Core Power Yoga: a Powerful Workout, Minus the Om

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I set out to try Core Power Yoga after hearing that it’s a unique take on the traditional yoga class, incorporating cardio and strength training, in a room heated to specific temperatures and humidity levels to intensify the experience. With 130 studios nationwide, Core Power has steadily expanded since launching in Denver, CO in 2002. It just hit SF about a year ago.

Core Power has a uniquely compelling offer for new students: a one week free trial. The studio offers a range of classes, so a week gives you ample time  to sample most or all of them (that is, if you’re not too sore after your first class). I’m always up for a bunch of free workouts, so game on!

First Impressions

My first impressions of the Fremont Street studio in San Francisco are a) it’s huge, despite being in the middle of real estate-challenged SOMA, and b) it’s a beautiful, spa-like setting. The decor is sleek and modern, yet comfortable. There are three studios, centered around a sitting area with comfy seating and a fireplace.

Sitting Area

Sitting area with couches and a fireplace … a cozy spot to curl up while you wait for your class to start.

There’s a retail space in the front, featuring a large selection of some of the hottest  yoga brands, including Alo Yoga, Splits59, Vimmia, and more. I had to stop myself from going shopping.

The locker rooms are spacious, clean and stylish, and fully stocked with soap, lotions and other necessities. One minor nit: I wish they provided free towels, instead of charging $1.

Despite the sleek environment, staff were warm and welcoming. I felt comfortable right away.

The Classes

I took three out of four available classes at the SF studio: Hot Power Fusion, Yoga Sculpt and their signature class, Core Power Yoga 2. There’s also a Core Power Yoga 1 class for beginners. All classes are one hour, although they do offer a 75-minute version of Core Power Yoga 2.

The website describes the classes in detail, but here’s my take:

Hot Power Fusion: Like a friendlier, less intimidating Bikram class. With special emphasis on breath, alignment and longer holds, the class is deceptively simple. Even though you’re not moving fast, it will challenge your body and mind as you work to maintain focus and form.

Yoga Sculpt: Just as intense as a bootcamp class, but you’re confused into thinking it’s easier because you start with sun salutations and end with savasana. Sneaky! Chock full of a combo of yoga, cardio drills and strength-training, it packs a serious punch in a short hour.

PHOTO CREDIT: SPARKYOGA.COM

Weights are incorporated into the flow during Yoga Sculpt [photo credit: sparkyoga.com]

Core Power Yoga 2: Similar to your favorite hot vinyasa flow class, complete with familiar sequencing and breathing/alignment cues.

The website also mentions a Core Power Yoga 1.5 and 3, as well as Core Cardio Circuit, Hot Yoga and Core Restore, but I couldn’t find those on the schedule. When I asked about it, the staff explained that not all classes are offered at all locations, and that they’re phasing out Core Power 3. Instructors found that newer yogis eager to push themselves were attempting Core Power 3 before they were ready. Instead, the staff suggests the 75-minute Core Power 2 for an added challenge.

The Verdict

  • More Sweat, Less Sanskrit. Core Power is great for yogis who prefer their yoga heavier on sweat and lighter on Sanskrit. The vibe is decidedly more intense and power-focused, and you’ll find less chanting, extended meditation and readings than in your typical yoga class. In the classes I took, there wasn’t even an “om” to start or end class (although there was a “namaste” to end). According to Jacob Reynolds, an instructor at the studio, this is part of Core Power’s aim to demystify yoga and make it accessible as possible. He even (tongue-in-cheek) describes the Yoga Sculpt class as the “gateway drug” to some of their more traditional yoga classes.
  • Get Ready to Sweat …  Similar to a Bikram class, the rooms is very, very hot and humid.  Except for the Core Power 1 and Core Cardio Circuit classes, all are heated to between 92 and 104 degrees. Even if you’re not prone to sweating profusely like me, I guarantee you’ll end up in a soggy puddle by the end of class. Bring water and two towels — one for yourself and one for your mat. Falling on your face because your mat is a sweaty slip ‘n slide will likely ruin your zen. I’d even suggest that mat towels be required for Yoga Sculpt; during the cardio section, I came close to slipping a few times during high knee drills.
  • Beyond Yoga. Core Power’s range of offerings are a great way to get a whole-body workout — from cardio, to strength, to flexibility. Add in the mental benefits of yoga, and you have a well-rounded fitness regimen. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop type of workout, Core Power may be a good option. Personally, I can see myself coming back particularly for Yoga Sculpt, because I think I’d be more likely to strength-train consistently in a yoga-themed class. I liked this class so much that I took it twice in a week. But I’ll continue to mix up where I go for traditional yoga classes. The spiritual side of yoga isn’t for everyone, but I appreciate the personal insights I’ve gathered from it.
  • Top Notch Teachers. I found the instruction at Core Power excellent. Even as a newbie, the classes were easy to follow, and the instructors, in addition to being high energy and inspirational, were well-versed in alignment, form and proper breath. Jacob explained to me that Core Power offers several tracks of yoga teacher training, to train instructors to lead each of their unique classes. Jacob himself is certified in all Core Power classes, and exudes a great combination of yogic passion and workout intensity — I highly recommend his classes for anyone in SF!

Red faced and drenched in sweat after Jacob kicked my butt with his awesome Yoga Sculpt class.

Like many boutique studios, Core Power classes don’t come cheap, but they do offer discounted packages for frequent clients — check your local studio’s site for pricing. Their Black Tag membership provides unlimited monthly classes, and offers member-only benefits like access to the Bootcamp series.

According to Jacob, the best membership deal is Core Power’s SET program (it may be called something different at different locations). If you’re willing to help clean the studio once a week for an hour and a half, you get unlimited yoga for $40 a month. Great deal, especially for those who find zen in mopping some floors (I know I do)!

Core Power is also available on ClassPass, which is a great option if you prefer even more variety in your workout routine.

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Chrissy Trampedach
Chrissy Trampedach is a PR & communications pro by day and fitness buff, skiing fanatic, dedicated yogi and wannabe tennis champ by night (and weekend). As a former competitive figure skater, she’s lived a life of training and sports from a young age. Today, she fuels her competitive spirit and drive to challenge her body and mind with USTA tennis, skiing adventures around the world, the SF yoga community and tracking the latest fitness trends. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Tim and their “75-lb lap dog” Enzo.

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