Backbends By the Bay: San Francisco's Top Yoga Studios
San Francisco may well be the unofficial yoga capital of the United States. According to a report by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the city had close to one yoga studio per square mile as of 2012—the same year SFO became the first U.S. airport to install its very own yoga room. But as you might expect from such a colorful city, San Francisco yoga classes are anything but your cookie-cutter pose-and-sweat variety. Here, it’s not unusual to practice your down dog while shaking your tail to tunes spun by a live DJ. Or to swing upside down from a rope, next to a glittering disco ball. Below, we list some of the best—and most unique—yoga studios San Fran has to offer.
Intense Power Yoga classes set to upbeat music make The Pad a popular spot any day of the week. But Sundays are the most fun for those who like stretching, socializing, and hanging in the park. The studio’s weekly Off the Grid Picnic event includes a donation-based yoga class in the Presidio, where yogis can get to know their neighbors and enjoy food and drink from local restaurants after class.
Yoga Tree boasts nine yoga studios across the Bay Area, but many consider its Castro location the best because of its electric atmosphere and experienced teachers. The small chain was No. 9 on the list of Travel + Leisure’s top 25 yoga studios in the world.
This 11,000-square-foot Mind & Body Center houses two spacious yoga studios, one of which faces the Embarcadero and is beautifully lit during sunrise sessions. Membership to the club is required, but comes with a host of luxurious amenities, including access to the gorgeous pool area, child care services, and a shuttle that operates between the club and Financial District on weekdays.
4. Bernal Yoga
Among its more than 15 classes, Bernal Yoga offers specialty sessions including Kids’ Yoga, Yoga/Pilates blend, and a Candlelight Yoga with live music. But even everyday classes like Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Flow feel special, thanks to the spacious, natural-light-filled studio, which doubles as an art gallery.
5. Urban Flow
Famed instructor Rusty Wells leads jubilant Bhakti Flow classes deemed “part workout, part therapy” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His spacious, heated yoga room gets packed with devoted followers and features natural light and disco balls to help keep the mood upbeat and fun.
A typical class at this low-key studio begins with singing and chanting, and ends with free cookies and hot tea. In between, students practice a signature style of yoga known as Lotus Flow, a vinyasa sequence that includes sun salutations, arm balances, inversions, and even backbends. For a fun change of pace, the Friday-night class features live music from local musicians or DJs.
7. Yoga Garden
Set inside a Victorian home that was formerly a jazz club, Yoga Garden boasts studios spread across three floors, as well as wall ropes that help students practice inversions. More than 25 types of yoga classes are offered, including an aromatherapy class, a free Intro to Yoga class, and a mom and baby yoga class.
Beginners will feel especially at home in this bright studio, where instructors offer gentle adjustments and try to remember students by name. Those looking for more of a challenge will be delighted by unusual classes that blend cycling and yoga or even kettlebell exercises.
9. Yoga Mayu
Classes at Yoga Mayu are predominantly in the Vinyasa style, where students flow seamlessly from one pose to another and sync their breathing to their movement. Beginner workshops are offered frequently to get new yogis up to speed, and class sizes are kept on the small size to ensure everyone gets the attention they need.
10. The Mindful Body
The Mindful Body is part yoga studio, part massage studio, but wholly dedicated to helping guests get in-tune with their bodies. Within the low-key, no-frills atmosphere, students find a wide variety of classes that includes harder-to-find yoga styles such as Ashtanga and Mysore, as well as special classes for pregnant women.
The Guide: we cover the coolest food, beauty, and entertainment trends happening nationwide.