The new year for many means new fitness resolutions. Runners and walkers alike will crowd the trails from Crissy Field and the Marina Green to deep inside the Presidio. But for those who aren’t runners or hard-core gym-goers, there is an alternative activity that can bring many of the same effects of more intense exercise to muscles, and even better, to the mind: yoga. Its many benefits have been documented by both the fitness and medical community for years. Yoga can increase flexibility, build strength, up lung capacity, and offer relief from stress and anxiety. And one of the best things about this ancient practice is that anyone can take yoga classes; many studios offer classes geared to beginners, and any yoga pose, or asana, can be modified to accommodate anything from creaky joints to minor injuries. For those who want a stronger workout, practices such as vinyasa, power yoga, and hot yoga ramp up the action.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Cow Hollow and the Marina are home to myriad yoga studios. They offer many different styles of yoga, but most focus on vinyasa yoga, which involves moving from one pose to another in what’s called a “flow,” where practitioners rarely stop moving. Breath, alignment, and staying present are key tenants of vinyasa and most other forms of yoga. So-called “hot yoga” involves taking a class in a studio heated to 85–90 degrees, which loosens tightness and purportedly releases toxins. Experts differ on the actual benefits of hot yoga versus regular yoga classes, but there’s no denying that a heated studio on a chilly winter day feels pretty darn good.
Yoga Flow is a family-operated, community-based chain of three studios with one located on Union Street. It offers beginner yoga classes every day. The majority of its classes are heated, vigorous, and fast paced with modifications for both beginners and advanced practitioners. The goal is to offer physically challenging full-body workouts as well as a moving meditation. Yoga Flow teachers move students through a series of postures at a rapid rate in addition to holding poses to build strength and flexibility (Yoga Flow, 1892 Union Street, 415-440-9642, yogaflowsf.com).
ADD PILATES TO THE MIX
The Pad on Union Street offers challenging power vinyasa yoga classes in a room heated to 85 degrees, and private and group Pilates reformer classes set to upbeat contemporary music. The Pilates reformer machine has a bed-like frame with a flat platform that rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. This carriage is attached to one end of the reformer by a set of springs. These springs — along with a set of adjustable straps with handles — provide different levels of resistance during a series of exercises designed to work every muscle in the body.
In addition to vinyasa and Pilates, The Pad has other classes like Align and Flow, an all-level vinyasa class that emphasizes proper alignment and activation in yoga poses. This class is geared toward newer yoga students or those preferring a flow class at a slower pace.
The Pad also offers hatha yoga classes, which teach proper alignment with a strong focus on binding breath and movement. Hatha yoga is based on classic, ancient yoga practices and offers instruction in practice with emphasis on yoga philosophy and meditation techniques.
Both the Align and Flow and hatha yoga classes are taught in studios heated to 85 degrees. Other classes at The Pad include prenatal yoga, postnatal yoga, with babies, hot Pilates, and private yoga instruction (The Pad, 1694 Union Street, 415-929-1690, thepadstudios.com).
SOME LIKE IT HOTTER STILL
Body Temp Yoga and Movement Studios on Chestnut Street is a combination of a hot yoga studio and gym, with two locations directly across the street from one another. It offers classes in Bikram yoga, hot sculpt yoga with weights, hot and regular vinyasa, candlelight vinyasa, hot Pilates, and several other stretching and strengthening classes. Body Temp heats its studios with infrared heat that is purportedly better for promoting healthier skin and is environmentally friendly. Bikram yoga is a proprietary system of hot yoga classes consisting of a fixed sequence of 26 postures practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees. Extra-hot Bikram classes are taught at 110 degrees and followed by a cooldown (Body Temp Yoga, 2425 Chestnut Street, 415-922-1958, bodytempyoga.com).
YOGA FOR ALL
Other nearby yoga studios include Karma Yoga on Union Street and Core Power Yoga in various locations including Lombard Street. If all this fiery yoga sounds too hot to handle, the city is literally bursting with yoga studios that offer all styles of the practice in cooler spaces. Always get your physician’s take on any new workout, but the good news about yoga is that there is a practice for everyone, and it’s a positive start to a brand-new year.
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