Our Changing Neighborhoods

Yoga: Stretching With The Community

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Yoga Flow on Ocean Avenue is but one of several yoga studios that has opened in the neighborhood in the past few years. (Photo courtesy of Yoga Flow)

Mental, physical and spiritual discipline are synonymous with yoga. With enough varieties and ideologies to connect with many people, yoga has fast become a staple of American recreation.

Practitioners enjoy yoga as social exercise, meditation and often a combination of the two. And the ancient practice’s alluring pull is felt in the neighborhood. There are five yoga studios that all fulfill a niche of their own. The owners of these establishments are diverse in background.

Yoga Flow, 385 Ashton Ave.

Kathleen and Steve Holm, owners of Yoga Flow on Ocean Avenue, entered into the world of yoga in New York. Shortly after being laid off in 2001 after the tragedy of September 11th, Kathleen found work at the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York She reflects on the anger she saw in her husband and in the faces of New Yorkers. The transformation she saw in people after practicing yoga solidified her belief that yoga was the right path for her.

“Yoga is a way of life, it is a lifestyle. Its not just coming to class, this is a practice that if you allow it to, it will wrap around your whole entire life and align your body mind and spirit,” Holm said. “And help you achieve the greatest good with every thought, word and action 24/7.”

Holm and her husband, backed by a financial partner, opened up Yoga Flow in 2012. “My husband literally built out the entire space. His blood, sweat and tears is behind every board, every wall.”

Now, after two kids and two Yoga Flow locations, childcare has become an important part of their business model. Holm says that they are the only studio offering childcare in the city because it is incredibly important to offer parents that service.

“My husband and I have both said, the people who receive yoga the most are the people who need it the most. For parents, for me personally, being able to do yoga is my reservoir of patience,” she said. Yoga Flow focuses on Vinyasa, the style which connects movement and breath, the classes are heated from a state of the art heating system. As well as offering $7 childcare, teacher training and fun event evenings, they also allow students to access their classes for ten dollars.

Excelsior Yoga, 4831 Mission St.

Danilo and Laura Madeja, proprietors of Excelsior Yoga, pose in their studio on Mission Street. (Photo: Calindra Revier)

Danilo and Laura Shannon-Madeja, proprietors of Excelsior Yoga, pose in their studio on Mission Street. (Photo: Calindra Revier)

Danilo and Laura Shannon-Madeja, owners of Excelsior Yoga on Mission Street in the Excelsior, mix yoga practices with their experience in teaching martial art. After meeting at a Japanese jujitsu dojo in Oahu, Laura and Danilo married and moved back to San Francisco to Laura’s old neighborhood, the Excelsior district.

After searching for a yoga class and realizing that they had to drive out of the neighborhood to go to one, they decided to open their own studio. Danilo and Laura happily note that they are the first yoga studio to open in the Excelsior.

Excelsior Yoga offers classes in Hatha yoga, a traditional practice. They also offer traditional Japanese jujutsu classes separate from their yoga programs, and Reiki and Seifukujutzu, traditional Japanese massage. Reiki, Laura says, is an “energy healing art.”

The act of tending energy is what ties together all the practices at Excelsior Yoga. “In martial arts it’s called general energy, CHI, and KI to the Japanese,” Danilo added. Through their teacher training in Reshekesh, India they learned that yoga is not only a spiritual practice but a scientific one as well and they incorporate that into their teachings. Excelsior Yoga offers classes with no music or heat, allowing practitioners to focus more on breathing and meditation. They also offer private and group classes and a self defence course for women.

Hot Yoga on Ocean, 1637 Ocean Ave.

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Lisa Kenyon, co-owner of Hot Yoga on Ocean, instructing a student. (Photo: Calindra Revier)

Lisa Anne Kenyon and Katite Gumucio own Hot Yoga on Ocean, which specializes in hot yoga and a series justly-titled “Power Yoga” poses. The hot room offers a chance for participants to sweat out the day’s trials and explore the boundaries of their own physical limits.

Kenyon, once a student of Gumucio, went through teacher training and now not only teaches but is a partner in ownership of the studio she took classes at.  “You never stop training as a teacher,” Kenyon said.

Gumucio has started many studios in San Francisco and when they opened in Ingleside, there were not many studios in the surrounding areas. Kenyon explained, “One of the ways that Gumucio chooses is by asking, ‘Where is there a yoga studio needed?’”

Greg Gumucio, Katite’s brother, is the owner of the wildly popular Yoga To The People here in San Francisco. Because of its great success some of the series used in Hot Yoga on Ocean are pulled from Yoga to the People.

Kenyon explained how yoga has really helped her conquer bouts of sadness and stress in her life, “I really started practicing yoga because it was giving me serious relief from some of these more chronic and debilitating energetic illness that I had. What it’s doing is it is creating a positive space for positive energy.”

Hot Yoga on Ocean offers intimate hot classes and teacher training. It also often offers Groupons and student discount prices.

Iyengar Yoga, 765 Monterey Blvd.

Iyengar yoga on Monterey expands on the traditional Hatha yoga which focuses on postures designed to realign and open the body while also creating a clear channel for the spine and the energy to flow through the body. They offer both classes, teacher trainings and workshops.

Elevate Group Fitness, 1720 Ocean Ave.

Elevate Group Fitness has been around for about three years, with two locations— one in Hayes Valley, and one on Ocean Avenue. They are not strictly a yoga studio, but instead offer a “fusion of yoga, pilates and resistance training,” according to a company representative.

The customer base for Elevate’s Ocean Avenue location is comprised of more local residents than Hayes Valley. The Ocean Avenue studio is also bigger, with higher ceilings and an open layout. Their storefront is part of a tudor-style craftsman building from 1921.

These yoga studios share a similar purpose but differentiate in their style and approach, which provides choice and variety for the community of the Ingleside and Excelsior districts to expand their yoga practices.

Corrected September 9th, 4:30 p.m.

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