Monday, December 7, 2009

Mission Introduction

Since moving to San Francisco in November 2008, I quickly became addicted to yoga - more specifically, sweaty, smelly, exhausting hour-and-a-half long Bikram Yoga at Mission Yoga.  
In Bikram, you do the same set of 26 poses, each repeated, in the same order in the same way every time, in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.  The teacher follows a script (or "dialogue" as Bikram calls it) but each teacher has a little something extra to add to the class.  At Mission, I value Juicy's classes for the joy she takes in teaching, Luke's or Steve's for pushing me past my limits, Matthew's for a calmer, less serious pace, Tracey's if I'm bringing (well, dragging kicking and screaming) a friend, Jessica's because she seems to know exactly where I'm doing it wrong - oh, let's face it, they're all awesome.  I commuted to the Mission District from my then apartment in the no man's land of Ingleside and my office in the Financial District, and when I finally moved to the Mission District, I made sure Mission Yoga was no more than a ten minute walk away.
Eventually I committed to the expensive monthly debit from my account for unlimited classes.   I discovered that my abdominal muscles did, indeed, exist.  I could wrap my arms around my legs and under my feet and occasionally still lock my knees.  I started saving up for the mass Bikram Yoga teacher training that happens twice each year.  I drank lots of coconut juice.  I successfully completed a thirty day challenge in which I went every day for thirty days.  I used words like "chakra" and "mindfulness" without a hint of mockery. My East Coast friends were a little concerned...
What I love about Bikram is:
- the consistency: I'm a slow learner (just ask my roommate Sarah how I did in the House Dance class at ODC) and the fact that the class is the same every time helps me recognize incremental improvement and build on what I've learned.
- post-Bikram euphoria: everyone I've taken to a class might have hated me during, but loved me after.  There's nothing like the feeling that you've successfully worked and stretched every muscle and organ in your body.  Or maybe I've just been single too long.
- the health benefits: it's not about losing weight (I gained, but it's all muscle, I swear) but bikram helps you eat better, sleep better, feel better overall.  Home late from work, all I want is a cookie.  Home late from Bikram, all I want is kale.
- mindfulness: i've only just started learning about meditation and "being present" (and the lack of a spiritual component is one of the primary complaints against Bikram's yoga) but staring into your own eyes in a mirror for hours a week really helps you learn to be comfortable, and "present," with yourself.
After a full year of this work, I became a little more aware of the fact that I am surrounded by, but not taking full advantage of, the yoga abundance that is San Francisco.  And after learning a bit more about the controversy surrounding Bikram (for a little background just check out the wikipedia page or this article in the New York Times), I realized it's high time to make sure that this really IS the yoga for me.  In other words...Namaste, or should I go?
However, I don't want to lose my new-found healthy self (or said newly-discovered ab muscles), so I will continue to go to bikram yoga three times a week while I explore a new studio or class on a weekly basis.  I will chronicle my progress (and lack thereof) in this blog.
So begins my yoga adventure!  I hope you enjoy sharing the journey.  My first post?  A list of all the yoga studios I've found thus far.  Stay tuned!

Mission Yoga
2390 Mission Street, San Francisco

First Timer Deal: $30 for 30 days unlimited yoga.

Image from Bikram College of Southern Indiana, which is located in New Albany, Indiana "across the street from the baseball fields in the small office park."

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