Finding a Flow in a New City

There is an amazing comfort in the simplicity of yoga. All it takes is you and a mat. And let's be honest - the mat is really just extra. It could just be you - your feet on whatever ground you happen to be standing on. It could just be breathing - wherever you are.

My mat has been a big comfort to me as I have begun transitioning into a new city over the past 5 days. California is so different from Boston that even the stimuli of the different landscapes and sights is somewhat overwhelming. Moving 3,000 miles away has been hard. Luckily, asanas are the same almost everywhere. I could speak an entirely different language and pigeon would still be roughly the same from a physical sense. I love that. It's calming. It's a way of belonging - even if you feel out of place.

I was extremely attached to my teachers and my yoga in Boston. BBY and SASY felt like second homes. And when you spend 5-6 days a week at the same place - that definitely makes sense.

San Francisco is described by many people as a yoga mecca. And it is. There are mats on backs everywhere. There are studios galore, and many different styles. As I've tried a multitude of studios over the past few months during travel, and then more intently during this past week, I've had some hits and misses.

One of the issues is that some of the studios are HUGE. There are too many bodies for one instructor to watch - so there are three assistants as well. It feels so big and impersonal. I learned pretty quickly that I liked the intimacy of a smaller room. Even if this means that the room is full. My one exception to this is MC Yogi's class at Urban Flow on Thursday nights. It is a very large room - but it usually isn't super-packed, and it feels more intimate. And while many of Urban Flow's classes feel a bit too big for me - I do really like that it is donation-based - allowing those who can't afford a high priced class to practice at a price that they can manage.

I love Yoga Tree San Francisco. Five studios in the area, all more intimate rooms and a nice sense of community. The teachers are wonderful. Convenient to public transport with times that work with my rather random schedule. Everyone has been warm and welcoming.

This past Sunday, I trekked out to Rockridge in Oakland to try out Namaste Rockridge. I wanted to see the space and take a Forrest class with Pete Guinosso. Pete is a vinyasa and Forrest instructor at several local studios (including Yoga Tree) who is a great mix of my favorite yoga teacher aspects. He is funny and kind, and while he deeply respects the practice, he also makes sure there is room for humor and fun. Namaste is probably the most beautiful space I have ever practiced in. It has a beautiful brick wall with candles, the floor is gorgeous, and it's just simple. It rained during the practice and you could hear the pitter patter along the roof - so neat. Another sidenote would be that Rockridge is A-dorable. Such a cute little neighborhood.

Yesterday, I went to the Moksha Life Center. Small and only two blocks from my office, this was a great match for my schedule. I took a Forrest class with Sandy Till. There were probably less than 15 people in the class and it was SO NICE to have a small group. Many of the people in the class seemed like they came every week and knew each other's names. Sandy was extremely personal in her adjustment/discussion during class and she seemed genuinely interested in helping people match the practice to their abilities and needs. After class, she gave me a list of Forrest colleagues she thought that I would like - which was so thoughtful. It was a pretty traditional Forrest class - I will definitely be back.

There are many things to love about San Francisco Yoga. One particular item is that people make room. I have been in multiple classes with multiple instructors where folks arriving on time are pressed to find a spot. We've all been there - with the awkward stares from those that have "staked out" their spots. This is yoga - MAKE ROOM FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR! In SF, this is less of a problem. People actively move, instructors rearrange the room to allow mats to fit. Students seem to be used to this and are respectful of moving efficiently and mindfully. So kudos to a city that makes space on the floor so other people can create space in their minds and bodies!

Another SF tradition: meet someone new before you practice. Again - almost every class. I like meeting new people - and especially being a new person in a strange city - it makes you feel like you are a part of a community.

I've just scratched the surface, but it is definitely a new type of challenge for me in my practice. It goes back to blooming where you are planted. I might be in a lot of different studios - but it's the same breathwork. The same rooting and rising. The same yoga. No matter where you are.