Monday, March 8, 2010

Candlelit Yoga at Yoga to the People: I Am a Human, Being


Thanks to a bout of flu and the beginning of my 30 day bikram challenge, it’s been a little while since last I wrote, but I know my many loyal followers have been waiting with bated breath for my next yesterday I decided to follow up a 4:30pm bikram class with a 7pm "candlelit yoga" session at Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga form that apparently began in New York (there's a YTTP in Berkeley as well).  Their website is unique and their mantra is really refreshing, so I've copied it below, in it's entirety:


A little crunchy-granola California-rific for you East Coasters, I know, but I for one was very excited for this particular class.  

The preceding bikram class was taught by a big brawny guest teacher named Bruno.  He had a great style of teaching and pushing us past what we thought were our limits, and I was so focused and engaged that the hour and a half flew by.  Of course, when I peeled my soggy self off my yoga mat after final savasana, my thighs and middle back felt like they'd been steamrollered.  So it was that I walked the four blocks from studio to studio (passing by that Anusara place I've been meaning to try on the way...the Starbucks comparison is no joke!) with a certain amount of trepidation.
YTTP is tucked away on the 6th floor of a drab, whitewashed building.  You follow photocopied arrows down hallways, through closed doors, and up endless stairways...but emerge into a veritable sanctuary of a studio - a huge warm, dimly lit space with fresh hardwood floors and a gentle murmur of conversation, with a row of huge windows overlooking the city.  San Francisco at night from a candlelit yoga studio?  Freaking gorgeous.

The staff were friendly and welcoming, and the room gradually filled with 30 - 40 yogis, mostly folks my age and younger but also a few senior citizens, and a few kids who had never set foot in a yoga class.  The teacher (with an unusual name - Block? Break? whatever it was, he was cute - actually there were more attractive guys in this class than any other I've been to here in SF, which is saying something) had a really friendly, unpretentious style, always bringing us back to our breath, reminding us that it didn't matter how we looked or how the person next to us was doing, and that yoga is supposed to be fun!

Even though it seemed a bit geared towards beginners, and the class erupted into laughter more than once, it wasn't easy - we worked up a sweat and held some difficult poses for what felt like hours.  But the most refreshing aspect was that no one (teacher or student) took themselves too seriously; the emphasis was on finding your practice, doing poses to the best of your ability and making them your own.  At the end of class I felt more present in my own body and aware of its abilities and limitations that I have in most of the hundreds of hours I've put into that mirrored bikram studio. 

Something Break/Block/hot yoga teacher told us has stuck with me: "you're a human being, not a human doing." That sense of awareness and presence lingered throughout the course of the evening...but of course, by the time I was munching on Girl Scout cookies and scrolling through an Oscar fashion photo gallery, it had pretty much dissipated.

I'll be going back!

Yoga to the People - Mission District (San Francisco) and Berkeley (East Bay)
Donation based ($10 suggested donation)

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