New Twists on Yoga
Dance, fly, and get out of the studio for a fresh take on one of the city's favorite pastimes.
Take it Outside
Practicing yoga en plein air is a huge change of pace from the confines of a pristine studio where cloying incense fills the room and wood floors provide a steady platform. In the urban landscape, you’ve got uneven ground and the weather to contend with, but you also have dramatic views to keep things interesting.
Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., Hiking Yoga vinyasa teachers lead a $20, 90-minute class that takes all levels on a city hike from the Ferry Building to Coit Tower. Stops along the way for mini asana sequences let you soak in the bay and SF’s vistas from all angles. Imagine looking out on North Beach from Triangle and easing into a seated twist to get a 180-degree take on downtown. Leave your mat behind, and dress in layers. One Ferry Building (at Market).
In 2003, East Bay teachers Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein combined their backgrounds in yoga and acrobatics to create AcroYoga, a playful approach to partner poses—mostly assisted inversions and some Thai massage. One person is the flier supported by a base, who holds the pose for several breaths while the flier’s spine gently releases. Think of it as the Airplane game for grown-up yogis. On Friday at 8:45 p.m., one of Nemer and Sauer-Klein’s students, Jeremy Simon, leads AcroYoga at Yoga Tree Castro for a drop-in rate of $12. All levels are welcome, but you’ll have more fun if you’ve had a regular yoga practice for at least a year and are comfortable doing handstands. Some arrive with partners, but most are paired up once class begins. Silence is golden, so wait until after class to ask your partner out for a post-yoga drink. 97 Collingwood St. (at 18th), 415-701-9642.
Move to the Music
Thanks to iPods, yoga teachers use playlists filled with Top 40, kirtan (traditional chanting), and ambient music to keep yogis moving. Some classes even bring live music into the mix for a kind of concert-meets-asana practice. Musicians improvise based on the sequence the teacher is leading, and students keep their energy up thanks to the beats from the band or DJ. On Friday at 10 p.m., Laughing Lotus Yoga Center throws a practice party ($15 to drop in) with a rotating lineup of DJs and local bands that play till midnight. The style is pure vinyasa with meditation and pranayama (breathing practices), and the scene is filled with tatted-up Missionites—not a bad way to pregame on a Friday. 3271 16th St. (at Dolores), 415-355-1600
Yoga 101: Dos and Don’ts
Show up early: Getting to class a few minutes before it starts gives you enough time to unroll your mat and say hello to the yogi next to you before the teacher opens with an om.
Tell the teacher about any injuries: Skip poses you shouldn’t do, or try a modification.
Bring a towel: Especially if you’re a sweater.
Silence smart phones: Ringtones aren’t appreciated, particularly during a balancing pose.
Keep quiet: Resist distracting everyone with your chatter, groans, and moans—even if you’re struggling to touch your toes.
Keep clear: Store your water bottles and shoes away from practice space. Next to a mat, they’re just asking to be tripped over by the teacher or you in Warrior III. Also, put away any props you use.
Don’t leave during Savasana: It’s distracting to the class, which is trying to veg out and relax. Besides, what’s the rush?
Photos courtesy of Ana Grillo and Michael Shishov