Yoga Flow SF – Ocean
385 Ashton Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127
I haven’t taken a regular class here before–just Rusty Wells’s special Bhakti Flow class so this is more of a Rusty Wells’s yoga class review than it is a Yoga Flow SF review. The studio is conveniently located off the K/T MUNI; located on the second floor, the space is large and has a unique “old San Franciscan building” feel to it. This studio is heated (I would estimate to ~88 degrees F,) but the heaters don’t feel like they are “cooking you” so it’s a comfortable temperature for getting your sweat on.
Everyone at this class was there specifically for Rusty Wells–they were all enamored by him. I had heard about Rusty from a yoga teacher friend who lives in Seattle and wanted to see what all the hype was about. Rusty didn’t do any demonstrations at this class (although I’ve heard that he makes the most advanced poses look gracefully easy,) but the sequence of poses were challenging and novel. This is definitely a class for advanced students (level 2+) because Rusty moves fast so your body needs to move instinctively and flow quickly. For those who like music, Rusty opens and closes his class with chanting and he plays a wide variety of music throughout class, including modern pop hits and chakra-like chants. Rusty also had 6 people assisting in the class so everyone got some hands on adjustments.
Overall, Rusty’s special classes are definitely worth it–for $20, you get to practice alongside a bunch of people who are really into yoga and you get to be led by an always-smiling teacher who challenges you but also makes you feel loved with his warm smile; the yogis and yoginis in attendance, along with Rusty, were all incredibly friendly and nice. I didn’t know a single person in the room but I felt welcomed. For those who have been to yoga festivals, this class had a yoga festival/Wanderlust feel to it.
1.) Features big-name teachers with advanced practices such as Rusty Wells
2.) The large studio space so can accommodate many students (although because of the popularity of Rusty Wells’s class, you are still packed in tightly, mat to mat, which makes practicing some more advanced arm balances difficult for fear of toppling over and causing a domino effect)
3.) There seems to be a real community amongst the folks who go there; they all knew each other and the room was filled with laughter, people catching up and hugging each other before class
1.) No changing room space; there is a small women’s and men’s restroom with two toilet stalls and a couple of sinks; no showers. Because you sweat so much after heated yoga class, this means you have to go home to change before you continue on with your day
2.) The space looks like it used to be a function hall that was retrofitted for yoga so the ventilation isn’t as good as it is at some other heated yoga studios I have been to (compared to the heated yoga studios in Seattle)
Yoga Flow SF – Union
1892 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
I took a class with Lauren Pisano and it was the most challenging yoga class I have taken in San Francisco. Lauren really embraces transitions–every part of the flow is equally important and the yoga pose is the combination of all poses, not each individual pose. I found myself transitioning from one-legged fallen triangle with a foot and leg bind to side plank (on the other side) without dropping the lifted leg (this transition is really hard to do gracefully and requires a huge amount of core work.) I also went to Brad Brockbank’s class and he is also a student of Rusty Wells. Brad’s class is fast-paced (as the style of Bhakti Flow often is,) and if you don’t know the poses well, it can feel like you are getting lost, especially if you can’t hear him clearly since it is an enormous practice studio. I liked that Brad gave hands-on adjustments, even though it was a very large class. Because the studio is heated, each pose also feels slightly harder and you will do many Chaturangas.
The studio is one of the prettiest I have seen in San Francisco too, not because there is anything shiny about the space, but rather because there are windows on two of the walls and a skylight on the left side of the studio. It reminds me of practicing outdoors since you are surrounded by the tops of trees. Other yogis have described this space as a “treehouse.”
If I lived closer to this studio, I think this is the one I would frequent most often. You really do feel like you got a tough workout and that’s what I seek in my daily yoga practice. Lauren and Brad both opened the class with some chanting but it wasn’t overdone and lasted only a couple minutes; during yoga class, both would throw in inspirational quotes about heartbreak and letting it all go, but she wouldn’t interrupt the flow to indoctrinate such “learnings,” which I liked.
1.) Teachers offer a very physical and challenging Vinyasa practice that takes elements of Baptiste and weaves it into a more creative style with demanding transitions and adjustments
2.) Free oranges at the studio!
3.) Great location and studio practice space in the Marina near lots of food, clothing boutiques and shops
1.) Lack of efficiency at check in: Sign in line is very long and creates a bottleneck getting into the studio
2.) There are only two bathrooms (and the showers are located inside the single-toilet bathrooms, which makes showering unrealistic since you will be hogging the bathroom; you get relatively sweaty in this heated room)
3.) Only two changing stalls and very crowded hallway space during the transition time between classes
Love Story Yoga
473 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Love Story Yoga is one of the newer, amenity-filled studios in San Francisco. It has a spacious front desk, showers, lockers, and the practice space is enormous. Students face a platform stage where the yoga teacher demonstrates some poses. The practice studio has a whispering quality–I don’t know if was the dim lighting and the traditional Indian music or the heat but when you walk in, but you feel like using hushed tones. The yoga teacher, Neil Wadhawan, called us “friends” throughout the practice and asked us to meet someone new before we left; people lingered around and chatted with each other and Neil–it felt like a studio that has knit a community. He also lists Rusty Wells as one of his teachers so if are a Rusty fan, you will enjoy Neil’s fast-paced Bhakti flow practice.
1.) Convenient location and spacious practice area full of amenities
2.) I only went to one class but I looked at the teachers on their website–the majority are quite experienced and have over a decade of practice
3.) Heated yoga space is beautiful (no exposed metal grates / rattling heating sounds)
1.) If you don’t like chanting Sanskrit mantras or live drumming, this may not be the practice for you
2.) I took an advanced class level 2/3 class but it didn’t feel like it was an advanced class (although the breath work, if one was doing it correctly, one breath per pose, was quite demanding); I find that teachers “teach to the level” of the students in the room and the yoga clients here practiced at a more basic level
3.) The one teacher I practiced with didn’t give hands on adjustments (one of my favorite parts of yoga class); it may have been just that teacher or perhaps the classes here are too big for hands on adjustments to be a regular part of the practice
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
1185 Vicente Street San Francisco, CA 94116
Sivananda is an authentic yoga studio, run entirely by volunteers. It’s a very traditional and spiritual yoga center where the teachers were orange, chanting opens every class, and they ask you to wear modest clothing. You won’t break a sweat in this class but they do focus on technical alignment, advanced breathing, and your mental awareness. My friend almost did a headstand in this class (her first time ever.) The crowd skews older than other studios in SF. The teachers have been teaching yoga before it became mainstream (the yoga teacher I visited had taught since 1997) and she gave lots of hands on adjustments, especially to those who were newer to yoga. The first class is free so it’s a great way to check out the studio with low commitment.
1.) It’s very much a community where people support each other
2.) Very traditional; if you want to get a taste of how yoga is practiced outside of the Western world, this is a good place to experience that
1.) If you want to leave sweating and on a workout / yoga high, you won’t get this here. (They will argue that leaving feeling like you just had a “workout” isn’t yoga)
2.) I dropped in on an All-Levels class so I am not sure if their Intermediate Courses are more advanced but I felt that the All-Levels class was pretty introductory
Laughing Lotus Yoga Center
3271 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
This studio is a brightly painted space; it’s impossible to miss because of its bright orange paint on the outside of the building. The studio itself has some retail, 4 changing stalls, 2 bathrooms (no showers,) and a nice tea and cookies area. I found that after class, the students didn’t depart immediately but really wanted to hang out to talk to each other and the teacher. Although I had only been there once, it felt like this studio does foster quite a bit of community. I took the Lotus Flow 2/3 class with Robin Wilner. She had some very unique and dance-like transitions which I enjoyed learning. Robin is a former Broadway performer so her Bhakti flow is inspired by dance-like movements and her singing voice is beautiful and strong. Her class was large but the space was also large so it didn’t feel packed. I think I could learn some interesting new transitions from Robin if it was a smaller class or a workshop. The flow was very fast so there isn’t much time devoted to alignment and the technique in some of the poses is more advanced but it’s not a hard class in terms of cardio or muscle work as the poses weren’t held for a long time and the class was not heated.
1.) I enjoyed Robin’s challenging transitions and beautiful playlist
2.) The studio is unique and welcoming (the cookies and tea is a nice touch)
3.) The practice space faces two open doors that look out at some plants and there is a skylight in the ceiling, taking you into a different world when you step into the yoga center (you feel relaxed compared to when you are walking the busy and chaotic streets of the Mission)
1.) Robin’s was the most advanced class; if you are looking to further grow your pactice, you may be limited at this studio
2.) There are no showers at the studio which is usually okay because you don’t sweat that much if it’s not a heated yoga class but it is nice to have that amenity because if you are going to spend the rest of the day out and about with your friends, it is nice to freshen up
3.) Classes are big (studio space is larger) so you may not feel like you get as much individualized attention; but I will say that Robin did not spend her time at the front with a mat demonstrating the poses–she walked around and offered adjustments to some students which I liked better than a yoga teacher who stays at the front of the room and demonstrates every pose
Baptiste Yoga San Francisco
38 Mesa Street San Francisco, CA 94129
This Baptiste Yoga studio is a hidden gem in the city. It’s located in the basement of one of The Presidio’s quiet, historic, white buildings. The studio is fairly new and difficult to find on Yelp or via Google search since it has only received a small handful of reviews in November and December of 2015. Baptiste Yoga is a “get down to business” heated power yoga style with a strong focus on Vinyasa flow. Expect to do many Chaturanga Dandasanas and don’t expect much talk about the stars and the spirits. My preference for yoga leans towards an intense core and cardio workout, not an intense spiritual experience, so I am personally biased towards Baptiste Yoga. The fact that this studio is in the Presidio is both a pro and a con–I love that it is surrounded by beauty and it’s a peaceful place to walk around before or after class. However, it’s also far away from where most people live, making it unrealistic to go to this yoga studio on a regular basis if you live across the city. If you are able to make the trip to the Presidio, pack some snacks and a change of clothes (since you will get very sweaty); I strongly encourage you to check out this gorgeous new studio!
1.) The studio is new and has many amenities including lockers, bathrooms, and showers
2.) The practice area is spotless
3.) The classes are not crowded (for now) which means you have a ton of personal space and the instructor gives you many hands on adjustments. There were 5 other people at my 9:30am yoga class with Jen
4.) If you are driving, there is plenty of parking in the area
1.) There aren’t many classes each day (5-6 classes on weekdays and 2-3 classes on weekends)
2.) It’s far from everything and difficult to walk to
3.) Due to the old building the studio is in, there is never actual silence–the walls make an odd gurgling or rumbling sound every now and then
4.) The Baptiste Yoga style can be repetitive after a while (just like Ashtanga Yoga or any other style with a determined set of poses,) so if you are an extremely frequent practitioner, you might want to seek out some variety
Yoga Garden SF
286 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Enter this space through picturesque wooden gates; continue over an artistically paved stone sidewalk surrounded by a dense wall of plants. You can’t find a cuter yoga studio. Yoga Garden SF is an unheated yoga studio situated in the Hayes Valley neighborhood (although it can still get steamy in the room from the “regular” heat in the winter and the energy from the yogis.) The yoga rooms are nestled in a three-story house. There is a yoga room on each floor: Earth, Water, and Air (make sure you ask the front desk which floor your yoga class is on so you go to the right room.) These three rooms allow Yoga Garden SF to offer a high number of classes each day to fit your busy schedules (~10 classes/day on weekends and ~15 classes/day on weekdays.) The teachers lead a wide variety of levels and my favorite teachers there are Roy Gan and Christie Rafanan. Roy plays an energetic and revitalizing playlist while teaching a sassy Vinyasa class and Christie introduces fun new moves and transitions that I hadn’t tried before
1.) Experienced teachers (who have continuity–they don’t leave often and keep their schedules, especially Roy)
2.) Cute practice space
1.) Bathrooms: It only has two toilets; due to the high volume of classes and yogis, there is always a line for the bathroom so arrive early if you need to change into your yoga clothes; there also aren’t showers
2.) Classes are back-to-back: They pack the end time of one class right next to the start time so class transitions can feel crowded, especially since the house has narrow halls/stairs
Overall, this is a wonderful studio that I highly recommend to yogis of all levels.
The Pad Studios
1690 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
From the outside, this studio looks like it could be a bright and girlie candy shop. Its white interior and angelic decorations caught my eye–I was actually driving by when I saw this studio and made a note to check it out. This is one of the cleanest unheated yoga studios I have been to in San Francisco. The walls are bright white and the studio feels airy due to the many windows that allow sunshine to stream through. They have a friendly and spacious front desk area to check guests in and a nice retail selection of high-end yoga gear. You can keep your stuff in cubbies in the yoga studio while you practice to make sure they don’t walk off during class. They also offer pilates reformer at this location (I haven’t tried it myself.) Most of the teachers at this location don’t play music and incorporate more spiritual aspects of the practice (there was quite a bit of talk about stars aligning during one class.)
The one drawback of this studio is also its bathroom situation: There is one bathroom in the yoga studio and one outside the studio in the pilates reformer room. However, there are plenty of changing stalls so changing is not a problem.
I recommend this studio for yogis who want to practice alongside other beginner to intermediate students. For perspective on the yogis who go to this studio, the folks I practiced with were all affluent, white-collar workers.
Body Temp Yoga
2425 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
This yoga studio is situated on the second floor, over a laundromat. Its staff is friendly and the teachers lead quite advanced classes. It has one heated yoga studio and offers both Vinyasa flow and sculpt classes (yoga with weights) which is a great way to intensify your practice. Back in Seattle, I always practiced hot yoga. A heated room makes every yoga pose at least 5X harder. However, in my opinion, the heat in this studio is far too high for a fluid Vinyasa yoga practice.
1.) Many changing stalls
2.) One of the few hot yoga studios in San Francisco
1.) Only two bathrooms with toilets; no showers
2.) No water fountain or free water; I find this extremely problematic for a heated yoga studio. At $20/drop-in class, the studio really should invest in a free water system (whether it is a water fountain or a Poland Spring water delivery service.) You can only purchase bottled water here (or fill up your water bottle in the bathroom sink, but that water isn’t filtered)
3.) Heating is too high and heater grates turn orange/red, making you feel like you are being fried in an oven. This yoga studio doesn’t disguise its heater grates so you can see the metal heaters in the front of the room. That combined with the darkness of the room really makes it feel like you are being cooked
I would recommend this yoga studio for advanced yogis who want a heart-racing workout and an extreme sweat session. If you are new to yoga, I would recommend that you try one of the other unheated yoga studios in San Francisco.
Yoga Tree Hayes Valley
519 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I only like spiritual talks about the stars and your inner goddess during yoga retreats like Wanderlust. During my regular daily practice, I want to get a good workout and I don’t want to be lectured about why we need to yoke our bodies and our minds.
Yoga Tree has many locations in San Francisco. I visited the Hayes Valley location and took a class with Cecily Guest. The studio is conveniently located on the charming Hayes Street, surrounded by delectable macaroon shops and trendy clothing boutiques. The studio practice space is fairly large and has brightly painted yoga-inspired walls. The room is heated just a bit for practice. This space doesn’t offer showers but does have two changing rooms in the front lobby area.
This is actually the most convenient studio for me to go to because it’s so close to where I live; yet I find myself venturing several more miles away to check out other yoga studios. There aren’t many Vinyasa classes offered each day at this studio. They do seem to offer more Hatha, Jivamukti, and Yin Yoga classes. As a young person who is blessed with quite flexible joints, I don’t find I get as much out of such classes. I am also not there to find myself spiritually–I feel better after a physically tiresome yoga practice than I do after a mentally challenging one, so I lean towards power yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes. However, I found that the all levels Vinyasa class with Cecily was too focused on the spiritual aspects of the practice. She would interrupt the flow to ask us questions and expect us to respond. It feel more like a classroom than a yoga studio. I may return to a different Vinyasa class to reevaluate but my sense is that this studio focuses on discovering yourself spiritually through yoga.
1.) Excellent location; cute studio
2.) Focus on “slower” yoga styles if that is what you are looking for (learning breathing techniques, etc)
1.) No showers and limited changing space
2.) Not enough variety of classes offered each day at the Hayes Valley location (especially on the weekends)
Yoga Mayu Mission
2051 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110
I have only been to one class at Yoga Mayu in the Mission and I chose to stop by Gizella’s class. She and her husband own Yoga Mayu. She led a fluid Vinyasa flow class. I thought it was a solid unheated yoga class with a focus on stretching. The studio is neatly organized and relatively clean but for me, there wasn’t an extra spark that made me feel like I was at home. Because of its location, it has fewer attendees per class, so the classes feel much less packed.
1.) Classes aren’t packed
2.) Gizella’s class offers lots of stretching opportunities so you feel realigned and refreshed
1.) The location of the studio is a bit unpleasant (especially if you are walking there and coming from the north)
2.) The studio windows open up to a busy street and in the summers, it’s hot and stuffy so the instructors open up the window to air out the studio–the sounds of street traffic and honking spill into your practice