If your primary goal in life is to someday open your third eye on the banks of the Ganges, you might be surprised to find that getting into that kundalini rising spirit might be just as appealing to the fitness masochist as it is to the ardent spiritual seeker. Now that the Cartesian approach to health has been dispelled and honest-to-goodness full-spectrum wellness ranks high on the priority lists of soccer moms and urban bodhisattvas alike, you can bet your third chakra that stretching your limbs and clearing the muck out of your prana can be achieved in one fell swoop.
There's a veritable cottage industry of spa and wellness facilities specializing in providing all kinds of convoluted diet and fitness plans, so the holy trinity of body-mind-spirit wellness is sorta de rigueur these days. While getting aerobic with your asanas might be pooh-poohed by purists, it's no secret that Americans have customized their own time-pressed, goal-oriented path to nirvana (another reason bootcamp fitness is so highly touted).
Besides, who says that a day at the yoga studio need be solely about getting blissed out on sun salutations and pretty mantras, without hardly a smidge of attention to that growing paunch? After all, yogis of yore were known to engage in a few hardcore austerities that probably trimmed the fat while providing an indubitable shortcut to enlightenment. Bottom line: Attaining optimal discipline, fantastic abs, and spiritual discernment needn't be mutually exclusive pursuits.
Granted, this doesn't mean that whipping your body and your mind into shape need be tantamount to a drill sergeant dispensing corporal punishment and sending you into a minefield of bodily insecurities. However, motivation is key, and next time the homunculus in your brain starts to heckle you about getting off your derriere, pay it some heed. Pop into your local neighborhood yoga center, or perhaps visit one of those coupon websites, and consider zipping up past intro classes and into the really good stuff.
Assume warrior pose ... and don't forget to breathe!
Five Bay Area locations
When Heather Glenn and Mary Beth Gonzales founded AlaVie Fitness in 2004, they were thinking of a softer alternative to the unduly bellicose fitness bootcamps that loomed heavy in the public imagination. AlaVie isn't about laying down martial law to get results. It is team-oriented, noncompetitive, and built around connecting individuals to health and fitness resources in their communities. Most of all — and it would be remiss to leave this out — it's fun. As in: obstacle courses, partner drills, sport yoga, and other exercises meant to emphasize the pure exaltation of a body in motion. AlaVie offers bootcamp (in one-week and four-week courses, with women's, coed, private, and prenatal permutations) all over the Bay Area. Because AlaVie believes that women tend to be the primary decision-makers around nutrition, many of their gut-busting programs focus on helping women to influence the overall wellness of their families and loved ones. Aside from some early-morning calisthenics at Golden Gate Park, you can also attend daylong fitness retreats, or seminars in mindful eating and grocery shopping. Free yoga classes and heavily discounted massages and physical therapy make that chilly trek to class all the more worthwhile.
Cocoon Urban Day Spa Yoga Bootcamp
330 First St. (at Guy), second floor, S.F.
Cocoon Urban Day Spa is a sweet spot in the middle of Rincon Hill. It's home to some of the most epicurean mani-pedis in town, as well as luxurious massages, and even periodic wine and yoga workshops (in collaboration with downstairs neighbor Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant and sommelier Mark Bright). But Cocoon, like a few other day spas in town, also offers yoga classes in its commodious, airy studio. These include Core Fitness yoga (a mashup of yoga, Pilates, plyometrics, cardio, and strength training) and ... wait for it ... Yoga Fitness Bootcamp conducted in four-week sessions throughout the year. The words "yoga" and "bootcamp" may not appear, at first glance, to mesh well, but hardcore workouts designed to push your cardiovascular endurance beyond its limits are steadily picking up steam. Daily (Monday through Friday at the crack of dawn) 90-minute classes lead participants through various drills that combine yoga, Pilates, cardio boxing, martial arts, and strength training. Given the ungodly hour and the velocity-driven mood of the workout, yoga bootcamp may not be for the faint of heart, but it's definitely an efficient way to give your metabolism a well-deserved kick in the pants.
Three Bay Area locations
Once upon a time, yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit was the way to feel the burn. Now, with a passel of novelty classes (take koga — part yoga and part kickboxing — or snowga, yoga on the slopes), hybrid forms are hotter than hot. But getting your requisite dose of triangle poses, San Francisco factoids, and sunset watching all at once can be the most exhilarating way to train your muscles. Hiking yoga, a 3-year-old method developed by San Francisco yoga teacher and historian Eric Kipp, just may be destined to have a longer shelf life than most, since it's a multilayered cardio workout that takes the monotony out of the mix. For 90 minutes at a time, intrepid natives and adventurous tourists alike can plod up the most neck-craning hills and hidden stairways in the city. Because you're encouraged to breathe from your diaphragm when you do yoga, you're also being prompted to use more of your lung capacity as you hike, which adds up to a high-impact workout. Hikes are interspersed with 15-minute power yoga sessions (mats are provided).