While I love a good, strong traditional yoga class, I’m by no means a purist. So I was game when a friend invited me to join her for what she jokingly termed, “yoga on crack” … aka a Ritual Hot Yoga class. Ritual, located in SF’s trendy SOMA neighborhood, is certainly a unique experience — in my own words, it’s kind of like if Soul Cycle, Bikram and Barry’s Bootcamp had a particularly enlightened baby.
So what on earth does that mean?
At it’s core, Ritual is a simply a hot yoga class. But that’s where the similarities to most classes end. Ritual’s founders created a unique approach in which sequences are literally designed around the beat of the music; “one breath, one beat, one movement” is the mantra. And you do this by candlelight in a very hot, dark room that’s pulsing with extremely loud music.
If this sounds a little un-yogic, it is … and it isn’t. Although there’s no Sanskrit or chanting, and the some of the poses are unique to Ritual (e.g. “flamingo” pose popped up in a few of my classes), the experience is somehow both energizing and meditative in its own yogic way.
Not unlike many traditional yoga classes, each class begins with a several-minutes long meditation during which the instructor introduces a concept or idea that becomes the intention for the class. But Ritual has kicked this up a notch with intensely personal stories. In the three classes I took, the instructor shared a personal example of powerful transformation or facing a challenge. Each story was interesting and inspiring and served as a great setup for my own personal introspection during class.
Although it’s faster paced and more strenuous than any yoga class I’ve taken, the flow is well-designed. The instructors have taken care to build sequences that not only match the beat of the music, but that also flow smoothly. This is where some of the unique Ritual poses come in — they were created in service of ensuring smooth, manageable and safe transitions despite the faster than normal pace.
The effect of the dim room combined with loud music and everyone around you moving together to the beat was not unlike Soul Cycle or Barry’s Bootcamp, but with yoga. It’s an energizing, trance-like experience.
We use a lot of traditional yoga concepts, just wrapped in a different layer … yeah, our music is a little bit louder, but the room is dark so you can tune in. We focus on nothing but the breath, which just happens to be linked to the music. – Instructor JohnBlaze Kolinsky-Young
There’s an assistant in every class and the instructor strongly encourages you to accept hands-on adjustments. I found the adjustments very helpful and technically spot-on. Adjustments are key to getting the most out of poses and staying safe, so I appreciated Ritual’s emphasis on them.
At the end of class, you of course end in savasana, but again Ritual offers a special experience: shoulder massages and a cool, eucalyptus-scented towel placed gently over your eyes. After 45 minutes working out in a 90+ degree room, this is beyond blissful.
The focus on full-service luxury is intentional and it begins as soon as you walk in the door. The lobby is calm, candlelit and everyone speaks in hushed tones. You don’t even interact with a person to check in — everyone quietly checks in on iPads. The idea is that no matter what craziness you’ve arrived from (work, home, traffic!), the minute you step into Ritual’s space, you’re immediately immersed in an environment of calm, quiet and introspection. Ritual also provides everything you need: mats, mat towels, face towels, props, even bottled water. They even have special clips to hold your mat towel in place. And their locker room is fully stocked with towels and every type of toiletry you could possibility need.
What I Liked
- 100% full service. You literally just need to show up in yoga clothes – everything else is provided
- An intense workout. The dim room challenges your balance, the pace challenges your endurance
- Inspiring, charismatic instructors
- Assistants and adjustments in every class
- Cool vibe, great music
- Luxurious perks like end of class shoulder massages and cool eucalyptus towels
What to Know
- Due to the pace, Ritual Yoga may not be ideal for beginner yogis
- There’s a bit of learning curve — in my first class, I kind of felt like I was tripping over my feet. But by class 3, I had started adjusting to the pace
- If the class isn’t full, the vibe is a little more chill
- Ritual yoga is focused more on strength and endurance than stretch — because there are few long holds, you won’t get as deep of a release as you might in traditional classes
- It’s sometimes difficult to hear the instructor over the intense music
- Like most SF studios, Ritual is pricey at $30 a pop (but the full-service aspect definitely helps justify the price)
- The best value is an unlimited monthly membership for $200/month. There are also 5 and 10-class packages.
- Ritual also offers a killer intro deal — unlimited yoga for 10 days for only $30
- Learn more about pricing here
- You can also find Ritual on Classpass!
Although I can’t see myself replacing all of my yoga with Ritual Yoga, I look forward to taking a class when I want a strong, sweaty workout that comes with a serious dose of badass beats.
Ritual Hot Yoga
586 6th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Also published on Medium.