Having taken several virtual yoga classes for the past 8 months, I’m recommending the best online yoga classes I’ve found while you are keeping yourself and everyone else safe by staying at home.
Leigha Butler teaches some of the most interesting vinyasa flows and her videos date back several years. The audio and picture quality isn’t as high as that of some other creators, but I find myself going to her channel for more advanced flows that leave you feeling like you just went to a yoga studio. Her classes are similar to Nicole Wild’s in terms of flow thoughtfulness, but Leigha’s flows are more “flowy”. In addition, Leigha has uploaded more videos.
Boho Beautiful is a lifestyle and fitness channel that has 1.7M subscriptions. This channel is selling more of their lifestyle and isn’t purely yoga videos. The production quality is extremely good though (she dubs her voice over the videos after she makes them and weaves in yoga background music so you don’t even need to think about that, the setting is always in a beautiful location so you can virtually transport there yourself, and she has an extremely calming voice.) The channel does feature a super skinny and fit woman (which you may or may not like–some may say she is pushing an unattainably body image, some may find her body shape inspirational). While the yoga practice sequences she leads are strong, I don’t think the transitions are the most interesting and innovative, but I do still watch a lot of her free YouTube classes. Her classes are a good fit for you if you are looking for a 20-30 minute sequence.
Nicole Wild’s yoga flow sequences are some of the best full-length online yoga classes. They are good quality, free (she doesn’t put ads in the YouTube videos and if any show up, it’s because YouTube’s algorithms put them in,) and they are challenging for advanced yogis, interesting, and accessible for an at home practice (doesn’t require many props.) The people who leave YouTube video comments are constantly saying that this was the closest experience to an in studio practice. Her classes focus on interesting transitions and are not “flowy” so you will be disappointed if you are looking for a power flow class. I have subscribed to her YouTube channel to get alerts of when she puts out new videos (which is a one to two times a month.) January 29, 2021 update: Nicole is now only uploading 30-minute classes to YouTube and for longer classes and more offerings, she is launching a paid membership on her website.
Breathe and Flow is an active YouTube channel maintained by a couple, Bre and Flo, who used to teach at YogaWorks in Palo Alto, CA. However, right now they have taken a break from teaching in Palo Alto and are traveling the world. They have started a paid platform on Patreon to support their work but they continue to regularly put out 30-60 minute yoga flows and tutorials on YouTube. One interesting thing about their channel is that they try to bust the stereotypes around yoga, and Flo actively tries to introduce yoga to more men, with “Yoga for Men” videos. They also publish the best modern yoga playlist I have found across all streaming platforms–you can get theirs on Spotify and they update it monthly.
If you want to work on your back bending or flexibility practice, Yograja tapes his classes and has a few flows where he is teaching directly to the camera audience. His studio is in Vietnam but he teaches in English (with some Vietnamese sprinkled into the classes.) The production quality of this channel is not as good but I have learned a lot of new stretching and back bending training exercises. His classes don’t have a feel of “relaxation”; they are more “training” classes. Also, his classes that are marked as “beginner/intermediate” would be considered “advanced” at many other Western studios and his “advanced” classes are actually very “advanced” and require many years (if not decades) of flexibility and strength training to follow along successfully. His classes are purely skill training (there is nothing about your mental health here.)
I got a free subscription to MyYogaWorks from my company so I tried it out. Although I tried practicing alongside ~10 instructors in various videos, I didn’t feel like any of them were that advanced in teaching and the flow felt choppy and disjointed. I wouldn’t pay for a MyYogaWorks subscription but if you get one for free, I would check out some of their level 3 classes (which are still quite introductory when compared to the free YouTube videos shown above.) As a separate subscription from MyYogaWorks, YogaWorks offers live classes via Zoom which cost the same as in-person classes. I believe the Zoom classes are the replacement for in person classes going forward since in October, YogaWorks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to relieve the company of its studio and brick and mortar liabilities. I personally found the Zoom yoga classes to be really basic and pretty bland–I think folks still went to them to support the teachers that they practiced with in person, who may have offered more challenging flows when they were in the studio compared to when everyone is on Zoom at home.
I have also tried the Peloton app and the Equinox Variis app: The Peloton app is by far more popular and has new classes uploaded daily. However, their style took some adjusting to: They play pop music, rap music, everything that isn’t traditional yoga music, and they do “shout-outs” during class, which was birthed from the Peloton bike experience, which I found to be very annoying. Despite all this, I think Anna Greenberg‘s classes are challenging and interesting enough to spend time on and she teaches advanced skills. On the other hand, I gave Ross Rayburn‘s classes a couple tries and just couldn’t get through them–he sounds like “that very LA Yoga teacher” who abbreviates chopasana as just “chop” when he is instructing. Besides for Anna Greenberg, I didn’t enjoy any of the other instructors on Peloton with the exception of Aditi Shah for meditation (but not her yoga classes.) Equinox is a different story: Unlike Peloton, they upload new videos infrequently but their yoga classes are much better. Equinox owns Pure Yoga, a luxury yoga studio based out of Manhattan, and their instructors seem to focus on yoga only. Their music is less “pop” and more “meditation”, allowing you to focus on your transitions and your body. Personally, I would prefer this kind of vibe for my yoga classes (as opposed to trying to fit a spinning bike class’s style into a yoga class.) However, it’s unclear to me whether Pure Yoga will make it through the pandemic or whether Equinox will just get rid of those studios, as sadly, many other yoga studios have already closed their physical spaces permanently.
If you only want to learn interesting yoga transitions and skills, Nathalie Bakker offers very unique and interesting yoga challenges on her Instagram page for free, but they aren’t full yoga practices. For another high-technique teacher, Carmen Aguilar’s website offers paid yoga class streams. I haven’t taken them myself but I did go to her in-person workshops (pre-covid) and you do learn a lot of very challenging skills (just check out this YouTube video of her practice and her Instagram page.) For both instructors, I have found that a video stream cannot ever come close to an in-person practice with these ladies because they typically offer hands on adjustments to move you into the right position so you can build that muscle memory. I remember Natalie giving me a small assist so I could do lotus pose in headstand and after that one time, I was able to repeat it every single time by myself after I got the feeling of doing this novel pose on my head. At Carmen’s workshops, her husband assists too so they both make help you move into some of the more challenging poses that would be difficult to achieve alone (especially if you don’t have mirrors at home.)
Alessandro Sigismondi is a YouTube video photographer who makes beautiful yoga videos and occasionally, he’ll upload a video that you can follow along as a full class (but it usually doesn’t have narration like a traditional live stream); the video and picture quality will be amazing and inspirational though.
Right around the time I got my new indoor spinning bike, my toes started to get red, swollen, and itchy. My reaction was to put ice on them because they were getting too hot and needed to be cooled down. Little did I know that I was self-inducing 50 days of pain to myself physically and mentally. This is the story of how I figured out what was wrong and what I learned from the negative experience.
When my toes first started to get swollen and itchy, I thought it was an allergy, or my toes rubbing against the shoes of the new bike shoes. When the toes continued to be inflamed even after icing them and buying bigger and different bike shoes, I thought perhaps I had “covid toes” so I got a covid test. It came back negative, but that wasn’t conclusive for me either, since some “covid toes” symptoms were known to occur after someone has the virus and was no longer carrying covid.
I did a virtual care appointment with my primary care provider, who is based in California (at the moment, I have relocated to Washington State.) He thought that I was exhibiting symptoms of cholinergic urticaria, also known colloquially as “heat bumps”, caused by sweat and heat. This was entirely plausible to me since I did get really hot and sweaty after biking. He didn’t think it was chilblains because it doesn’t snow where I live now and I’m not spending time outside hiking in the cold, wet rain. In addition, I grew up in Boston and lived there for 20 years. Compared to freezing Boston, the mild winters of Seattle are not cold, which is why I also wrote off “being cold” as a cause. Therefore, I proceeded to try to do everything to keep my feet and toes cold because cold was the opposite of inflamed and hot, from icing them, to not wearing socks and going barefoot while I was indoors, to keeping my feet outside of the bed covers while sleeping so they would remain cold, to getting onto the spinning bike when my feet were really cold so that they “wouldn’t get too hot”. However, the swelling continued, the toes got itchier and the angry redness kept moving down my toes, towards my feet. I was taking twice the dosage of over the counter antihistamines (at the guidance of my doctor) and nothing was improving. I was afraid I would lose my toes and woke up in the middle of the night and grabbed my flashlight to examine my toes and make sure they were okay. I would also wake up in the middle of the night to put on more steroid cream because they were so itchy. It was difficult for me to think about work or anything else other than “What is wrong with my toes?” At some point, I thought I had arthritis, diabetes, covid toes, eczema, fungal infections, inflammation reaction to food, or heat-induced inflammation. I was starting to get desperate for a solution.
About a month into the swollen toes, I started noticing that my right pinky finger was also getting swollen and itchy. “On no! It’s spreading,” I thought. I didn’t know what “it” was, and was trying everything from steroid creams to reduce the swelling from the outside, turmeric pills and antihistamines to reduce the inflammation from the inside, and avoided all meats and dairy to try to reduce inflammation. I even stopped cycling and stopped running or walking outside for fear of irritating the skin on my toes, since the few times I did do that, I ended up itchier and in more pain. I was dumbfounded as to what was happening when my fingers started to exhibit the same painful characteristics as my toes. So I went in for a dermatology appointment with Ame Phitwong at Puget Sound Dermatology. I was willing to see anyone who had an open slot, even though I went in with low hopes given their 2.5 stars review and because I wasn’t able to see an MD on such short notice, and had to see a DNP/ARNP instead. A few important things I learned from that visit:
Just because someone doesn’t have the fancy academic credentials (e.g. an MD), doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their jobs. Ame was incredibly attentive and noticed immediately that my fingers and toes were really cold. She followed up with a phone call after checking the photos with others in the department and told me she thinks that I have chilblains, but wanted to wait until the lab results came back before prescribing me anything.
The one key thing I had not described to any of my doctors or doctor friends in the past month of my misery was that my fingers and toes were cold to the touch. I didn’t know to tell them that. I just knew that my fingers and toes were inflamed and felt itchy, as if they were on fire. Sometimes, you literally need a “human touch” or an in-person interaction for someone to properly understand where you are coming from. You can’t get that from a video call.
Sure enough, after Ame said I had chilblains, I started to treat my symptoms as if they were chilblains, and not an internal allergic inflammation or topic dermatitis. Instead of freezing my fingers and toes to alleviate the itchiness, I kept them consistently warm (in socks and in gloves.) This was difficult at first because putting ice on them made them feel better in the short term (but they would always go back to throbbing and itchy after the ice came off.) However, within 24 hours, I started to notice that if I kept my fingers consistently warm and then did a pilates workout that would get my blood moving, my fingers and toes wouldn’t get crazily itchy like they did when I was cold and then did a light workout. This was the most progress I had made in over a month, so I kept at it. Within 5 days of the diagnosis and the change in behavior to keep my fingers and toes consistently warm before working out, the wrinkles on my toes and fingers had returned and the swelling and itchiness had subsided.
So what illness did I have?
Well it turns out that chilblains occur when your blood vessels rapidly expand, or rather, when you warm up too quickly. The convenience of having an exercise bike at home exacerbated this issue by causing the blood vessels in my toes to rapidly expand when I hopped onto the bike. Compared to when I would go to the gym to workout after work, I had a 3-foot commute to my exercise bike (it’s literally right next to my desk). At least when you are going to the gym, you are walking or moving to the gym, getting your blood moving and “warming up.” Of course a proper warm-up is still necessary, but of all the times that I didn’t properly warm up and just started to run or cycle at a gym, I had never had this issue. The difference now was that I was consistently going from being sedentary at my desk directly to the bike, because it was too convenient to do so. As for my fingers, well my left hand never exhibited any inflammation or swelling. I’m a righty, so I was using my right hand to place the ice on my toes. My right hand was getting frozen and then warming up too quickly as well! The blood vessels in my right fingers were also rapidly expanding and leaking fluid out of them, causing the inflammation.
The heat was not the problem,
nor was the cold.
The rapid change
from cold to hot was the culprit.
As with our physical bodies, I’ve learned that our minds can accept very different ideas, but the only way to be successful at convincing yourself or someone else of that drastically different idea, is to do so gradually. We mentally cannot process a rapid change, just like our blood vessels physically cannot process such a rapid change in temperature without rupturing. When I was younger and more naive, I wanted change in the workplace and change from others rapidly. I wanted others to adopt different ideas, my ideas, immediately. Not only did I get a biology lesson from this experience, but I also drew inspiration from this for my workplace and for how I plan to interact with my friends and family in this new year.
Below, you’ll find a series of yoga studio ratings and teachers I have practiced with. If you are an advanced yogi and want to learn the most creative and challenging poses and transitions, I recommend practicing with Nathalie Bakker. Right now, her only drop-in, public classes are at YogaWorks in Palo Alto and it’s the only class that I regularly pay for (otherwise, I practice on my own.) I will caveat that this is a physically and mentally challenging class, but this is not a spiritual class. Nathalie will push you to try new poses, and she’ll always ask for more from you, but this is not a class you go to in order to relax and meditate. And if you are a beginner, don’t go to Nathalie’s classes because it will be a waste of both of your time. For more yoga studio and teacher reviews across the Bay Area, read on!
The studio benefits from the spaciousness of the suburbs–this standalone building with its name emblazoned on it in 5000 point font is impossible to miss. It even boasts its own parking lot. The 2-story studio is gorgeous, comfortable, and high-tech; the yoga room is highly insulated to outside sound so you won’t hear cars and can focus intently on your practice. There are massage and healing rooms and the hallways are roomy and airy. Room temperature is effortlessly regulated through modern heating and cooling. There is a large locker room changing area and showers. It’s the kind of place I could spend a whole day lounging in. For some yogis, my sense is that they may find this studio a bit too perfect and manicured; if you prefer the studios with “character” like the yoga studios converted from old houses in San Francisco with their “old wooden house” smell, unique floor layout, and sometimes uneven or creaking wooden floor panels, this studio is the opposite.
I found the vinyasa practices here to be peaceful, uncrowded, and moderate in difficulty level. The power yoga and vinyasa classes are accessible to a wide range of skill levels and the teachers offer a lot of modifications. I have practiced with Joanie, Hana, Louis, Cheryl, and John at the studio. Joanie and Hana practiced along and demonstrated almost all of the poses. John Berg (he is also the studio’s owner,) welcomes everyone as family. He is very enthusiastic about every single pose and his style is to demonstrate some sequences and move around the room but he says in his own words that “it’s not my style to tug and pull you into shape” so he isn’t the type to offer hands on adjustments. Cheryl is the opposite and is very hands on with adjustments (I always hope that when she walks by, she is going to give me an assist!) Louis Jackson offers the most advanced physical practice here and his class is the one that I feel I can grow physical practice with. My observation was that the yogis who practice here are less experienced than those in the city studios I have visited or at Vibe Yoga in Redwood City and perhaps that is why the teachers felt that they needed to demonstrate more poses. In almost all of my level 2+ yoga classes in San Francisco, the instructors expected you to have a general idea of all of the basic and intermediate-level yoga poses or they would verbally cue you and they would spend all of their time walking around and making adjustments. Many yoga teachers didn’t even have a mat towards the front of the room and they would only stop to demonstrate some more advanced poses.
1.) Spotless studio space and changing room
2.) Spacious amount of practice space so you don’t bump into anyone; lots of high quality props
3.) Studio room is highly insulated to sound so you can really focus on your breathing; om’s sound beautiful in this yoga studio, even when there are only a few yogis because of how the walls are designed to vibrate
4.) Offers a 30% “Good Neighbor” discount to those who live within 3 miles and a 50% off “Bay Area Bhakti” discount to those who commute more than 15 miles–they changed management sometime in 2017 so these discounts may no longer be valid
5.) Advanced water filtration system (FloWater) is available and free Pellegrino for practitioners
1.) Vinyasa classes are basic and don’t push your heart rate and challenge you with advanced poses (although the Tivra 2 Vinyasa class is an exception–the instructor, Louis, challenges you in every way–long holds, challenging transitions)
2.) The location is far away from everything (shops, restaurants, public transportation) so you have to drive there
I have taken class here with Irene Au, Helen Christine, Elena Milyukova, Toni Cupal, Tyler Hoffman, Evangeline Ventura, Janya Wongsopa, Thoa van Seventer, and Jafar Alkenany. While Irene’s class was a beginners level class, she offered creative ways to do common flows and I was inspired after her class to buy a 5-pack; plus, they have a new student special where you get 50% off any class package (up to 50 classes) which helped me make the decision to give them a try. I felt that Elena’s 8am on Sunday class and Helen’s Sunday Stretch class was still quite basic and accessible to newer yogis but Elena does offer some inversions and hands on adjustments. Toni teaches on Mondays and Thursdays at Avalon and she is one of the more advanced teachers. For those who aren’t familiar, Jivamukti classes involve some singing. I really enjoyed how she gave everyone hands on adjustments and the warmth she brings to classes. She also started a Jivamukti yoga studio in London. After taking Toni’s class, I decided to sign up for another 10 class package. I also visited Tyler Hoffman’s Monday evening class, and he is another teacher who offers hands on adjustments. The distinctive part of Tyler’s class is that he instructs where your drishti, or your eyes should focus on and he has a calming baritone voice, the kind that you would want reading you an audiobook or instructing you on meditation before you fall asleep. Evangeline Ventura teaches a more hatha class, offering hands on adjustments and natural oils; her class is accessible for beginners. Thoa van Seventer said her classes vary from intense to relaxed and the class I went to with her was more on the relaxed / easy side. Janya Wongsopa’s Yin/Yang class is 95% Yin, so it’s great if you want to get a good stretch in but you won’t be moving strongly. Jafar Alkenany is a regular substitute at Avalon and he leads his class like how a personal trainer would instruct you, as opposed to a yoga teacher, so it’s very different than a traditional flow. In general, I would say that Avalon is a good yoga studio for those who are newer to yoga or yogis who want to focus more on alignment and the mental benefits of yoga. It is not a “workout” studio. My 2 favorite teachers, Toni and Tyler, don’t teach on weekends so I’m not sure I will continue going to this studio after I use this set of passes and I can’t wake up early enough to go to Josie Zhou’s class (I have heard amazing things about her.)
1.) Wide range of teaching styles and high quality teachers, albeit more focused towards the mental instead of the physical aspects of the practice. At least one of the teachers is Thai and she offers a retreat to her hometown.
2.) Conveniently located on California Ave near a bunch of other retail shops (and a farmer’s market on Sundays)
1.) Studio space seems older (not much ventilation–I suggest you practice near the front doors on the left of the studio if you want more of a breeze, especially in the summer)
2.) No showers or changing rooms (just bathrooms in the back)
There are two YogaSource locations in the bay area and they are run by different management. I have only tried the YogaSource location in Palo Alto but I have heard that the facilities for the Yoga Source in Los Gatos are phenomenal.
The teachers here are advanced–many of them used to teach at Vibe Yoga in Redwood City before that studio closed. They break down poses and offer advanced options. The classes here are big though so you may not get much personal attention.
Reviews of vinyasa teachers at YogaSource:
Johnny Gonsoulin has been teaching since the 90’s and he offers hands on adjustments to almost everyone in child’s pose
Mara Reinin offers very dance-like, big vinyasa movements and interesting transitions. She gives some hands on adjustments but her class is very full so she can’t get to everyone. Her class is right after a couple heated classes on Sunday and the studio doesn’t have great ventilation; that, plus the yoga mats that aren’t closed-cell (or aren’t cleaned that well) means it smells a bit like souring rice vinegar because of everyone’s dirty mats.
Ngugi Kihara’s vinyasa class requires a lot of strength. He breaks down poses and has you work on the fundamentals. For example, he had our practice crow pose with a block behind our heels, while we were lying on our backs, so we would know how far up our heels had to be. The entire class was themed around that moment of crow and you could tell all the core work leading up to it was to fine tune your crow pose.
Kristine Tom’s vinyasa class is very technical–she did some interesting work with a block between your pinky-side of your fingers for alignment, which I thought was great in that it challenged me to have discipline and much more focus on using other muscles in my arms.
Kiersten Jakobsen typically teaches heated classes so when she subbed for a vinyasa class, it was toasty. Kirsten is very technical and she is the body alignment guru, teaching the exact right way to do a Chaturanga Dandasana with your thumbs pointing up at 12 o’clock. I have been in class with her (at Vibe Yoga when that studio was still open) and she is one of the few yogini’s who can do a fluid handstand to splits transition. She and Josie Zhuo from Avalon are the only two yogini’s who I have seen do that transition in the Bay Area and I hope to learn that transition myself by practicing with them.
1.) One of the best selection of teachers in the bay area who are both good at teaching and have been practicing yoga for many years themselves
2.) It feels like there really is a community here–people are chit-chatting and hugging after class. It’s $49 for one month of unlimited yoga for new students so that’s a great value and it allows you to really check out the studio and take classes with all different types of teachers to see if the studio is a good fit for you
1.) Physical space isn’t that nice–two individual bathrooms are located in the back behind the yoga studio. There are no showers and the ventilation isn’t that great (the no showers part is particularly difficult if you go to a very sweaty heated class because you have to go home to shower or else you are gross.) I enjoy heated yoga classes but I think I would stick with the vinyasa classes here since their heating system isn’t very advanced and the air would get stinky and stuffy
Yoga is Youthfulness 590 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041 (old location) 1954 Old Middlefield Way, Ste K, Mountain View (new location as of May 2019)
Yoga is Youthfulness specializes in Ashtanga and Mysore. My favorite class here is the handstand clinic on Thursday nights with Julianne Rice (as of May 2019, I’m not sure this is offered anymore). Julianne gets to the point and you focus on technique. Just when you start to master one technique, she pushes you to advance to the next one, so you are constantly being challenged. All the teachers, including Julianne, have been practicing yoga for decades and I appreciate that this studio is not a yoga teacher “starter” studio because it generally doesn’t hire yoga teachers who are just dabbling in the practice or only recently started teaching.
1.) Advanced teachers guide you through practice so yogis of all levels can get something out of attending class
2.) The studio provides free sweat towels for you to use during class
1.) If you don’t like Ashtanga or Mysore, this studio doesn’t offer many other types of classes (the schedule is limited, even on weekends)
2.) The new facility is very bright since it has several skylights (the space was previously used as a kitchen appliances showroom). However, I was there the opening weekend so I suspect they may end up putting drapes over the skylights (I didn’t mind it that much since sunlight naturally gives me more energy, but it’s just a bit bright when you are laying down in Shavasana.)
The best part of this studio is its heated yoga room. On a cold or rainy winter day in the Bay Area, practice at this yoga studio leaves you feeling like you are on a warm “high”. Your limbs feel stretched out and toned and you feel very calm. I haven’t felt this way after hot yoga practice in most yoga studios in the Bay Area. Turbo 26 Studio does tout its proprietary “healthy heat” heating system that is described in detail here. Having been to many heated yoga studios, I will say that the heat in this yoga room was just perfect. It was heated to 98 degrees with 38% humidity in the room. The room was on the smaller side and there were 15 people in the room but it wasn’t smelly at all. The style of exercise leans towards “fitness”–the room has a great sound system so the instructor blasted the music and it was a “get down to business” type of attitude on the mat. Jake also counted: “Meet in downward down in 3, 2, 1, and… ” I have never had a teacher who counted down the seconds to meet in a specific yoga pose. In Barre class, you do move to the beat and that was the closest thing I could compare it to. I also took a class with Kelsey who taught with the music on, but not pounding, and who had more of a flow-like feel (with no counting down.) The majority of the teachers here trained at the “cookie-cutter” CorePower chain.
Turbo 26 Studio also boasts 26 minute classes that are “stackable” so you can take two to make it a longer class or if you only have 26 minutes, you can get in and out of there. It’s an interesting model but it definitely felt like it catered towards busy professionals who wanted a “fitness” routine and cared less about the spiritual aspects of yoga. I stopped by the 1-hour advanced flow class with Jake and I thought it felt pretty introductory in terms of flow but I still enjoyed the class and left feeling refreshed. Because the style is “stackable” blocks of classes, the classes feel very fast and you don’t stretch that much because it has to accommodate people coming in and out every 26 minutes. Therefore, there isn’t a warm up or cool down Savasana section of the class.
1.) Heated yoga facility is one of the best I have ever practiced in (I have been to over 100 yoga studios, for baseline context); the temperature, air quality, and cleanliness of the floor is top notch
2.) It is conveniently located in Stanford Shopping Center (therefore parking is easy and there is food nearby,) although I also felt that being located in Stanford Shopping Center made it feel more commercial and tempted me to shop for luxury goods that I didn’t need (out of sight, out of mind, right?)
1.) I didn’t get a sense that the teachers there were yoga gurus. They seemed to have been teaching for a couple years (I overheard one person say most were trained at CorePower) and they aren’t the type have a local or national following. All 3 instructors I visited didn’t give any hands on adjustments (I tend to mark teachers higher when they do give hands on adjustments)
2.) Their “Advanced” class didn’t feel very advanced to me; the most advanced pose suggested was eka pada utkatasana, (flying figure four pose). As an “Advanced” class, I would have wanted to be more challenged further.
YogaWorks is a chain and they have many locations across the United States. I visit the Back Bay location whenever I am in Boston and thought I would give the Palo Alto location a try. Although YogaWorks is a chain, each location seems to be very different in terms of amenities, types of classes, and the instructors’ level of training. The Palo Alto location is a more “bare bones” location. They do not have showers or changing rooms. There are a couple single-occupancy bathrooms. I went to a level 2 class with Eden Mendel. The sequence of flow and music was great but Eden likes to tell stories about her week during the practice so she would forget which side she was on which I found to be a little bit annoying. For a level 2 class, the majority of guests were “beginner” level yogis and Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) was the most advanced pose we practiced. I’ve also taken classes there with John Rettger (he is a popular teacher) and Keith Erickson, who is still teaching as of April 2019, but unfortunately, has Parkinson’s, making it difficult for him to move the way he used to. I tried out Nathalie Bakker’s Vinyasa Flow 3 class and that was challenging and rewarding–I would not recommend that you take this class though unless you have a strong yoga practice (headstands and handstands, and ability to practice sequences on your own.) However, if you are looking for a challenging class, Nathalie teaches one of the most physically challenging and interesting yoga practices in the Bay Area–no two classes are the same and every class, I walk away with a new pose or transition that I had never tried before. Nathalie is now my go-to teacher to take classes with in the Bay Area. Vinyasa Flow 2-3 with Bre & Flo Niedhammer is an unheated flow class taught by a couple who alternate teaching different parts of the sequence, but it wasn’t nearly as advanced as Nathalie’s class. Having two different voices throughout the practice was a unique experience and because there is one person teaching while the other is watching and walking around the room, there are more opportunities for hands on adjustments, although I think they refrain from giving brand new students they don’t recognize hands on adjustments.
1.) Eden gave a shoulder massage and neck alignment during Savasana; Nathalie teaches more advanced poses and transitions and parts of the class feel more like a workshop (where she helps you get into some of the more difficult poses) 2.) Fun music (some of it is pop music), depending on the teacher’s preferences; relaxing atmosphere 3.) Good amount of heating (feels perfect in the winter, a bit on the hot side in the summer); it is heated enough for you to really push your flexibility, but not so hot that you can’t breathe
1.) There are no showers; the facilities are more antiquated and there are only 2 small bathrooms
This studio is close to downtown Los Altos which makes it “convenient” for a suburban yoga studio. You can run some errands / go to the grocery stores nearby and parking is plentiful. Google Maps directions take you to the back of the studio which is a bit confusing because the building is sandwiched between other buildings so it looks “closed” from the back. If find yourself in the back of the building, locked out, there is a little alleyway to the right of the building if you are facing the back which you can walk through. The front of the building is much more welcoming.
I took a class with Nicole Reynolds (who was substituting for Aislinn Coleman.) I wasn’t blown away by the class because the flows weren’t incredibly innovative and the Vinyasa Strong Flow Level 1-2 class I went to felt more like a Level 1 class to me. However, there was one challenging moment when she taught grasshopper pose and that inspired me to practice more arm balances. I love hands on adjustments but unfortunately she didn’t provide many throughout the class. During savasana, she did give us all a short leg massage which was really great.
The studio space itself has a bit of an awkward set-up. There is a front desk with some seating along the windows and a cubby shelf to store things. The bathrooms are behind the yoga studio though so you can’t go before class if there is already a class in the studio.
1.) “Get down to business” attitude from the moment you step onto your mat
2.) Good selection of props (yoga blocks, mats, straps)
1.) Not much lounging space in the studio
2.) Bathrooms are awkwardly placed behind the studio so you can’t go if you are waiting for a class to begin; no showers available
Vibe Yoga[Now closed; relocated to a new location] Old Location: 3750 Florence Street, Redwood City, California 94063
Rebranded as Baptiste Power Yoga Silicon Valley and re-opened in Palo Alto in January 2019 (see review below) New Location: 2190 W. Bayshore Road (Suite 170) Palo Alto, CA 94303 New website:Baptiste Power Yoga of Silicon Valley (all class passes from Vibe Yoga will be honored at Baptiste Yoga of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto)
[The review below is for Vibe Yoga in Redwood City, which closed as of October 2018]
I first visited Vibe Yoga to attend a Shoulders and Heart Openers workshop with Carmen Aguilar. It’s not fair to compare a $70 workshop with a yoga evangelist like Carmen to a “regular” yoga class but I will say that Carmen’s class was one of the most challenging and rewarding yoga classes I have been to in a while and I highly encourage everyone to attend workshops with her if she travels to your city (she is based in Chicago but comes to the Bay Area at least twice a year.) Carmen beautifully links poses and leads her classes with the expertise that can only be developed from at least a couple decades of practice and teaching. Her style is “get down to business” and focused on proper alignment and technique. She helps your body move in ways you never thought possible.
I returned to Vibe Yoga a few times after the workshop with Carmen and my impression was that many of the students there were quite advanced, especially those that practiced in the level 2/3 classes. I went to Jonathan Rickert’s class and was pleasantly surprised at the advanced transitions and difficult variations he taught. The one thing I would improve would be the verbal instructions and hands on adjustments–there were times that he spoke too fast and it was difficult to follow where the poses were going and he didn’t offer any hands on adjustments. Jonathan is definitely a teacher I would follow from studio to studio. I also enjoyed Rebecca Bara’s class–she gets down to business and focuses on alignment and the flow (according to LinkedIn, she is the owner of Vibe Yoga.)
The space is located in a convenient area of Redwood City within a small shopping plaza. There is a Starbucks, a deli, several food establishments, and free parking. The structure of Vibe Yoga’s interior looks like it was built for working out–it isn’t an old refurbished establishment. That means the space is beautiful, clean, smells nice, and is much more conducive and pleasant for heated yoga practice compared to many of the older practice spaces in San Francisco (those older studios have their own charm too and I have reviewed many of them.)
1.) Many amenities including showers (bring your own towels,) bathrooms, water filter, and lockers
2.) Large practice space, designed specifically for yoga (skylights for calming natural light and heated room is relaxing, clean and smells good; there are no open metal grates so it doesn’t feel like you are in an oven)
3.) Felt like there was community (people were taking group pictures and wearing matching Vibe Yoga tank tops); the receptionist was also a yoga teacher (I think) and took the yoga class with us
1.) Far away from major metropolitan areas (although I hear Redwood City is an up and coming neighborhood if you do end up living nearby)
Memberships at Vibe were transferred over to this new yoga studio when the owner, Rebecca, closed down Vibe and relocated to this new location. For some students, the MindBody membership transition didn’t happen so just let them know when you are there in person and they can manually transfer your remaining classes over. The teachers are almost entirely different than those at Vibe Yoga and the experience is very different than that of Vibe Yoga. First of all, Vibe Yoga was a gorgeous space with high ceilings, 2 yoga studios, a spacious retail / waiting area, and showers. Because I was thinking of this new studio as a “Vibe replacement,” the physical space is definitely disappointing in comparison: It is just a room and has no waiting area so you have to wait outside the yoga studio if there is a class going on. There is one bathroom in the back and one small corner with a curtain where you can change. There are fewer props than at Vibe as well. While the floor is cushiony, helping your joints in Frog Pose, for example, it makes standing poses harder (which I suppose is fine because it’s also a good challenge.) The most interesting thing about this studio is that they do not list their teachers on the website. I practiced next to one of the teachers there and she said the goal was to make it less political because some teachers at Vibe would be paid more because more students showed up to their classes. While I admire the desire to make compensation more fair for all teachers, there is a reason that teachers like Jonathan Rickert had a following–you could learn a lot from practicing with him and he taught very challenging transitions and asanas.
1.) Had a community feel (the studio space itself isn’t huge so it forces people to mingle)
2.) The location is right off of 101 in a shopping plaza with plenty of free parking so you don’t feel like you are rushed trying to find a parking spot
1.) I didn’t get a sense that the teachers (except for perhaps the studio owner) were very advanced at their own practice, which I would expect given that they don’t list the names of teachers on their website, which helps newer teachers but doesn’t help more advanced teachers. My yoga teacher gave me a lot of hands on adjustments which I really appreciate because not only does it feel great, it helps push me into deeper poses though.
2.) The studio space really is a bit too small. I was confused when I first showed up, thinking there was another entrance I should go through in the back to check-in. I even walked all the way around the building to check before I went back to the front and realized I just needed to wait until the previous class completed.
This studio isn’t on the main Castro Street–it’s in a parking lot next to Castro Street. Google Maps takes you to the right place but Waze takes you to the main street where you cannot see the studio (this may change in the future now that Google Maps owns Waze.) The space is an unassuming room with a small check-in & waiting area and a few changing stalls built into the side of the wall. The bathrooms are part of the whole retail complex and you have to exit the studio with a key to use the bathroom. I’m used to nice yoga bathrooms with organic hand soaps that this was a little off putting. I did like that the studio is heated (some people love this, some people hate it,) but in the middle of winter, I love hot yoga. The instructor, Andrew Goldberg, said to try out a few teachers before making up your mind about the studio since everyone is a bit unique and I will take this advice to heart. I’ll return and try out a different class with a different instructor since I didn’t like how easy the “Yoga Belly” class was and didn’t like the “inspirational” stories that the instructor tried to weave in–that combined with his occasional swear words made it so I didn’t feel very relaxed after I left the studio. But I do want to return to try out either the “YBX” or “YB Ballerz” classes.
1.) Good location near retail establishments and restaurants on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View
2.) Heating was nice–not too hot, not too cold and no exposed metal grates that turn red when heated
1.) Restrooms are not a part of the studio; you have to use the common restrooms that all the businesses in the area share
2.) Hit or miss teachers; eclectic bunch of instructors
This CorePower has 3 practice rooms so it can offer numerous classes each day. I had attended a Made To Fly workshop with a friend who was a member there. The 90-minute workshop was taught by Brit, the studio manager. Brit explained the alignment of each posture well and she had someone else helping out with hands on assists, so even though there were lots of folks at the workshop, you still got some attention. When you look up at the ceiling, the heating grates are covered and the sound system is quite good (I think it’s a relatively newer building) so in terms of facilities, it reminded me of a Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle in terms of facilities (showers, shampoo, etc.) although I do think you have to bring your own towel or rent one for $3.
1.) Ample parking, great location next to a giant Whole Foods (I’m always hungry after working out,) and the studio space itself plus the amenities are quite nice.
2.) Lots of classes and your first week is free–the CorePower membership also gets you into other CorePower studios around the country
1.) Most CorePower instructors are pretty junior in their yoga practice. While Brit was a great teacher, I could also see that she was still relatively new at practicing yoga too. It was an inversion class so Brit showed some fun inverted transitions and poses, but other workshops I have been to featured instructors who were much more grounded in their practice (e.g. 20+ years of practice).
Compared to its sister CorePower studios further South, the Palo Alto studio is a smaller CorePower Yoga location. There is one single stall male changing room, one single stall female changing room, and one restroom. There are locker cubbies with little keys that you can borrow (no need to bring your own lock but you can bring a small suitcase lock if you would like.) There is free parking at Town and Country but it can get very packed on weekends so I would show up early if you don’t want to feel frazzled and rushed.
I went to a yoga sculpt class here and it is much more similar to a barre class than it is to a yoga class (except that it is heated.) You do some warrior II’s and some Chaturanga Dandasanas but most of the workout is repeated small movements with 3 to 5 pound weights in your hands. It reminds me of heated pilates or something similar. My instructor, Martin, played pop songs and put lasers on the ceiling when we did our core work on the mat. It is a fun class and you definitely sweat and get a good workout, but you won’t work on yoga skills (like how to link and transition poses.) Therefore, it’s a good class if you are strong (can deal with the heat) and are a beginner yogi.
One thing I did notice about the studio’s heating: If you like heated yoga, Turbo 26 in the Stanford Shopping Center seems to have “fresher” air and a better heating system. The air in this studio felt a bit more stuffy and it was a relief when the instructor opened the doors to let in fresh air.
This yoga center is very technique focused. Its clientele is older and I was the youngest yogini by about 20 years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I have seen some very high performing yogis who are 60+ years old! But I just call that out because the style of teaching is modified to accommodate an older group of practitioners. For example, the practitioners who attended the level 2 & 3 class would be classified as a level 1 practitioner at some of the other studios I have been to, like Yotopia in London. They follow a strict Iyengar practice, complete with chanting and strict rules (like no drinking water during the practice because it is believed that drinking water during practice diminishes the heat you have built.)
1.) Strict Iyengar practice, strong focus on alignment (the strictness can also be a con depending on what you are seeking)
2.) Yoga teachers seem to all have several years of experience; I went to Miri Aloni Rivlin’s class and she was subbing for another teacher. It was clear that she had been practicing and/or teaching for several years herself
3.) If you don’t have your own mat, they do have thin mats you can borrow for free (they are like travel mats) and they are stacked with the props
1.) I love the dance-like, sweaty, vinyasa flow classes that leave your heart pumping and your body sinking into the ground during savasana; Iyengar practice is not like that–there is no music and you won’t feel like you’re dancing. You move from pose to pose without transitions. Depending on what you want from your practice on a particular day, Iyengar may not be the right style for you
2.) The bathroom is behind the yoga studio; the yoga studio itself is plain and the check-in area is very small
Inspirit Yoga is a spacious and modern yoga studio located near the Universal theme parks in Orlando, FL. I only went to one class with Wendy Bernard and it was a very basic sequence. She also didn’t offer any hands on adjustments and I was a bit surprised at how she was demonstrating pigeon pose (she had her heel tucked under her leg, as opposed to trying to make her shin parallel to the front of the mat.) She also didn’t give much guidance on proper alignment. The studio is good value for the money because a drop-in class is only $5 (cash only) and they let you use their Manduka Pro mats for free (this is a big deal because Manduka Pro mats don’t absorb sweat and therefore, it’s much more hygienic to share yoga mats if it’s a Manduka Pro mat, as opposed to one that does absorb sweat and bacteria.)
1.) Great value at only $5 / drop-in class if you pay with cash, $7 if you pay with credit card (and you get a free, high-quality mat rental)
2.) Studio space is cute–they have organized the cubbies in a pretty flower shape
1.) This is a beginners studio so come with that in mind
2.) No showers (although you don’t get very sweaty here anyways since it’s not heated and the sequence isn’t that physically demanding)
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)
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 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
417 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
The teachers here are quite advanced and practicing with them will challenge you and inspire your own practice. At my Saturday 10am class with Tara, we did a lot of core work at the beginning and the teacher guided us through a sequence with arm balances that linked each pose. We did quite a bit of prep work for handstands as well and I definitely felt that I could hang on a little bit longer in handstand by the end of the class. I didn’t see the teacher give any hands on adjustments in class though, and this is something that I look forward to when I go to yoga class. The studio has a nice lounge area where you check in and a few changing rooms and cubbies to store your things. Because it is located in the Mission, they close or lock the iron gates during class to make sure there are no disturbances. The studio is warmed to about 75 degrees, just enough for you break a sweat and activate your flexibility, but not so warm that you are slipping and sliding in crow pose.
1.) Advanced teachers and advanced clientele which means you can grow your own practice further, if that’s what you are looking to do
2.) Studio space itself is quite convenient; it’s located near a lot of food options and has a spacious area to hang out before and after class.
1.) No showers and only one bathroom; there is often a line to use the bathroom
2.) The practice studio’s floor is carpeted which I suppose is better for your joints or minor falls (but a Manduka Pro mat would be sufficient); I went to a Saturday 10am class and everything smelled fresh, but it was the first class of the day. I would imagine that it would be a bit more gross if you had to practice right after a sweaty class.
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
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
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 Hayes Valley
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
(This review is from July 2017)
I took a morning Ashtanga 1/2 class and there were 2 other Americans amongst a group of 10 or so French yoginis. As with traditional Ashtanga practices, the practice begins with a set of Ashtanga sequences and then diverges based on what the teacher wants to work on that day. The teacher (I believe her name is Anais) offered many hands on adjustments and demonstrations throughout the class. At the request of one of the Americans, she also included some English into the practice. The skill-level of this class is accurately advertised as a 1/2 class but the skill-level of the participating yoginis was generally a 1 so the teacher didn’t lead that many advanced poses–just a few, geared towards about 2 of the yoginis. The studio itself is quite nice: It is clean and they offer mats for you to use for free and mat cleaner (although the cost of a yoga class is about $25 / 22 euros–interestingly, I found the yoga classes in Europe to be more expensive than the yoga classes in the Bay Area.) Like many apartments in Paris, the studio is located inside one of the building complexes that has a code to unlock the door (the studio doesn’t face the street.) I didn’t know the passcode to enter (I think it may be buried somewhere on their website but I didn’t find it.) Luckily, another yogini was exiting right when I needed to enter so I didn’t need to enter in the code. The studio isn’t that well-marked (see picture below to help you identify its location,) but Google Maps does take you to the right location if you follow it precisely.
1.) Clean studio, large retail interior for hanging out, changing rooms (bring your own locks)
2.) The one class I took seems to indicate they have high quality teachers–she was good at mixing the right amount of demonstration with hands-on adjustments
1.) The building’s courtyard is currently undergoing renovations (as of June 2017); that means there is loud sawing and hammering noise that permeates into the yoga studio during your practice
2.) It’s pricey for yoga–for the same price, about $25, I was able to go to Barry’s Bootcamp in London. For those who haven’t been to Barry’s, the workout space offers many amenities including spacious and clean showers, shampoo, body wash, toiletries, and towels. For $25, you get much better amenities at Barry’s Bootcamp (which is usually $32/class in the San Francisco Bay Area and in similar metropolitan cities in the US.)
(This review is from July 2019)
I was the only student who showed up for the class on a Wednesday morning in July so I was fortunate to get a one on one session with the instructor for only 19 Euros. The instructor taught to my level, challenging me with harder and harder poses until I could no longer do them. The class was taught by the owner, Anais, and she spoke a bit of English but it was actually quite wonderful to challenge myself doing yoga while listening to her lead the class in French.
1.) Pleasant and relaxing space to practice yoga in and located close to downtown areas in Nice
2.) Instructor gave me quite a bit of hands on adjustments (I was the only person in class) but she seemed to be the type that would give adjustments even if there were a few more others in class
1.) If you have your own yoga mat, bring it because the mats they have for visiting students are the cheap / thin mats that fall apart.
2.) This is a cash-only studio (from what I could see) so you should bring Euros to the class (I didn’t see that she had a card reader machine)
For readers in Seattle, I have visited several yoga studios during my 3 years of living there. I have reviewed some of my favorite studios below. If you are looking for one single recommendation and you are an advanced yogi, looking to push your practice to the next level physically, I recommend Troy Lucero’s Acme Yoga Project (Facebook page).
MIND.BODY.HUM – Scott Francis started this yoga studio after he left Be Luminous yoga. It’s a beautiful yoga studio, clean, and has individual showers. It has 2 studio practice rooms and the air flow of it is much better than that of most heated studios. I went during partial covid lockdowns (when masks were still required in the studio during practice) so I am not sure if it was because masks were required that the temperature felt warm but not hot. Scott’s classes are the most full and my favorite to go to: A good balance of strength and mental practice and he liberally uses the props and musical instruments in the room.
Be Luminous Yoga – This studio benefits those who have practiced at least 10 times before the most. It is very popular and conveniently located on the plaza above Whole Foods in South Lake Union so it is the one of the more crowded of all the yoga studios listed here. However, it has the best community and my favorite teachers; it does have an intro to yoga series that beginners should take instead of the other classes. The studio is owned by small business owners and the 900 Lenora Street location is the only studio. This studio is heated to 90 degrees F for each class (except for the beginner’s and slow flow classes.)
Sanctuary Studios – You go to this studio for experiencing the physical space, not for growing your yoga practice. This is a startup that pre-records yoga videos and plays them in a giant screen inside a beautiful yoga room. You can choose individual meditation rooms or group yoga studio rooms, and you get your own bathroom filled with high-quality soaps and lotions, towels, and everything you could possibly need. You can customize the temperature of the room, the sound, and whether you want aromatherapy. They serve loose leaf teas and the feeling of the studio is very “zen”, as if you are in a spa.
CorePower Yoga – This studio is the best for beginners since they offer a 7-day free unlimited pass for new members. It is also super clean, has the nicest facilities of any yoga studio I have been to in Seattle, and has sticky floors, making your mat less likely to slip. The Queen Anne studio doesn’t get too packed and there are mirrors in the studio to help you figure out your alignment during the earlier stages of your practice. It’s also a chain so class packages and passes you purchase work in all 3 locations around Seattle and nation-wide in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. These studios are heated except for the 1C classes which are good beginner classes. The one downside is that the CorePower instructors are newer to teaching than those at other studios so I don’t grow as much physically or spiritually when I go to their classes.
8 Limbs Yoga (Capitol Hill) – This studio benefits those who have practiced yoga for at least 3 months the most. It has some of the more advanced yoga classes (although its level 1 and 2 classes are pretty accessible to most.) Their level 3 classes are quite challenging and involve fun inversions. I practiced at this studio during the 3 months I wasn’t able to do hot yoga (see my “Naked” Face post.) The studio doesn’t have the newest facilities but their live music classes and brick walls have personality and charm. This was also one of the few studios I have ever practiced at where there were more men than women (split was about 60% male, 40% female.)
8 Limbs Yoga (Wedgwood) – I went to Maritza Vargas Reyes’s flow/vinyasa class in 2018, at least 3 years after I visited the Capitol Hill location. This location caters to an older audience (they have a yoga for 50+ class) and the flow was a lot more basic and easy. I barely broke a sweat but the stretch and sequence was good. Maritza demonstrated several poses and it was clear she is an advanced teacher but the class was taught at a basic level. Similar to the Capitol Hill location, the studio space was cute and because of the few students in this class, we practiced with our mats in a circle, which had a nice community feeling. One of my favorite parts about this location is that their rental mats are Manduka PROlite mats. Their first class + mat rental is only $10.
Troy Lucero’s yoga class – Troy’s class benefits those who have practiced yoga consistently for at least 1 year. My friends and I who frequent Be Luminous are rarely ever sore after yoga practice or any form of exercise, but we were all surprised at the new muscles Troy’s class had woken up for us. One of my teachers, Vanessa, introduced me to Troy’s class. His classes are the most bare bones in terms of facilities (it is the speakeasy of yoga,) but they are the most mentally and technically challenging classes I have ever taken in Seattle.
Urban Yoga Spa – This is one of the most conveniently located yoga studios (centrally located right in Downtown Seattle on 4th Avenue.) It isn’t as great of a beginner studio as CorePower Yoga is but it offers basic classes with mirrors and modest facilities. The teachers don’t teach at as advanced a level as they do at 8 Limbs, so this studio is recommended for beginners too. They often do community classes which you can drop in on for free.
Olympic Sculpture Park outdoor yoga – On sunny July and August Saturday mornings in Seattle, practicing yoga at the Olympic Sculpture Park is the best yoga period. Nothing beats outdoors yoga when the temperature is moderate and the sun is shining, in my opinion (especially free outdoor yoga on the lush grass of the Sculpture Park’s steps.) 8 Limbs Yoga has partnered with the Seattle Art Museum in the “Summer at SAM” public events. These yoga classes are free and run for about 10 weeks during the summer and they are back in 2015. Check out their Facebook event.
hauteyoga Queen Anne – The instructors at this studio are experienced (the same people who enjoy practicing at Be Luminous Yoga would also enjoy flowing with the teachers at hauteyoga in Queen Anne.) The one major drawback of this studio is the lack of amenities. There is no changing stalls and no water fountain. There is a water bubbler but costs $1/refill. Granted, the Safeway is right across the street but it seems odd to me that there isn’t even a non-filtered water fountain. Additionally, there is only one bathroom. The lack of changing stations would be okay if the studio wasn’t heated to 95 degrees. I find that I always have to change after because my clothes are soaked with sweat. In my opinion, the studio is too hot for power flow and I always have to be right next to the door in the front of the classroom to catch the breeze when the teacher opens it to let in air. However, the studio does have a wonderful view of their garden and I like their floors the most. Their floors are ever so slightly “squishy” making practicing yoga more comfortable.
Grinning Yogi (Greenwood) – I went to Annie Marks’s class when I was visiting Seattle and liked her interesting and difficult transitions. The studio provides high-quality Manduka studio mats which is great if you are traveling (and they even have free loaner yoga towels to put over the mat, which can be helpful if you sweat a lot in their heated classes!) I wish Annie gave more hands on adjustments but the studio otherwise was fun, clean, and convenient.
Lloyd, the 8:35pm Civic/Haight/Stanyan Google bus driver was one of the first bus drivers to shuttle me home from Mountain View. He greets every single passenger with a “Hello my man!” or “How’s it going?!” and answers with “Welcome aboard!” or “Alright, alright!” He fist bumps every single passenger with a big toothy smile on his face and exudes the most authentic happiness I have ever seen from any human, let alone any bus driver. He is a legend amongst Googlers and we all look forward to taking his bus.
I left on a 5:34pm shuttle last Friday. I had not taken this shuttle before yet. To my wonderful surprise, Lloyd was my bus driver. He had driven me home the night before as well. As we pulled away from the curb, Lloyd waves to the bus station attendee: “See you in a few hours!” I suddenly realized that Lloyd sits through 5+ hours of traffic every single evening, and possibly additional hours in the morning if he also has a morning route. As soon as he drops the 5:34pm group off in San Francisco, he turns right back around and battles the bottleneck traffic that clogs up 101 to scoop up the next batch of Googlers.
“According to my Google Maps, it’s going to be 39 minutes until we touch down at our first stop. So in the meantime and in between time, kick back, relax, it’s going to be a nice time. I’ll talk to you folks in a minute. Peace out,” Lloyd cheerfully announces over the bus’s PA system.
Lloyd’s smiling face, delightful bus announcements, and fist bumps put a spring in my steps. This extra spritz of friendliness inspires me to be a kinder person. When he drops us off, he announces over the intercom, “We are now approaching our first stop at Market Street. If you are getting off, don’t forget to gather your belongings. And remember, this bus ride was brought to you by the wonderful people at Google, saving the world one bus ride at a time. Stay cool, like the other side of the pillow, and see you next time.” And with another fist bump, I depart into the night, glad that there are still humble and good people in this world.
May 2019 Update
3 years later, I no longer take Lloyd’s shuttle to get home. But I walked by his Gbus boarding passengers at the Googleplex on Friday afternoon and sure enough, he was still fist bumping every single person who stepped onto his bus. Just think if everyone brought 120% of themselves out of bed every day like Lloyd. I would feel so inspired to be my best self, regardless of where I am and what I’m doing. Of all of my interactions in my 7+ years of working at tech companies, I most vividly remember how great Lloyd made me feel every time I was boarding his bus to go home.
Y+ Yoga Several locations in Shanghai—search for the nearest location to you using Baidu Maps if you are in China; you can use Google Maps if you are outside China.
I visited the Y+ Yoga located at 308 Anfu Rd, Xuhui Xu, Shanghai Shi, China 200000 (Google Maps address) but there are a total of 4 locations in Shanghai. Note that the location I went to is not well marked and it’s on the third floor of a building. You have to trust the Baidu Maps GPS and just turn into the building when your dot says you have arrived and go up the stairs (or take the elevator to the third floor.) There isn’t a sign on the outside marking the yoga studio (although it looked like that building was being remodeled the time I went so it may have a sign by now.) Y+ Yoga has many classes each day and seems to be membership prices driven; their drop-in class prices can be steep (300 RMB for a drop-in class, equivalent to about USD$46) but they do have a new student special that is 399 RMB for 5 classes. I attended Sergeii’s Flow Level 2 class and it was very interesting to hear Mandarin Chinese around me from the yoginis but to do a yoga practice led by an English-speaking teacher who had a Russian accent. When he said the word “warrior,” it sounded like “water” to me. Sergeii was a “get down to business” yoga teacher and he made sure everyone got to practice handstands and forearm stand with him spotting them and he offered hands on adjustments which I appreciated.
1.) Studio offers a wide variety of classes from beginner classes to more advanced classes; from the one class I was in, the teachers seemed to have been teaching and practicing for several years themselves
2.) In terms of studio amenities, this studio has some of the best (compared to the close to 100 studios I have been to around the world.) It has some 150 lockers so your belongings stay safe (you trade in a small item to get the key to unlock the locker and then you trade that key back to get your small item back after class.) I think there are so many lockers because they have a couple yoga rooms and they have concurrent classes that they just stagger the start and end times for. There are 6+ ladies showers so there isn’t a wait to use the showers and they provide you with all the towels and shampoo. In addition, this studio allows free usage of Manduka Black Mat Pro mats (I have only been to a small handful of studios that have Manduka Pro mats on hand and do not charge extra for borrowing them); you can bring your own mat to each class or just use their Manduka Pro mats, which were in great shape and didn’t have an odor
3.) The staff is very helpful and goes out of their way to make sure you have what you need. The majority of the front desk staff speaks Mandarin only but at the location I went to, Nina spoke English and was very helpful
1.) Difficult to locate the studio because of lack of signage and markings outside
2.) Cannot find the yoga class schedule on their website (or it’s very difficult to find and I never discovered it); I later WeChat Nina and she sent me the PDFs which I have posted below.
3.) American prices (e.g. a bottle of water was 30 RMB, equivalent to about USD $4.62) and it’s definitely “Westernized” in that it looks just like an American yoga studio with Manduka and Lululemon apparel for sale at the front. However, this can also be considered a pro because it may be more comfortable and closer to what you’re used to if you are American; but for those who are seeking something very different from what their practice may be like at home in the United States, this yoga practice and experience will be quite similar
In the schedules below, the stars next to the classes below denote the difficulty. A class with 4 stars is more difficult than a class with 3 stars.
I was traveling for work and had one day to try a yoga studio in Houston, TX. Although YogaWorks is a chain (and possibly a franchise,) it does have its distinct flavor in each city and I’ve enjoyed their classes in Boston and Palo Alto so I stopped by YogaWorks Uptown Houston. I chatted with the teachers and studio workers and they mentioned that it was odd that California did not have many heated yoga studios (I guess the weather is so nice year round or it just never caught on.) Many yoga studios in Houston are heated and YogaWorks had 2 rooms, one that was heated and one that was not. I ended up taking Caron Lamay’s Hot 60 class.
1.) Fantastic use of props for free–excellent for travelers. I bought a drop-in class and they let me use a Manduka Pro Mat, gave me a hand towel and a full length yoga mat towel to practice on for free. Usually, you have to rent each of these items for $2-3 each
2.) They have showers and ample cubby area for shoes and lounging on the side of the studio
1.) Hot 60 class felt very static and it was the same set of poses each class; I think I would easily get bored of such a repetitive type of class (I don’t know what their flow classes are like though)
2.) Hot 60 is heated to 104 degrees F (while I enjoyed hot yoga at Be Luminous in Seattle, anything higher than 85 degrees F makes it too difficult to practice advanced yoga poses because you are too wet and slippery at that point and it’s just too hot)