of your individual muscles. Whatever your reaction—it can be a refreshing timeout, a revitalizing meditation, or even a deep sleep—there is no wrong way to practice. While we didn't drift off into dreamland, many around us did—the audible snores adding to the restorative vibe.
When: Wednesdays, 8 to 9pm
Where: $21 drop-ins; Yoga Garden, 286 Divisadero St. (NoPa), yogagardensf.com
Group yoga at Satori Yoga Studio(Courtesy of Satori Yoga Studio)
What: Yin-style yoga is basically the opposite of the quick-moving and strengthening Vinyasa you're used to. Popularized by Paul Grilley in the 1990s, Yin employs gentle poses and plenty of props (like pillows and blocks) to stretch parts of the body that feel cranky due to over- or under-use. Our instructor guided us into each pose, calling attention to where exactly we should feel the sensation and coaching us to breathe deeper into the pose. The mostly seated practice includes long holds (2-10 minutes per pose), meant to flush out congestion and tension in the connective tissues. Poses might include seated forward folds, a supported bridge, and reclined twists, all corresponding to the energetic meridians of the body. This definitely isn't nap time—Yin encourages yogis to stay present with the body to bring release and calm. The class is ideal for improving flexibility and posture, cross-training, and mindfulness.
When: Wednesdays, 7:15 to 8:30pm
Where: $22 drop-ins; Satori Yoga Studio, 110 Sutter St., #100 (FiDi), satoriyogastudio.com
Restorative Yoga With Hot Stones
What: Stressed, burned-out, and craving a full body stretch? A restorative class at Yoga Tree Stanyan may be just what you need to tame your monkey mind. As you relax into gentle hip- and heart-opening poses, the instructor will meander around the room, offering soft adjustments and the thoughtful placement of warm, soothing stones to further encourage meaningful relaxation. Blankets, sandbags, blocks, and straps are also used. This slow-moving and laid-back class also consists of longer holds (3 to 10 minutes) of uncomplicated positions to allow time for the body to soften and the mind to quiet. There's something about kicking back with your legs up the wall, with hot stones on your upturned palms, to impart a spa-like sense of zen.
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:15 to 1:30pm
Where: $19 drop-ins; Yoga Tree, 780 Stanyan St. (Haight), yogatreesf.com
What: This healing session is unlike anything else we've ever tried. The Moksha Life Center is a charming community yoga studio where a treatment room, furnished with a handful of massage beds, invites you to lie face down for a 30-minute Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) by a certified chiropractor. NSA is a gentle chiropractic technique—created in the 1980s by New York–based chiropractor Dr. Donald Epstein—that includes light touches on the body (3-5 per person per session here) to release spinal tension. Each adjustment, or "entrainment," consists of precise touches along the spine, meant to help you feel more connected and aware of how your body is feeling. NSA is said to calm the nervous system, steering it away from our natural fight or flight response. Basically a gentle chiropractic visit, NSA is indicated for the chronically stressed or injured, as well as those looking to wind down at the end of a hectic day.
When: $50 drop-ins and appointments are available throughout the week.
Where: Moksha Life Center, 405 Sansome St., 3rd Floor (FiDi), mokshalifecenter.com