Down Dog break down

We rate the yogis -- which famous Bay Area yoga teacher is right for you?

|
(29)

culture@sfbg.com

YOGA For a sizeable sector of our population, yoga is as much a part of the culture as burritos and biking to work. With more than 50 studios in San Francisco's 49 square miles alone — and even a brand-new yoga room in SFO, which claims to be an airport first — the Bay Area isn't short on options for a Saturday morning sweat sesh or Sunday night candlelight.

But which teacher is best for you? For three exhaustive weeks I pretzeled it up from Berkeley to Bernal, sampling classes with some of our most famous and intriguing yogis. Below are my experiences with each, along with a one-to-five "sweat factor" intensity rating . Hopefully, this will help you choose the right teacher to help you lighten up, ground down, or just plain bliss out. (Perhaps you might be inspired to follow one of our dozens of other local yogis' paths.)

Me? I'll be soaking in a hot bath. Can you hand me that ice pack?

 

PETE GUINOSSO: GOOFY AND LOOSE

If you're the kind of person who thinks the Black Eyed Peas and Beyoncé — let alone House of Pain — don't belong in the yoga studio, then Pete's Friday night Happy Hour Yoga at Yoga Tree on Valencia (www.yogatreesf.com) isn't for you.

Guinosso breaks it down, both musically and with frequent stops to explain a new inversion or variation on an arm balance. With plenty of "play time" to work at your own pace, plus friendly gossip and occasionally flirty energy in the female-heavy room, the class can sometimes feel more like a very sweaty cocktail party. But it's a great way to stay loose, learn new tricks, and cultivate what Pete calls the "inner teacher." The smiley, Forrest-trained yogi also guides more traditional vinyasa and candlelight flow classes — no Top 40 here — but his liberating sense of humor remains.

Sweat Factor: 3 

The Takeaway: Fun and funky, but probably not best if verses from "Afternoon Delight" aren't among your favored mantras.

www.petegyoga.com

 

LES LEVENTHAL: FRESH AND AFFIRMING

Imagine taking a rubber band ball and chucking it down some hard wooden stairs: that's what Les was like, bouncing around during Saturday morning vinyasa while his students were still waking up.

But that's all right. As my neighbor one mat over put it, Les is "really good at letting you know that where you are is fine, while at the same time pushing you to move forward."

Leventhal's quirky style, coupled with live beats by Sac-town sacred sound messenger Nate Spross (Les has also brought the likes of Buddha Bar's Daniel Masson from Paris to spin), kept class sparkling; even when he got down among the mats to demonstrate a Foot-Behind-Head pose which morphed into a series of arm balances that had students' eyes bulging, his sense of humor soothed the spirits of those of us who were in pain just watching — let alone trying to replicate the seamless flow.

"Why do we let our heads tell us what's good enough?" he asked, putting a hand at neck level to show a separation between head and body. "Even if you're in the simplest expression of this pose, it feels good from here down!"

Sweat Factor: 4 

The Takeaway: Down-to-earth, despite chanting in a reverberating baritone that brings me shuddering back to the rabbis of my Sunday school days.

www.yogawithles.com

 

Comments

speaking of earthy and candid, Alice has that, plus a wicked sense of humor and a devotion that is deep, yet slightly irreverent and not smug. When I first encountered her and her classes, I was hooked. She is amazing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

Hi there colleagues, how is everything, and what you want to say on the topic of this article, in my view its truly amazing for
me.

Posted by villa Albox on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 1:31 am

Loka Yoga and Alice Joanou in Oakland offer some of the best classes I have taken anywhere in the Bay Area.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 22, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

Wow, you didn't bother going anywhere but yoga tree or urban flow. There are a lot more studios with equally talented, less showy teachers.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

There are other great yoga teachers. But part of the point here was to actually give the well-known people a try and check up on the hype, thus the subhead. Perhaps the "experience every yoga teacher in the Bay Area to see who's also talented" follow-up will come later.

Posted by marke on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

I would think part of the point of an article in a paper like this is to draw attention to something that is not already well known. Besides that, I think it's really unfortunate to only feature teachers from the two large studios in town. It's not very local, new, or relevant to showcase only teachers from such a limited pool.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

Where's Jason Crandall too.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

Pete Guinosso is the best... great workout, super fun class..

Posted by bernard on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

My favorite is Pedro Franco! he has studied everywhere a person can study from the source of the ganges to the jungles of brazil. he truly embodies yoga. one of the only teachers ive found who teaches pranayama, mantra, mudra, bandha and kriya . not to mention its pretty amazing watching him levitate from hand stand to bakasana to hand stand to koundinyasana to hand stand to... WHAT! check him out at Namaste and Yoga Tree.

http://yoganoborders.org

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

I have had the pleasure of practicing with Pradeep in Winter Park Florida, and this review is spot on. He is extremely present and compassionate in his teaching. The best part is when the class is over, and you have an opportunity to speak with him. So much love, love, love and more love <3

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 8:07 am

Thank you Emily for the mention and I'm glad you were able to be there with Les and I that morning ! Much Love ! - Nate

Posted by Nate Spross on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

Next time... can you please make us a list of teachers who do something other than give a great workout and play top 40 songs? Thanks.

Posted by Thomas on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

I'm so sick of this atmosphere of frivolity and folly that stands out here. Give a great workout, have "fun", play top 40 songs (as if everyone wants to hear that crap). Where the hell are the serious yoga studios, places of true tranquility and majestic ambiance? Maybe classical music. So sick of bay area frivolity, superficiality, and folly.

Posted by Guest on May. 17, 2012 @ 1:22 am

How about a list of yoga teachers who don't think that a "chakra" really exists?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

Sorry to say that the comments being critical of this article are fair, or perhaps do not go far enough.

Hooray for the Bay Guardian!
ay to promote corporate yoga!
Way to mention several well known SF teachers and then write something short and fluffy, not really saying anything interesting at all!

So tell the truth (which is of course a Yama, as I am sure you know)
Did your paper you sell these studios some ad space?

It also seems odd that you seem to call Pete out for some sort of tendency toward non-traditional musical selections, but then you don't do that to the more established Rusty Wells, who is arguably far more easily associated with rocking the tunes in class than anyone on your list, can we read anything into that?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

you're looking for is Emily's "Heated debate" piece in which we look at the repercussions of the Vikram lawsuit on several local yoga practitioners. That was also published in this issue, as well as a guide to local yoga goods purveyors who can serve as alternatives to the larger corporate yoga entities (you'll find both linked to above under "Related.")

I think this piece was an admittedly fun yet also interesting (especially to yoga newbies and the curious) look at the yoga teachers that are known to represent the Bay on a global scale. Maybe you can suggest some interesting follow-ups an we'll certainly see what we can to to accomodate your needs.

Finally: no, we did not suddenly sacrifice 45 years of journalistic integrity and independence to score some yoga ads -- none of the above teachers advertised in this issue, not that that would affect our coverage either way.

I hope you find a teacher who guides you to tranquillity. Namaste.

Posted by marke on Feb. 24, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Thanks for writing this article--I enjoyed it and will share.

As a Yoga Tree devotee for years, I know and love most of these teachers--especially Darren Main, who *can,* as others will attest, make you sweat like no one else in his fast vinyassa flow classes. However, my biggest issue is not that you covered almost exclusively Yoga Tree teachers, but that the article is advertised as covering the Bay's most famous yoga teachers but only covers SF (and one teacher in Oakland). That's hardly the Bay, is it?

Since moving the Peninsula a few years ago, I have learned that there are many, many great teachers who teach south (and north and east) of the city, including the amazing teachers at my current studio, Avalon in Palo Alto. Among the best of the best is my current teacher Giselle Mari, who has been on the cover of Yoga Journal many times and is an internationally reknown jivakmukti teacher. It really doesn't get any better than her.

Check her out at http://www.funkyjiva.com. And try one of her classes for yourself--you will be hooked.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2012 @ 12:51 am

I agree 100% with everything you say. Giselle is hands down my favorite yoga teacher on this planet and I have practiced with many teachers all over the globe. I have a lot of favorites but but Giselle always stays right on top of my list.

But she only teachers 4 public classes a week. The rest of the time she is traveling the US and Europe giving workshops. This is where you can catch her:
Sunday 9:00 AM at Nandi Yoga in San Mateo
Monday 12:00 noon at Breathe in Los Gatos
Tues 9:30 AM at Yoga Source in Palo Alto
Tues 7:15 PM at Avalon in Palo Alto.

Anyway when I saw the title of the article and it said around the Bay Area I thought it quite odd that they all worked at Yoga Tree at some point.

And honestly I don't agree that people like Rusty should be highlighted. He can be nasty and rude and yell at people in the middle of and make them cry. All because the yogi had back problems and did a different pose then the rest of the class. OK yes I am talking about me.

I went to Rusty's classes for about 5 years and one day he made me feel like I was worse then dog do and I should be privileged to be in his class. The whole experience has horrifying . It was the only time I have left a yoga class in the middle of class. This was before he opened his studio I have have never been back. But I know many people that don't return because of his non yogic behavior.

I was so embarrassed I walked out and left my mat. I asked someone working at Yoga Tree if they could retrieve it. She felt so bad for me. I can't believe a yoga teacher could be so far from yogic.

Posted by Yogini on Mar. 22, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Im practicing for long time, Im quite tired of the BIG EGO Yoga, The Pop star teachers, who in some way just teach for themselves , stopping by just the hitter high on, a playlist and the pasteurized sequences.
I was surprised after almost giving up real Yoga in the Bay by this lady who is a real Dakini , dancing through the popular Yoga Clouds of Bay, what a sunshine Hannah is!!!
She adapts and make it doable the practice for all levels, and also teaches amazingly didactics how to do and how to modify appropriately and do beautiful demonstrations how to fly in one arm, the only Yogini I saw doing this version of kick ass arm balance with so much grace!!! check her out! Hannah Rocks!!!
http://hannahfrancoyoga.com/

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2012 @ 3:46 am

Eric Kobric from Urban Flow is not listed? You guys are joking right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Just by sitting here comparing and contrasting all of these talented instructors, you stray from the yogic philosophy. The article was meant to provide some insight into class experiences with teachers that people frequently hear about in our area, it isn't possible to cover every incredibly moving teacher in the Bay area. On that note, I've yet to meet one teacher that didn't move me in one way or another, regardless of acclaim.

Why don't we take a moment to check in with our criticism and transform it into a more productive form of gratitude.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2012 @ 11:56 am

The best teacher is within. I started by going to group classes, but after a couple of years...I had the routines and the alternative routines, and the alternate alternate routines memorized of 3 or 4 teachers....I even ventured into some mysore ashtanga and I memorised a lot of that too....

So, I don't know about you guys, but after a while, you know your body , which poses you'd prefer to do that day, and you know how to do them...and a class leader becomes unnecessary...sometimes even annoying. The dogma of having to go through ONE persons routine precisely became ...suffocating.

And, you can pick your OWN soundtrack...and not have some smelly bunghole in your face.

If you have a book, or are trying to learn a position from a website, or youtube video, and cant quite grasp it...take a class that is slow or mostly empty and just request the position ...they'll go through it, and then you can go back to your home/personal practice.

its just writing a script,
1. X number of Y,
2, X number of Z,
3, X number of etc., etc.

Print it out, put it next to your mat, ????, profit!

Namaste.

Posted by YogaJunkie on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

The best teacher is within. I started by going to group classes, but after a couple of years...I had the routines and the alternative routines, and the alternate alternate routines memorized of 3 or 4 teachers....I even ventured into some mysore ashtanga and I memorised a lot of that too....

So, I don't know about you guys, but after a while, you know your body , which poses you'd prefer to do that day, and you know how to do them...and a class leader becomes unnecessary...sometimes even annoying. The dogma of having to go through ONE persons routine precisely became ...suffocating.

And, you can pick your OWN soundtrack...and not have some smelly bunghole in your face.

If you have a book, or are trying to learn a position from a website, or youtube video, and cant quite grasp it...take a class that is slow or mostly empty and just request the position ...they'll go through it, and then you can go back to your home/personal practice.

its just writing a script,
1. X number of Y,
2, X number of Z,
3, X number of etc., etc.

Print it out, put it next to your mat, ????, profit!

Namaste.

Posted by YogaJunkie on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

Some of this article's criticism is silly. The article isn't called BEST or favorite teacher. Just a rating of some local FAMOUS ones. Yoga Tree and Urban Flow happen to have some famous teachers. They are the largest studios in the Bay Area. That makes sense. They are both local studios with local teachers and local students. They come from all over the Bay Area actually. Also everyone and their family is a yoga teacher in the Bay Area. And every one of their friends and students think they are amazing in some way. How lucky we are! We have all kinds of teachers for all kinds of people in the Bay Area.

Some of the specific names mentioned in comments are 'newer' teachers or not 'famous' in the world of yoga. I'd say if a teacher is regularly drawing classes of 70-130 each time and for some years...they are pretty famous. The article doesn't seem to be a review of 'best' teachers in the Bay Area.

An article like that would be impossible to write as the 'best' teacher is the one an individual connects with- and they are not always famous. There are probably very experienced and knowledgeable teachers in the Bay Area that just aren't charismatic, extroverted or international teachers or whatever it takes to be famous in this industry. I don't think the article is negating anyone as a teacher by not mentioning them.

Personal Rant- corporate blah blah. We live in a capitalist culture. Business is business and there are only a couple places in SF that aren't for profit- they are ashrams. You can get free yoga there, food, lots of meditation and a lineage of religious practice. You can get free yoga with minimal business trapping by having a home practice and not depending on a studio 5x a week. Don't want to give up your partner, free schedule, movies, glass of wine, personal income, you name it..and join (which is awesome we have them) an ashram? Then you get to PAY for a class. That business has employees and teachers that have lives and bills also- you can have your life and a yoga class with little commitment by paying for it. What yoga studio or teacher isn't making money off of something that comes from a religion? Unless your teacher is a renunciate of some sort or supported by an ashram...you can bet they've got their own bills to pay.

Every yoga teacher engages in this 'business of yoga', even a by donation studios. Even the most corporate of yoga businesses is doing less harm than the least corporate of business aimed merely at creating consumers of a product. Yoga studios BUILD COMMUNITY and connection and are defined by the student who cultivate themselves- not the business agenda.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 12:58 am

Hello,

I am having back pain. I am intimidated to try class with any of these teacher. Admittedly a bit out of shape. I heard that yoga could help me with both of those issues. I'm not really sure what to do. I tried a vinyasa class once and I couldn't really do much of any of the poses and the teacher kept giving me modifications that included putting a blanket under me and having me pull with a belt. It was pretty embarrassing. I've tried doing stretching on my own but I don't really know what to do. Any suggestions?

Thanks,
- D

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

Hi, if you are dealing with back pain....Anne Saliou teaches workshops specifically for back and neck care. She is Amazing! She specializes in restorative/Iyengar practice so there is lots of emphasis put on proper alignment and support. Vinyasa has its benefit too, but is not always right for certain situations. You can find her at The Yoga Loft (www.theloftsf.com)

good luck finding what is right for you!

Posted by Guest Yogini TeaWok on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 12:51 am

I have to say that I have been doing yoga for over 10 years. When I discovered yoga I stopped doing almost every other form of fitness. Over time I started having back problems. I didn't atribute this to yoga.

Walking or jogging or even standing longer then 20 minutes and my back was really hurting. Well recently I lost 25 pounds and I wanted to loose it fast so I was going to the gym and spending hours at a time on the elliptical and treadmill. What I found out is my back problems are GONE. Now in yoga I can do everything again.

Obviously I am not going to continue with 5 hours at the gym several days a week but find a balance between the two. I was so amazed that while walking or jogging hurt my back before it now helps it.

I don't know if it will help you. Just wanted to share my story.

I am not trying to be rude but you are probably young. There is no reason to be embarrassed to do modifications. And I'll tell you that the longer you do yoga and become more in touch with your body, the more modifications you will do.

The students that are trying to do every pose like the teacher have probably not been practicing long. You have to modify the practice to make it work for your body.

I know I can't tell you how to feel but there is no reason to feel embarrassed in yoga (unless you are in one of Rusty's classes).

Posted by Yogini on Mar. 22, 2013 @ 9:28 am

Shouldn't it be noted that SF and Berkeley have some of the most prominent Iyengar teachers in the world? These profiles seem slightly centered around vinyasa and I recognize SF has wonderful vinyasa teachers.... the iyengar and iyengar based teachers in the bay however are not to be missed.

Posted by Benjamin Flowers on Nov. 07, 2012 @ 7:25 am

Yes, GREAT Iyengar teachers in the Bay area which is focused on alignement rather than quick flowing poses. Each style has benefits but for your situation, Iyengar may be a good start.

You might want to try Anne Saliou's Neck and back care workshop at The Yoga Loft (www.theloftsf.com) She is amazing and specializes in modifications to accomodate those who need them. She cares immensely about her students well being, has a wonderful following, has an eye for knowing what is needed to assist your poses, and undestands the body. Might be a great start to build your own confidence about what you need, what is helpful, harmful, etc. There are many others that could help too!

Goodluck finding what is right for you!

Posted by Guest Yogini TeaWok on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 1:01 am

Related articles

  • Dear United States: #Jessicastux discrimination shows SF inequality

  • Evolution of yoga

    Bay Area innovators take this timeless practice in new directions

  • Beautiful path to now

    A groundbreaking art exhibit mines yoga's mythic past for clues about its vibrant present

  • Also from this author

  • Heated debate

    Bikram hot yoga's campaign for copyright has implication for the Bay Area scene

  • Live Shots: The old-timey escapades of the Edwardian Ball

  • Toeing the tiara line

    Why compete in a beauty pageant? Miss City By the Bay explains