No, we're not into yoga for aesthetic reasons (though, hey, we're good with any bonus benefits that result). Same goes for the yoga studios that we sweat and flow in. But in California, if you're going to take your workout inside, it really helps if, in place of vitamin D, ocean views, or bay breezes, you get a little something-something from your setting.
Enter these 11 design-magazine-worthy yoga studios in Los Angeles and San Francisco—plus one in Berkeley. Put 'em on your Golden State travel checklist, or try a class ASAP if you're a local. Because, no, physical beauty's not what yoga's all about, but there's nothing wrong with practicing in a space so pretty, you can't wait to go inside. —Jamie McKillop
(Pictured: Liberation Yoga, Los Angeles. Photo: LA Weekly)
Nestled in San Fran's Cow Hollow neighborhood, AKA yuppie-central, The Pad is a sanctuary where you can escape the flood of IPA-downing bros. Classes (they offer a range of yoga styles and Pilates) are led in clean, white-washed rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and simple, stenciled mantras. Breathe, indeed!
$18 per class, 1690 Union St., San Francisco
Los Angeles' Liberation Yoga holds classes in hatha and Jivamukti-inspired styles, all led in either an indoor asana room that looks kinda like a magic fairy den with twinkling lights (it's the opening photo in this story), or a semi-outdoor garden studio with trees, a fountain, and ancient Chinese wood carvings. Clearly, they've got the connected-to-nature part down.
$12 per weekday class, $15 per evening and weekend class, 124 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
International Orange is, first and foremost, an incredibly popular natural-leaning spa. (Bonus points if you get the reference in the studio's name.) But the Japanese-design-inspired space hosts Vinyasa and restorative yoga classes in minimalist studios with soaring ceilings filled and lots of soft sunlight. We'd pay the class fee just to go and sit there.
$14 per class, 2044 Fillmore St., Floor 2, Pacific Heights, San Francisco
(Photo: International Orange)
Walking into this sprawling Los Angeles fave, where classes include a rad Focus Flow set to great music, feels kind of like walking into a Mark Rothko painting. Every room is washed with its own rich color—think hot pink, royal blue, or burnt orange. Plus, each room is decked out with beautiful Buddhist art and statues, adding even more visual interest.
$18 per class in store, $16 per class online, 4454 Van Nuys Blvd., Suite 206, Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles
Frequented by U.C. Berkeley students and longtime Berkeley residents (AKA, the original hipsters), Yoga Kula appeals to the earthy set with its broad range of classes, sunny yellow walls, and high, weathered ceilings that make you feel like you're on the inside of an old ship. Destination: Calmer Shores, perhaps?!
$12 per class, 1700 Shattuck Ave., Floor 2, Berkeley
(Photo: Yoga Kula)
Yogi celebs like Christy Turlington-Burns, Russell Brand, and Miranda Kerr have all passed through the doors of this Kundalini-focused studio in Hollywood. The exposed brick, ornate crystal lanterns, and elaborate altar are enough to make everyone (famous or not) feel like they've stumbled into a super chic, super cozy home.
$20 per class, 1357 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles
(Photo: Golden Bridge Yoga)
The California-based sister to the equally funky New York City studio is known for its signature Lotus Flow vinyasa classes in over-the-top colorful rooms with rich-hued curtains and elaborate Buddhist frescos. (Note: Rose petals are not typically included but the playful practice does bring out the total gleeful looks you see in this shot.)
$17 per class, 3271 16th St., San Francisco
(Photo: Laughing Lotus)
If Venice is all about the beach, then Exhale Venice is all about the sunlight virtually bouncing off the Pacific and right into its "power," "flow," and "chill" classes. (It's basically the seaside loft of your dreams.) Bonus: the studio's instructors, like renowned yogi Shiva Rea, Annie Carpenter, and Erich Schiffmann, cast a bright light in their own right.
$22 per class, 245 South Main St., Los Angeles
Yoga Flow SF Union, formerly Aha Yoga, was recently acquired by Yoga Flow SF Ocean—but the airy, treehouse feel will remain exactly the same. Taking fast-paced vinyasa flow classes in a heated room—surrounded by treetops—is probably about as close as you can get to practicing in an exotic jungle without a plane ticket to Costa Rica.
$20 per class, 1892 Union St., San Francisco
(Photo: Racked SF)
This El Segundo-based studio is the crown jewel of the YogaWorks studios. It's filled with art and design elements, and has high, tectum ceilings (made from aspen wood fibers to eliminate noise). But what really takes the (gluten-free) cake is the studio's organic tea bar, with plush velveteen seating and Japanese tea-house inspired accents, where you can sip your way to serenity after sampling from a wide variety of yoga styles. (And before you get back in your car and face the traffic.)
$110 per monthly unlimited membership, 740 S. Allied Way, Los Angeles
Urban Flow is owned by Rusty Wells—a self-described "yogic messenger" whose students regard him as a rock star. But this Mission District-based (often heated) studio isn't just adored for its owner or its signature Bhakti Flow; fans also dig the uplifting Indian and Asian pop-art on the walls, disco ball and neon peace sign, and large green-house-like windows. It's like doing yoga in a contemporary art museum.
$15, 1543 Mission St., San Francisco
(Photo: Melisse Gelula for Well+Good, Elena Brower, and Urban Flow)
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