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Yoga Smorgasboard in San Francisco

posted Oct 27, 2009, 1:46 PM by Natalie Cox   [ updated Feb 2, 2010, 8:54 PM ]

On Yoga in San Francisco:


Yoga Studios in San Francisco are as multitudinous as Starbucks. There’s practically one on every corner. In fact, at one of the places I teach is another yoga studio quite literally across the street. And just like Starbucks, many of them are rather pricey. But very unlike the ubiquitous coffee chain, yoga studios in this city offer more types and teachings than you could possibly ever sample. There’s a brand of yoga for everyone from the devoutly spiritual to the anti-chanters. It makes sense that the yoga market would be massive in San Francisco, being one of the epicenters of all things “Eastern philosophy” in the 1960’s.


But do the hundreds of yoga studios that come up on a San Francisco Google search represent oversaturation or a fabulous wealth of yogic opportunities? For example, the Integral Yoga Institute (and no, no-one is paying me to advertise for them) offers seriously spiritual teachings for the philosophically minded. There’s uber-masculine handstand-heavy Ashtanga yoga at It’s Yoga and form-obsessed Iyengar at Yoga Garden. For the happily sweaty, there’s plenty of Bikram at Funky Door Yoga and other studios that can foot the massive heating bill. But choice in San Francisco goes way beyond asana style. You can ditch yoga philosophy with reckless abandon at pretty much any gym, but particularly at Crunch Fitness, where classes like “anti-gravity yoga” or “yoga bootcamp,” promise an ass-kicking. If you always wanted to join the circus but couldn’t quite commit, there’s the partner-based balancing act of Acro yoga. Or you can just take an all-male class completely naked and experience a whole new level of “non-sexual intimacy and vulnerability.”


Yoga purists occasionally decry the hybridization of yoga as a watering down of what should be a beautiful mind/body practice. While it is true that what many people practice in this city would hardly be recognized as yoga by Patanjali, does this really matter? I’m just glad there are so many people out there breathing and stretching all the time, regardless of whether they’re doing it to practice ahimsa or doing it to get a six-pack.  I know people tend to develop tenacious yoga preferences, but what choices like these, it’s sort of like eating the same meal every day. An Ashtanga yogi by choice, I would totally try all-female naked anti-gravity circus yoga class. Now, if only I could afford it.