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.
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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: 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: Tuesday and Thursdays, 5:15 to 6:15pm
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
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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
What: This stands as the most atypical of fitness classes as you'll be laying down for the entire duration without moving once—you can even place a blanket over you and a pillow under your head. Though seemingly very passive, sound therapy can help break through a number of blocks be it physical, mental, or emotional; and are beneficial for a large array of ailments from stress, and chronic pain to digestive issues and sleeping disorders. Sound vibrations help restore the body and mind. Though no scientific evidence shows a direct effect from sound meditation, there are a number of studies that do show that music is a de-stressor and that producing deep, resonant sounds can be more beneficial than a passive listen and improve mental health. For anyone that's heard a Tibetan singing bowl at the end of a yoga class, there's no doubt that it can put you into a meditative state, but sit with a little longer—say an hour—with other vibration-heavy instruments and I bet you'll feel a difference.
When: $20 for members and guests, last Wednesday of every month, 8:30-9:15pm
Where: Studiomix, 1000 Van Ness (TenderNob), studiomix.com/sound-bath
This article has been updated since it was originally published on April 18, 2017.