I’ve only been back at yoga for five weeks but this time I mean it, head and heart. It sorts those bits right out. And if those bodyparts weren’t serious, my poor back certainly is. So it’s on. I was recently asked for yoga class recommendations, and while I’m certainly no expert I thought I’d oblige. I mean, I know what it’s like to leave a crappy yoga lesson in a huff because the teacher is acting like a drill sergeant (and needing a fag to calm down). While the periods of slack have been long and shameful, I’ve been practicing yoga on and off since I was at university. I started with the Iyengar style, before getting into Ashtanga after moving to London. Over the past year I’ve tried a range of styles before settling on Jivamukti, which is amazing with the fast flow and music and, oh yes, the chanting. I go to the same class every week, no ifs, ands or buts, and that’s pretty much all there was to that. Oh and I make sure to eat something about two hours before; a small but vital detail for a person of fussy blood sugar. Then afterwards I drink some coconut water and feel most good about myself.
The Life Centre in Islington is probably the best yoga studio I’ve been to, and they have a great-value offer for beginners. Yoga Place E2 in Bethnal Green is also very good. I haven’t been to Bikram Yoga in Shoreditch yet, but trusted sources tell me it’s addictive. Emma Henry is a fantastic Jivamukti teacher, while Ruth Westoby is a great Ashtanga instructor. So is Kate Hewett, although I think she’s left London now. I’ve also had great classes taught by Eunice Laurel, and Helen Stylianou. Their websites list where they teach and they’re worth following around. Namaste.
Fog city heart
The schedule at Yoga Tree yesterday only said “vinyasa”, not “transformational experience”, so I was not at all prepared for what was about to happen. First of all, the room was heated, something I’ve never been keen on trying as I find flowing yoga styles to be sweaty enough anyway; secondly, our teacher Elise kept us in there for nearly two hours, pushing us to a point where more than one person went diving for their mats to wait out a few poses until they could breathe again. But somehow I was managing to follow, as I stretched and pushed and sweated more than I have in my life. By the end I had lost all perspective on space and time but I felt so oddly energised, so charged. I left the studio in a buzz, suddenly ravishingly hungry, feeling like a disciple of a new religion. Hello world, I am a yogi.
Ely and I went to Biscuits & Blues in the evening, where the Fat Tuesday Band whipped up a storm of New Orleans classic funk and blues, accompanied by the undeniable Edna Love. And today the wind has taken a break from whipping through the streets of San Francisco, luring us outside in shorts and skinny cardis. I picked up food at Tu Lan (Those imperial rolls! I could live off those.) and headed out to the Legion of Honor. I wasn’t sure why as I wasn’t really in the mood for classical art, but the idea had kept surfacing over the past week so clearly I was supposed to go. This is the sort of reasoning I do now, after a month out here, where it’s not just me making the decisions but a city that seems to never let me down. And this time … the Legion of Honor is a beautiful building with a neat collection of European art, including some great works by Auguste Rodin. But the reward for going all the way out to Ocean Beach came once I decided to hike out to Land’s End. Standing out by the Legion I could see the little lighthouse, down in the distance, and encouraged by the novelty of my twinge-less ankle I started climbing. The labyrinth I had in mind is by Mile Rock Beach, built in stone where the peninsula reaches the farthest into the ocean. In the spirit of my reconnected hippie roots I walked through the maze to the centre, sitting down in the middle to the most spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was deep red against the blue sky today, and I don’t know what it was that happened next but it felt like magic.
“Let me just wrap this up by telling you a little something about magic. Everything in my life up to this point I created with my mind. I pre-visioned it, and now here I am, living in the painting that I drew with my mind’s eye. Everything is going to plan, and I’m pleased. I created it with my head, and then with my hands, feet and mouth. There’s nothing magic about magic.” [Molly Laich wrote this, but I wish it had been me.]
I’m leaving San Francisco today. My month of magical thinking is coming to an end, and I was hoping I’d feel like going home by this point but I really don’t. I hear summer has finally come to London though, which is a blessed relief, but I have caught a travel bug big time and oooooh. I never thought I wanted to go off on my own before, and as a card-carrying introvert I never thought I’d enjoy talking to strangers and meeting new people as much as I do now. Maybe it’s this city, these “49 square miles surrounded by reality”, that’s working their spell on me. London has such a sassy way about it, it’s so sharp and cool, and this place is anything but. I have loved being in a city where you can reach out and dream a little, where people believe in a little magic and when you say that you do, what you get in return is a knowing nod.
Some things I will change once I get home:
* I will do yoga, twice a week. This is the most important thing, and I believe the key to everything else.
* One day a week I will work exclusively at steering my work in the direction I want it to go.
* I’m putting in place a few routines to deal with stuff that’s boring, such as timekeeping, cooking, cleaning and washing my hair, so I can stop fussing about it.
* I’m taking some of this city’s beautiful spirit home with me. San Francisco gave me a fantastic experience, just when I needed it. And as you get what you give, I’m hoping that London will provide for me too, if i let it. The triangle inked into my arm is just in my line of sight.
… I am on the airplane now, after a last coffee at Caffe Trieste, a last sandwich from Molinari’s, a last trek up Ina Coolbrith Park and even one last free ride on the cable car back to the hostel. I walked quickly to the Bart station, thinking that I have to leave now before I start to cry. In this endeavour I’m afraid I failed. I was the last person to board the flight, running down the corridor as I heard them cancel the bag removal order, and then to twist the knife, the plane did the most spectacular low fly-by over the cloudless San Francisco peninsula before we headed east. This month could not have been more perfect if I had dreamt it up. I’ll be back soon, but I make no guarantee that I’ll be able to leave again. San Francisco: if you want me, I’m yours.
One day, if I do go to heaven, I’ll look around and say: “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco”
Oooh I am very much in love this city today. It’s sunny, I’m slouching around in shorts and everywhere I go is playing such good music. The brat kicked off a bit this morning about having its serene little world disrupted by the influence of other people, but what can I say; after twenty days of virtual solitude I am reassured to discovered I am a social creature after all.
As I was waiting for my class to start at Yoga Tree I realised I’ve been away from yoga for three years. That is an embarrassingly long time to be meaning to get around to something. Jeremi with an i ran a hardcore little vinyasa session, which the hilly peninsula has left me capable of following but still has me horrified at how inflexible I’ve become. Yoga Tree runs dozens of classes a day all over this paradise city, and I’ve pre-paid two more in order to try and nail down a habit before I go home. I have a strong feeling that yoga is the key to a lot of things for me right now, not just for the sake of some calm in what I have realised to be an insanely crowded London, but also because it’s really hit home how my previous lack of fitness was making me tired. I was stuck in winter, cardigans pulled tight, moving slowly. This city makes me want to be good to myself.
Down on 24th Street the murals come thick and fast in the so-called El Corazon de la Misione. There is so much colour in this city, especially down in the Mission. Now I’m at Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia Street, another contender for the prototype of the freelancing world. I’ve got a bag from La Taqueria by my feet, and it’s still sunny outside at 7.30pm. … After a couple of weeks here I wondered if I was beginning to wear out the reasons I keep wanting to come back to San Francisco, whether it belonged to a younger version of myself. But now I know that what I needed to do was to peel off another layer of the onion, to get more engaged with things, take part and get to know people. Now a new San Francisco is happening to me, it has the same flavour as before but it’s fresh and new. I know what it is, this feeling, because I have fallen in love with a city before. I know that it is too late to stop it and I have no choice; it will happen all over again. I will leave my heart in San Francisco.