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Welcome to Racked's Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.
Perched above Union Street in Cow Hollow, Aha Yoga is a true gem of a yoga studio. When you climb the stairs to the second floor, you reach a rather unassuming lobby. But when you enter the main yoga room, with its tall windows looking out into bright green trees, you are transported away from the street's bustling bars and restaurants, and the sound of buses picking up and dropping off outside. Even in the most crowded classes (and there are many of them), in which you might find your mat only an inch from your neighbor's, the space's airy feeling takes you out of the city and into a secluded tree house. It's this environment that sets Aha apart from other yoga studios—let alone other fitness studios. While workout-seekers lift and jog in Crunch's fish-bowl space, on view to every passerby, yogis sweat through dynamic, creative vinyasa flow classes to find their bliss in seclusion from the world outside.
Opened in 2008, Aha was purchased in 2011 by the founders of Yoga Flow SF, a studio in Ingleside that inhabits a 1940s Grand Lodge for the Free Masons. Come January 19th, Aha will officially merge with Yoga Flow as Yoga Flow SF: Union. For Aha's devoted yogi clientele, everything but the name will stay the same.
Seven days a week, yogis pack the room for the teachers, all of whom bring joy to the practice. A few things are constant in all of Aha's vinyasa flow classes: there's always contemporary music, and the room is always heated to at least 80 degrees. Classes are 60, 75, or 90 minutes (most are 90). You can normally expect classes to finish with bridge/wheel and pigeon. You can expect not to do multiple sets of sun salutations.
All of the instructors recognize the spiritual and emotional aspects of the practice, and remind you that you're there for more than a workout. Beyond that, they bring their diverse backgrounds and influences to the studio—from Bikram to Baron Baptiste to Rusty Wells.
Tom Lee is one of Aha's most traditional teachers. He's known to ask students to perform five backbends in some classes, and sticks to more traditional sounds (no Drake or Jay-Z on his playlists). His cadence is rhythmic and soothing, inducing focus.
On the other end of the spectrum, Courtney Harris's Sunday afternoon class is one of the most vibrant, sweaty sessions I've ever experienced. Her sequencing is challenging and requires cardio stamina. She pushes you to your edge but is never overbearing. And she reminds you of the beauty of endorphins, and the transformative effects they can have on your life. Her class is always packed, so sign up in advance and arrive early.
Anna Hughes and Howard will also bliss you out with their vigorous, sweaty, fun classes. You'll find them on weeknights after work, when yogis come by the dozen to blow off steam from their days. Anna also teaches at 9am on Saturdays, for the weekend-warrior-type yogis.
Libby Murfey and Lindsay Foreman may not make you sweat as much as Anna and Howard, but their classes have a dancer-like grace and flow to them that calm and inspire. They also tend to not be as crowded, so they're a great introduction to the studio if you're not ready to have neighboring yogis' perspiration on your mat.
Ready to sweat your way to bliss in the Aha (soon to be Yoga Flow SF) tree house? Drop-ins are $20. The studio has rental mats and towels for a few bucks. Arrive early, especially for prime time and weekend classes. When you're done with class, drink lots of water and pop open an orange.--Mallory Farrugia
· Six of San Francisco's Craziest, Most Unique Workouts [Racked SF]
· Aha Yoga [Racked SF]
· All Fitness Week Posts [Racked SF]