Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

I love Bliss Body Butter–especially the lemon + sage maximum moisture cream. I purchase it in the super-sized 14 fl oz bottles and grab as many as I can from the W. Unlike the other household products I use though, Bliss had ingredients I could not pronounce. Recently, I decided to look up every ingredient. My findings:

  1. Bliss uses different ingredients for the lemon + sage body butter they supply at W Hotels than they do for the bottles you can purchase
  2. The lemon + sag body butter that they supply at W Hotels is more toxic than the bottles you can purchase, although both contain allergens and trace carcinogens

I used the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database toxicity classifications (1 = least toxic and 10 = most toxic) to standardize these classifications.

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotel version) ingredients rundown:
There are actually two formulas for W Hotel’s lemon + sage body butter; I have noted when the ingredients vary.

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • vegetable oil: 1
  • cyclopentasiloxane: 3
  • cetearyl alcohol: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • polysorbate 60: 3
  • steareth-2: 3
  • phenoxyethanol (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • dimethiconol: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • hydroxyethylcellulose: 1
  • carbomer: 1
  • diazolidinyl urea (missing in one of the formulas): 6 (moderate hazard)
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • tocopherol: 1
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)
  • sodium hydroxide: 3
  • methylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • disodium EDTA: 1
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • BHT (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • citral: 7 (known allergen)
  • parfum: 8 (“parfum” can contain anything but it is likely to cause irritation)
  • propylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 7 (developmental and reproductive toxicity)
  • chondrus crispus carrageenan extract: 1
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • linalool: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • citric acid: 2
  • geraniol: 7 (known allergen)
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail version) ingredients rundown:

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • glycine soja (soybean) oil: 1
  • butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter: 1
  • glyceryl stearate: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • stearic acid: 1
  • isopropyl myristate: 1
  • cetyl alcohol: 1
  • PEG-40 stearate: 3
  • trimethylolpropane triisostearate: 1
  • sorbitan tristearate: 1
  • phenoxyethanol: 4
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • tocopherol: 1
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • triethanolamine: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • caprylyl glycol: 1
  • algae extract: 1
  • tetrasodium EDTA: 2
  • carbomer: 1
  • ethyl acetate: 1
  • cyclohexane: 2
  • arnica montana flower extract: 2
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • citral: 7 (high allergen)
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)
IMG_20170923_084753
Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotels)
IMG_20170923_085103
Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail)

As much as I love the smell and texture of Bliss, the toxic ingredients had to go. My go-to moisturizer is now organic shea butter, although I like jojoba oil and argan oil too. All three absorb into your skin quickly so they don’t leave hands or face feeling greasy and shea butter is most “lotion-like.” Shea butter and jojoba oil don’t have any smell; argan oil has a little bit of a nutty scent which some people like and some really dislike.

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Paris Yoga Studios

I was able to visit one yoga studio in Paris during my time there but I hope to be back since I loved the city and will add more studio reviews in the future! Unlike the San Francisco Bay Area, working out (putting on exercise clothes and going to do an activity where the only goal is to sweat) is not a big part of the Parisian lifestyle and fitness studios are difficult to find. There is a smattering of yoga studios and teachers throughout the city. I visited Rasa Yoga and loved it.

Rasa Yoga Rive Gauche

21 Rue Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris
Monnaie Neighborhood

I took a morning Ashtanga 1/2 class and there were 2 other Americans amongst a group of 10 or so French yoginis. As with traditional Ashtanga practices, the practice begins with a set of Ashtanga sequences and then diverges based on what the teacher wants to work on that day. The teacher (I believe her name is Anais) offered many hands on adjustments and demonstrations throughout the class. At the request of one of the Americans, she also included some English into the practice. The skill-level of this class is accurately advertised as a 1/2 class but the skill-level of the participating yoginis was generally a 1 so the teacher didn’t lead that many advanced poses–just a few, geared towards about 2 of the yoginis. The studio itself is quite nice: It is clean and they offer mats for you to use for free and mat cleaner (although the cost of a yoga class is about $25 / 22 euros–interestingly, I found the yoga classes in Europe to be more expensive than the yoga classes in the Bay Area.) Like many apartments in Paris, the studio is located inside one of the building complexes that has a code to unlock the door (the studio doesn’t face the street.) I didn’t know the passcode to enter (I think it may be buried somewhere on their website but I didn’t find it.) Luckily, another yogini was exiting right when I needed to enter so I didn’t need to enter in the code. The studio isn’t that well-marked (see picture below to help you identify its location,) but Google Maps does take you to the right location if you follow it precisely.

Pros
1.) Clean studio, large retail interior for hanging out, changing rooms (bring your own locks)
2.) The one class I took seems to indicate they have high quality teachers–she was good at mixing the right amount of demonstration with hands-on adjustments

Cons
1.) The building’s courtyard is currently undergoing renovations (as of June 2017); that means there is loud sawing and hammering noise that permeates into the yoga studio during your practice
2.) It’s pricey for yoga–for the same price, about $25, I was able to go to Barry’s Bootcamp in London. For those who haven’t been to Barry’s, the workout space offers many amenities including spacious and clean showers, shampoo, body wash, toiletries, and towels. For $25, you get much better amenities at Barry’s Bootcamp (which is usually $32/class in the San Francisco Bay Area and in similar metropolitan cities in the US.)

London Yoga Studios

Yotopia

13 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ
Covent Garden

Upon the recommendation of a local yogi friend I met at a Wanderlust yoga festival, I took Dharma Yoga (Asana 2+) (L2) with Emi Tull at Yotopia. This class is full of yogi regulars. All of them are serious about growing their yoga practice and some are professional dancers. That meant Emi could teach the class at a very advanced level and this was one of the most phsyically challenging yoga classes I had ever been to. We aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to those around us in yoga class but I was definitely one of the lousy students in the class and I have been practicing for 8 years. Handstands are common between transitions and you are expected to know scorpion pose or can modify with forearm balance easily. Emi, who has a “just do it, don’t complain, fall and get up immediately” attitude, flawlessly demonstrated some of the more advanced yoga poses and transitions like Peacock Pose (Mayurasana.) She also offered many hands on adjustments throughout the practice to help move you into more advanced sequences and challenged you to stretch further and hold your pose longer.

Pros
1.) The classes billed as “advanced” or “L2” are actually advanced (at least Emi Tull’s class is)
2.) The teacher (Emi Tull) offers many hands on adjustments to help you into or out of poses that you can’t practice by yourself
3.) Studio practice space is conveniently located near food, Lululemon, shopping, and a train station; it is clean and has showers but you must rent towels

Cons
1.) Emi’s class is packed so you must sign up online and you are side-by-side next to your fellow yogis (the studio space itself is not that big so there were about 26 students in the class and the teacher still has time to help everyone out)
2.) The practice is a bit fast so unless you are extremely advanced, there may not be enough time to get into poses or gracefully transition (I fell once when transitioning from wheel back to downward dog)
3.) There is a lot of chanting (this class was 2 hours long and about 25 minutes of it is singing and chanting) so if you aren’t into singing songs in a different language than your native tongue, it can be a surprise

Fierce Grace

200 Regent’s Park Rd, London NW1 8BE
Primrose Hill / Chalk Farm

Fierce Grace is a hot yoga studio chain in London. I visited Emma Croft’s class at the Chalk Farm location on a Saturday, since she was listed as a senior teacher and I had high hopes of what I could learn. Fierce Grace is not for the lighthearted yogi–it’s heated to 38 degrees Celsius / 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the room and you will sweat just sitting there, motionless. This type of hot yoga is not for me (especially because I went during a week when it was 85+ degrees every day in London) but also because I find it difficult to work on the physical aspects of your practice when the room temperature is higher than 85 degrees–you are far too sweaty and slippery to do anything other than sun salutations. To add salt to the wound, I was next to a gal who reeked when she sweat and that was quite unpleasant. A quick heads up for Americans: You will get very sweaty and want to shower immediately after. There are 4 showers in the ladies locker room but the caveat is that you must not be shy; the showers don’t have dividers and it’s just a trough with 4 shower heads so you shower butt naked right next to the other ladies. I have never seen this type of shower set up at an American yoga studio. The studio provides some general purpose body wash but you have to rent towels for about a pound. Note that you may also want to bring a lock since the lockers don’t have locks on them and it’s a bit precarious to bring your cell phone into the 100 degree practice room (I did, but only after turning my phone off since I feared that it would overheat.)

Pros
1.) Convenient locations with many classes available each day
2.) The heating mechanisms in the yoga rooms are quite nice (there are no exposed metal grates that turn red, as I have seen at some other hot yoga studios)

Cons
1.) The practice isn’t advanced and contains a basic sequence of poses
2.) The room can feel suffocating or too hot, if you are not used to or do not like hot yoga or it may be a bit smelly
3.) The teacher (Emma) doesn’t offer any hands on adjustments

San Francisco Yoga Studios Reviews

Love Story Yoga
473 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Mission

Love Story Yoga is one of the newer, amenity-filled studios in San Francisco. It has a spacious front desk, showers, lockers, and the practice space is enormous. Students face a platform stage where the yoga teacher demonstrates some poses. The practice studio has a whispering quality–I don’t know if was the dim lighting and the traditional Indian music or the heat but when you walk in, but you feel like using hushed tones. The yoga teacher, Neil Wadhawan, called us “friends” throughout the practice and asked us to meet someone new before we left; people lingered around and chatted with each other and Neil–it felt like a studio that has knit a community. He also lists Rusty Wells as one of his teachers so if are a Rusty fan, you will enjoy Neil’s fast-paced Bhakti flow practice.

Pros
1.) Convenient location and spacious practice area full of amenities.
2.) I only went to one class but I looked at the teachers on their website–the majority are quite experienced and have over a decade of practice.
3.) Heated yoga space is beautiful (no exposed metal grates / rattling heating sounds.)

Cons
1.) If you don’t like chanting Sanskrit mantras or live drumming, this may not be the practice for you.
2.) I took an advanced class level 2/3 class but it didn’t feel like it was an advanced class (although the breath work, if one was doing it correctly, one breath per pose, was quite demanding); I find that teachers “teach to the level” of the students in the room and the yoga clients here practiced at a more basic level.
3.) The one teacher I practiced with didn’t give hands on adjustments (one of my favorite parts of yoga class); it may have been just that teacher or perhaps the classes here are too big for hands on adjustments to be a regular part of the practice.

Yoga Flow SF – Union
1892 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
The Marina

I took a class with Lauren Pisano today and I will have to say it was the most challenging yoga class I have taken in San Francisco. Lauren really embraces transitions–every part of the flow is equally important and the yoga pose is the combination of all poses, not each individual pose. I found myself transitioning from one-legged fallen triangle with a foot and leg bind to side plank (on the other side) without dropping the lifted leg (this transition is really hard to do gracefully and requires a huge amount of core work.) Because the studio is heated, each pose also feels slightly harder and you will do many Chaturangas. I’ll return in the future and stop by a different teacher’s class to make sure my review reflects that of multiple teachers, and not that of just one.

The studio is one of the prettiest I have seen in San Francisco too, not because there is anything shiny about the space, but rather because there are windows on two of the walls and a skylight on the left side of the studio. It reminds me of practicing outdoors since you are surrounded by the tops of trees. Other yogis have described this space as a “treehouse.”

If I lived closer to this studio, I think this is the one I would frequent most often. You really do feel like you got a tough workout and that’s what I seek in my daily yoga practice. Lauren opened the class with some chanting but it wasn’t overdone and lasted only a couple minutes; during yoga class, she would throw in inspirational quotes about heartbreak and letting it all go, but she wouldn’t interrupt the flow to indoctrinate such “learnings,” which I liked.

Pros
1.) Teachers offer a very physical and challenging Vinyasa practice that takes elements of Baptiste and weaves it into a more creative style with demanding transitions and adjustments.
2.) Free oranges at the studio!
3.) Great location and studio practice space in the Marina near lots of other boutiques and shops.

Cons
1.) Lack of efficiency at check in: Sign in line is very long and creates a bottleneck getting into the studio.
2.) There are only two bathrooms (and the showers are located inside the single-stall bathrooms, which makes showering unrealistic since you will be hogging the bathroom; you get relatively sweaty in this heated room.)
3.) Only two changing stalls and very crowded hallway space during the transition time between classes.

Yoga Flow SF – Ocean
385 Ashton Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127
Westwood Park

I haven’t taken a regular class here before–just Rusty Wells’s special Bhakti Flow class so this is more of a Rusty Wells’s yoga class review than it is a Yoga Flow SF review. The studio is conveniently located off the K/T MUNI; located on the second floor, the space is large and has a unique “old San Franciscan building” feel to it. This studio is heated (I would estimate to ~88 degrees F,) but the heaters don’t feel like they are “cooking you” so it’s a comfortable temperature for getting your sweat on.

Everyone at this class was there specifically for Rusty Wells–they were all enamored by him. I had heard about Rusty from a yoga teacher friend who lives in Seattle and wanted to see what all the hype was about. Rusty didn’t do any demonstrations at this class (although I’ve heard that he makes the most advanced poses look gracefully easy,) but the sequence of poses were challenging and novel. This is definitely a class for advanced students (level 2+) because Rusty moves fast so your body needs to move instinctively and flow quickly. For those who like music, Rusty opens and closes his class with chanting and he plays a wide variety of music throughout class, including modern pop hits and chakra-like chants. Rusty also had 6 people assisting in the class so everyone got some hands on adjustments.

Overall, Rusty’s special classes are definitely worth it–for $20, you get to practice alongside a bunch of people who are really into yoga and you get to be led by an always-smiling teacher who challenges you but also makes you feel loved with his warm smile; the yogis and yoginis in attendance, along with Rusty, were all incredibly friendly and nice. I didn’t know a single person in the room but I felt welcomed. For those who have been to yoga festivals, this class had a yoga festival/Wanderlust feel to it.

Pros
1.) Features big-name teachers with advanced practices such as Rusty Wells
2.) The large studio space so can accommodate many students (although because of the popularity of Rusty Wells’s class, you are still packed in tightly, mat to mat, which makes practicing some more advanced arm balances difficult for fear of toppling over and causing a domino effect)
3.) There seems to be a real community amongst the folks who go there; they all knew each other and the room was filled with laughter, people catching up and hugging each other before class.

Cons
1.) No changing room space; there is a small women’s and men’s restroom with two toilet stalls and a couple of sinks; no showers. Because you sweat so much after heated yoga class, this means you have to go home to change before you continue on with your day.
2.) The space looks like it used to be a function hall that was retrofitted for yoga so the ventilation isn’t as good as it is at some other heated yoga studios I have been to (compared to the heated yoga studios in Seattle.)

IMG_20160521_090655
Yoga Flow SF – Ocean

Baptiste Yoga San Francisco
38 Mesa Street San Francisco, CA 94129
The Presidio

This Baptiste Yoga studio is a hidden gem in the city. It’s located in the basement of one of The Presidio’s quiet, historic, white buildings. The studio is fairly new and difficult to find on Yelp or via Google search since it has only received a small handful of reviews in November and December of 2015. Baptiste Yoga is a “get down to business” heated power yoga style with a strong focus on Vinyasa flow. Expect to do many Chaturanga Dandasanas and don’t expect much talk about the stars and the spirits. My preference for yoga leans towards an intense core and cardio workout, not an intense spiritual experience, so I am personally biased towards Baptiste Yoga. The fact that this studio is in the Presidio is both a pro and a con–I love that it is surrounded by beauty and it’s a peaceful place to walk around before or after class. However, it’s also far away from where most people live, making it unrealistic to go to this yoga studio on a regular basis if you live across the city. If you are able to make the trip to the Presidio, pack some snacks and a change of clothes (since you will get very sweaty); I strongly encourage you to check out this gorgeous new studio!

Pros
1.) The studio is new and has many amenities including lockers, bathrooms, and showers.
2.) The practice area is spotless.
3.) The classes are not crowded (for now) which means you have a ton of personal space and the instructor gives you many hands on adjustments. There were 5 other people at my 9:30am yoga class with Jen.
4.) If you are driving, there is plenty of parking in the area.

Cons
1.) There aren’t many classes each day (5-6 classes on weekdays and 2-3 classes on weekends.)
2.) It’s far from everything and difficult to walk to.
3.) Due to the old building the studio is in, there is never actual silence –the walls make an odd gurgling or rumbling sound every now and then.
4.) The Baptiste Yoga style can be repetitive after a while (just like Ashtanga Yoga or any other style with a determined set of poses,) so if you are an extremely frequent practitioner, you might want to seek out some variety.

Yoga Garden SF
286 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Hayes Valley

Enter this space through picturesque wooden gates; continue over an artistically paved stone sidewalk surrounded by a dense wall of plants. You can’t find a cuter yoga studio. Yoga Garden SF is an unheated yoga studio situated in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. The yoga rooms are nestled in a three-story house. There is a yoga room on each floor: Earth, Water, and Air (make sure you ask the front desk which floor your yoga class is on so you go to the right room.) These three rooms allow Yoga Garden SF to offer a high number of classes each day to fit your busy schedules (~10 classes/day on weekends and ~15 classes/day on weekdays.) The teachers lead a wide variety of levels and my favorite teachers there are Roy Gan and Christie Rafanan. Roy plays an energetic and revitalizing playlist while teaching a sassy Vinyasa class and Christie introduces fun new moves and transitions that I hadn’t tried before in my 8 years of yoga practice.

The two drawbacks of this studio are:
1.) Bathrooms: It only has two toilets; due to the high volume of classes and yogis, there is always a line for the bathroom so arrive early if you need to change into your yoga clothes. There also aren’t showers.
2.) Classes are back-to-back: They pack the end time of one class right next to the start time so class transitions can feel crowded, especially since the house has narrow halls/stairs.

Overall, this is a wonderful studio that I highly recommend to yogis of all levels.

The Pad Studios
1690 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
The Marina

From the outside, this studio looks like it could be a bright and girlie candy shop. Its white interior and angelic decorations caught my eye–I was actually driving by when I saw this studio and made a note to check it out. This is one of the cleanest unheated yoga studios I have been to in San Francisco. The walls are bright white and the studio feels airy due to the many windows that allow sunshine to stream through. They have a friendly and spacious front desk area to check guests in and a nice retail selection of high-end yoga gear. You can keep your stuff in cubbies in the yoga studio while you practice to make sure they don’t walk off during class. They also offer pilates reformer at this location (I haven’t tried it myself.) Most of the teachers at this location don’t play music and incorporate more spiritual aspects of the practice (there was quite a bit of talk about stars aligning during one class.)

The one drawback of this studio is also its bathroom situation: There is one bathroom in the yoga studio and one outside the studio in the pilates reformer room. However, there are plenty of changing stalls so changing is not a problem.

I recommend this studio for yogis who want to practice alongside other beginner to intermediate students. For perspective on the yogis who go to this studio, the folks I practiced with were all affluent, white-collar workers.

Body Temp Yoga
2425 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
The Marina

This yoga studio is situated on the second floor, over a laundromat. Its staff is friendly and the teachers lead quite advanced classes. It has one heated yoga studio and offers both Vinyasa flow and sculpt classes (yoga with weights) which is a great way to intensify your practice. Back in Seattle, I always practiced hot yoga. A heated room makes every yoga pose at least 5X harder. However, in my opinion, the heat in this studio is far too high for a fluid Vinyasa yoga practice.

Pros
1.) Many changing stalls.
2.) One of the few hot yoga studios in San Francisco.

Cons
1.) Only two bathrooms with toilets; no showers.
2.) No water fountain or free water; I find this extremely problematic for a heated yoga studio. At $20/drop-in class, the studio really should invest in a free water system (whether it is a water fountain or a Poland Spring water delivery service.) You can only purchase bottled water here (or fill up your water bottle in the bathroom sink, but that water isn’t filtered.)
3.) Heating is too high and heater grates turn orange/red, making you feel like you are being fried in an oven. This yoga studio doesn’t disguise its heater grates so you can see the metal heaters in the front of the room. That combined with the darkness of the room really makes it feel like you are being cooked.

I would recommend this yoga studio for advanced yogis who want a heart-racing workout and an extreme sweat session. If you are new to yoga, I would recommend that you try one of the other unheated yoga studios in San Francisco.

Yoga Tree Hayes Valley
519 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Hayes Valley

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I only like spiritual talks about the stars and your inner goddess during yoga retreats like Wanderlust. During my regular daily practice, I want to get a good workout and I don’t want to be lectured about why we need to yoke our bodies and our minds.

Yoga Tree has many locations in San Francisco. I visited the Hayes Valley location and took a class with Cecily Guest. The studio is conveniently located on the charming Hayes Street, surrounded by delectable macaroon shops and trendy clothing boutiques. The studio practice space is fairly large and has brightly painted yoga-inspired walls. The room is heated just a bit for practice. This space doesn’t offer showers but does have two changing rooms in the front lobby area.

This is actually the most convenient studio for me to go to because it’s so close to where I live; yet I find myself venturing several more miles away to check out other yoga studios. There aren’t many Vinyasa classes offered each day at this studio. They do seem to offer more Hatha, Jivamukti, and Yin Yoga classes. As a young person who is blessed with quite flexible joints, I don’t find I get as much out of such classes. I am also not there to find myself spiritually–I feel better after a physically tiresome yoga practice than I do after a mentally challenging one, so I lean towards power yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes. However, I found that the all levels Vinyasa class with Cecily was too focused on the spiritual aspects of the practice. She would interrupt the flow to ask us questions and expect us to respond. It feel more like a classroom than a yoga studio. I may return to a different Vinyasa class to reevaluate but my sense is that this studio focuses on discovering yourself spiritually through yoga.

Pros
1.) Excellent location; cute studio.
2.) Focus on “slower” yoga styles if that is what you are looking for (learning breathing techniques, etc.)

Cons
1.) No showers and limited changing space.
2.) Not enough variety of classes offered each day at the Hayes Valley location (especially on the weekends.)

Yoga Mayu Mission
2051 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110
The Mission

I have only been to one class at Yoga Mayu in the Mission and I chose to stop by Gizella’s class. She and her husband own Yoga Mayu. She led a fluid Vinyasa flow class. I thought it was a solid unheated yoga class with a focus on stretching. The studio is neatly organized and relatively clean but for me, there wasn’t an extra spark that made me feel like I was at home. Because of its location, it has fewer attendees per class, so the classes feel much less packed.

Pros
1.) Classes aren’t packed.
2.) Gizella’s class offers lost of stretching opportunities so you feel realigned and refreshed.

Cons
1.) The location of the studio is a bit unpleasant (especially if you are walking there and coming from the north.)
2.) The studio windows open up to a busy street and in the summers, it’s hot and stuffy so the instructors open up the window to air out the studio–the sounds of street traffic and honking spill into your practice.

Palo Alto & Surrounding Cities Yoga Studios Reviews

Samyama Yoga Center
2995 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94306

The studio benefits from the spaciousness of the suburbs–this standalone building with its name emblazoned on it in 5000 point font is impossible to miss. It even boasts its own parking lot. The studio is gorgeous, comfortable, and high-tech; the yoga room is highly insulated to outside sound so you won’t hear cars and can focus intently on your practice. Room temperature is effortlessly regulated through modern heating and cooling. There is a large locker room changing area and showers. Despite all of this, my sense is that some yogis may find this studio a bit stale because everything is too perfect and looks manicured or manufactured; it doesn’t have character like the yoga studios converted from old houses in San Francisco with their “old wooden house” smell, unique floor layout, and sometimes uneven or creaking wooden floor panels.

I found the vinyasa practices here to be peaceful, uncrowded, and moderate in difficulty level. The power yoga and vinyasa classes are accessible to a wide range of skill levels and the teachers offer a lot of modifications. The one major difference I noticed was that with both teachers I practiced with (Joanie & Hana,) the teachers practiced along and demonstrated almost all of the poses. My very general observation was that the yogis who practice here are less experienced than those in the city studios I have visited and perhaps that is why the teachers felt that they needed to demonstrate more poses. In almost all of my yoga classes in San Francisco, the instructors expected you to have a general idea of all of the basic and intermediate-level yoga poses or they would verbally cue you and they would spend all of their time walking around and making adjustments. Many yoga teachers didn’t even have a mat towards the front of the room and they would only stop to demonstrate some more advanced poses. The teachers here still did provide some hands-on adjustments but I actually felt that it was a tad distracting to have a teacher up front that I would watch instead of focusing on my mat.

Pros
1.) Spotless studio space and changing room
2.) Spacious amount of practice space so you don’t bump into anyone; lots of props
3.) Studio room is highly insulated to sound so you can really focus on your breathing; om’s sound beautiful in this yoga studio, even when there are only a few yogis because of how the walls are designed to vibrate
4.) Offers a 30% “Good Neighbor” discount to those who live within 3 miles and a 50% off “Bay Area Bhakti” discount to those who commute more than 15 miles
5.) Advanced water filtration system (FloWater) is available and free Pellegrino for practitioners

Cons
1.) Vinyasa classes are basic and don’t push your heart rate and challenge you with advanced poses (although the Tivra 2 Vinyasa class is an exception–the instructor, Louis, challenges you in every way–long holds, challenging transitions)
2.) The location is far away from everything and you have to drive there

SamyamaYoga
The spotless and modern practice space at Samyama Yoga Center

Yoga is Youthfulness
590 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

Yoga is Youthfulness specializes in Ashtanga and Mysore. My favorite class here is the handstand clinic on Thursday nights with Julianne Rice. Julianne gets to the point and you focus on technique. Just when you start to master one technique, she pushes you to advance to the next one, so you are constantly being challenged. All the teachers, including Julianne, have been practicing yoga for decades and I appreciate that this studio is not a yoga teacher “starter” studio because it generally doesn’t hire yoga teachers who are just dabbling in the practice or only recently started teaching.

Pros:
1.) Advanced teachers guide you through practice so yogis of all levels can get something out of attending class
2.) The studio provides free sweat towels for you to use during class

Cons:
1.) If you don’t like Ashtanga or Mysore, this studio doesn’t offer many other types of classes (the schedule is limited, even on weekends)
2.) Facility is retrofitted for yoga (not designed for it); there are only two bathrooms and they are in the back behind the studio so you cannot access them if you are early to class and there is another class before yours; no real changing rooms or showers

YogaWorks
440 Kipling Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

YogaWorks is a chain and they have many locations across the United States. I visit the Back Bay location whenever I am in Boston and thought I would give the Palo Alto location a try. Although YogaWorks is a chain, each location seems to be very different in terms of amenities, types of classes, and the instructors’ level of training. The Palo Alto location is a more “bare bones” location. They do not have showers or changing rooms. There is a single-occupancy bathroom. I went to a level 2 class with Eden Mendel. The sequence of flow and music was great but Eden likes to tell stories about her week during the practice so she would forget which side she was on which I found to be a little bit annoying. For a level 2 class, the majority of guests were “beginner” level yogis and Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand) was the most advanced pose we practiced.

Pros
1.) My teacher Eden gave a shoulder massage and neck alignment during Savasana
2.) Good popular music, relaxing atmosphere
3.) 1 week free for new students

Cons
1.) Teachers aren’t the most experienced (they aren’t super inexperienced either, e.g. some studios like Core Power churn out teachers through their 200-hour teacher training sessions so the majority of their classes are taught by novices)
2.) No showers / changing area; facilities are more antiquated

Yoga of Los Altos
377 1st St Los Altos, CA 94022

This studio is close to downtown Los Altos which makes it “convenient” for a suburban yoga studio. You can run some errands / go to the grocery stores nearby and parking is plentiful. Google Maps directions take you to the back of the studio which is a bit confusing because the building is sandwiched between other buildings so it looks “closed” from the back. If find yourself in the back of the building, locked out, there is a little alleyway to the right of the building if you are facing the back which you can walk through. The front of the building is much more welcoming.

I took a class with Nicole Reynolds (who was substituting for Aislinn Coleman.) I wasn’t blown away by the class because the flows weren’t incredibly innovative and the Vinyasa Strong Flow Level 1-2 class I went to felt more like a Level 1 class to me. However, there was one challenging moment when she taught grasshopper pose and that inspired me to practice more arm balances. I love hands on adjustments but unfortunately she didn’t provide many throughout the class. During savasana, she did give us all a short leg massage which was really great.

The studio space itself has a bit of an awkward set-up. There is a front desk with some seating along the windows and a cubby shelf to store things. The bathrooms are behind the yoga studio though so you can’t go before class if there is already a class in the studio.

Pros
1.) “Get down to business” attitude from the moment you step onto your mat
2.) Good selection of props (yoga blocks, mats, straps)

Cons
1.) Not much lounging space in the studio
2.) Bathrooms are awkwardly placed behind the studio so you can’t go if you are waiting for a class to begin; no showers available

Vibe Yoga
3750 Florence Street, Redwood City, California 94063

I visited Vibe Yoga to attend a Shoulders and Heart Openers workshop with Carmen Aguilar so my review about the studio is only about the physical practice space and the vibe I got from the people who were also there. It’s not fair to compare a $70 workshop with a yoga evangelist like Carmen to a “regular” yoga class but I will say that Carmen’s class was one of the most challenging and rewarding yoga classes I have been to in a while and I highly encourage everyone to attend workshops with her if she travels to your city (she is based in Chicago but comes to the Bay Area at least twice a year.) Carmen beautifully links poses and leads her classes with the expertise that can only be developed from at least a couple decades of practice and teaching. Her style is “get down to business” and focused on proper alignment and technique. She helps your body move in ways you never thought possible.

The studio itself is located in a convenient area of Redwood City within a small shopping plaza. There is a Starbucks, a deli, several food establishments, and free parking. The structure of Vibe Yoga’s interior looks like it was built for working out–it isn’t a refurbished establishment. That means the space is beautiful, clean, smells nice, and is much more conducive to pleasant heated yoga than many of the older practice spaces in San Francisco (they have their own charm too and I have reviewed many of them.)

Pros
1.) Many amenities including showers, bathrooms, water filter, and lockers
2.) Large practice space, designed specifically for yoga (skylights for calming natural light and heated room is relaxing, clean and smells good; there are no open metal grates so it doesn’t feel like you are in an oven)
3.) Felt like there was community (people were taking group pictures and wearing matching Vibe Yoga tank tops); the receptionist was also a yoga teacher (I think) and took the yoga class with us

Cons
1.) Far away from major metropolitan areas (although I hear Redwood City is an up and coming neighborhood)

Yoga Belly
455 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

This studio isn’t on the main Castro Street–it’s in a parking lot next to Castro Street. Google Maps takes you to the right place but Waze takes you to the main street where you cannot see the studio (this may change in the future now that Google Maps owns Waze.) The space is an unassuming room with a small check-in & waiting area and a few changing stalls built into the side of the wall. The bathrooms are part of the whole retail complex and you have to exit the studio with a key to use the bathroom. I’m used to nice yoga bathrooms with organic hand soaps that this was a little off putting. I did like that the studio is heated (some people love this, some people hate it,) but in the middle  of winter, I love hot yoga. The instructor, Andrew Goldberg, said to try out a few teachers before making up your mind about the studio since everyone is a bit unique and I will take this advice to heart. I’ll return and try out a different class with a different instructor since I didn’t like how easy the “Yoga Belly” class was and didn’t like the “inspirational” stories that the instructor tried to weave in–that combined with his occasional swear words made it so I didn’t feel very relaxed after I left the studio. But I do want to return to try out either the “YBX” or “YB Ballerz” classes.

Pros
1.) Good location near retail establishments and restaurants on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View
2.) Heating was nice–not too hot, not too cold and no exposed metal grates that turn red when heated

Cons
1.) Restrooms are not a part of the studio; you have to use the common restrooms that all the businesses in the area share
2.) Hit or miss teachers; eclectic bunch of instructors

Boston Yoga Studio Reviews

When it’s cold in Boston, warming up with yoga is the perfect way to beat the winter blues!

YogaWorks
364 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
Back Bay (Public Gardens)

This studio is a bit hard to find so leave yourself a few extra minutes to figure this out for your first visit: The studio is hidden on the second floor of a long building and there isn’t a big sign on Boylston Street that points to the door you need to go into. If you put the address into Google Maps, it leads you to the right area on the block and from there, you’ll have to look carefully into each of the doors to find a standing black easel sign that says YogaWorks (I think this sign sits outside in the summer but they take it in during the winter months.) There are actually two doors marked as 364 Boylston Street and only one leads to YogaWorks so look for this YogaWorks sign.

Once inside, you have to check in for every class with the receptionist. I find this to be a slightly unnecessary bottleneck since many people sign up online but they don’t have a self-service check in for those who pre-paid. The space has two yoga studios, called Moon and Sun, so make sure you confirm the room with the receptionist.

The quality of the classes are fantastic–I have visited 5 different teachers and they all have a “get down to business” style of yoga. These are some of the most creative flow classes I have taken; teachers string together sequences that you wouldn’t normally think to put together so it feels like a dance on your yoga mat. Contrary to Ashtanga or Bikram yoga practices, the practice at YogaWorks rarely follows a pre-defined sequence of poses and you are sure to encounter new sequences and new variations on poses during each class.

In particular, I thought the Hip Hop Yoga was a fun usage of widely accessible music. Each instructor has his or her own playlist and you flow through a vinyasa practice to Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, etc. I have always liked music in class and was happy when teachers also played music during the the Vinyasa Flow classes. The Hip Hop Yoga classes are held in a slightly warmer room (the room called the Sun,) but none of the classes fall under “heated yoga” or baptiste yoga since the heat is turned on only ever so slightly–it’s more to make the room feel comfortable because it’s often raining ice pellets outside. You will break out in a slight sweat in the Hip Hop Yoga classes since it is a faster paced class in a warmer room but I don’t think a hot yoga towel is required. A hot yoga towel isn’t going to be helpful for the Vinyasa classes since those classes are usually held in the room called the Moon, and it’s not heated higher than room temperature. You will get a workout but you won’t sweat much.

About a year later, I returned to YogaWorks in Back Bay and took a Vinyasa flow class with Renee LeBlanc. She has so much control of her body–it was beautiful to watch her demo. Even though this wasn’t her advanced class, she was teaching straddle handstands and one legged crow. I can’t wait to return and practice in her advanced class the next time I am in Boston.

I think my favorite part about the classes at YogaWorks is their varying styles. Each teacher feels at liberty to teach his or her own class and throw in fun and novel twists to challenge and humor you. At each class, I have felt challenged in some way. My favorite new pose thus far has been a tricep workout: Lay down on your belly, put a yoga block on your butt and lift your chest and your legs. Then squeeze the yoga block with just your palms (no fingers) and lift, lift, lift. Repeat. This aligns your spine and works out your arms. If your triceps don’t hurt tomorrow, it’s because you are squeezing or lifting the yoga block with your fingers–don’t use your fingers; palms only.

I would recommend YogaWorks to yogis who have gone to a few yoga classes before. The practice is within reach for all skill levels but sometimes, the yoga teacher will ask you to complete sun salutations on your own or queue slightly more complicated sequences that require a basic foundation of yoga first.

Pros
1.) Clean facilities and great location right by Arlington green line train station; showers available (lockers that require your own combination lock used to be available but have since been removed as of 12/26/16–you can bring your valuables into the practice room and store them in the cubbies.)
2.) Wide selection of classes to attend each day.
3.) Hip Hop yoga classes offer creative transitions, tuned to songs you want to sing along to.

Cons
1.) Changing area is outdated; not much bench space.
2.) Classes can be quite large even during the December holidays; I thought the rooms were full but the teachers kept saying, “spread out now that you have space” which makes me think that non-holiday classes are extremely packed, mat to mat.

Barre & Soul
36 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Square

This is the perfect studio for those who are new to yoga and those who are traveling. For one, it is conveniently located in the The Garage “mall” at 36 JFK Street, right off the Harvard Square red line MBTA stop. I also love that the studio offers everything you need for your practice: The studio has high quality and new Manduka yoga mats (no charge!) which is amazing–studios always charge at least a few dollars for a yoga mat rental and it’s usually not as nice as a Manduka mat. Their mat cleaner smells amazing so you don’t have to worry about a stinky mat that might be covered in someone else’s germs and sweat. Their classes are pretty fundamental and easily accessible by people of all backgrounds; actually, most of the students in the three classes I stopped by were current Harvard Undergraduates and college students generally are beginners because very few people practice yoga in high school (they usually discover it in college and grow their practice post-graduation when they have more money to spend on expensive yoga classes.) Barre & Soul has two rooms: One is a yoga room and the other is a Barre studio. As with most other Barre studios, they offer everything you need for Barre class (weights, mats, props, etc.) They offer quite a few yoga and Barre classes each day so you can schedule around your busy schedule. The yoga studio space is also one of the prettiest spaces I have practiced in with a chic turquoise piano at the front of the room (that they don’t generally use for class.) Even though the classes are pretty basic, I plan to return here in the future.

Pros
1.) Convenient, clean, and well-lit (with natural sunlight) practice space with all the props you need (don’t underestimate how important this is if you are coming to and from work; you might not want to lug around a heavy yoga mat with you all day.)
2.) Efficient check-in processes and spacious studio hallway space allows you to feel calm from the moment you step into the space to the moment you step back out on the streets.
3.) Two types of classes in one studio allows you to have variety in your workout routine and the numerous daily classes fit in with most people’s schedules.

Cons
1.) Instructors don’t seem to have practiced for very long (e.g. 10+ years); the yoga sequences don’t vary very much (basic vinyasa poses) and teachers don’t switch up the flow amongst their classes (so if you go to the same teacher multiple times, you’ll wind up doing the same practice as I did.)
2.) The floor is tilted; most buildings in Cambridge are old and this one is no exception. The floors are oddly tilted in random spots, making some of the one-legged balance poses harder because you aren’t used to the floor being crooked. It is good practice for balancing though (because it makes it harder to balance.)
3.) No showers or changing rooms–just two bathrooms. I didn’t sweat that much in either the yoga or Barre classes here but it would be nice to be able to shower or change here. You can change but you have to wait for one of the two bathrooms.

IMG_20160206_084137-2Yoga studio room at Barre & Soul

Karma Yoga Studio
1120 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Square

I didn’t use the Karma gym or get tea here but it seems like a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square. I only attended a vinyasa flow class here over Memorial Day Weekend. The class wasn’t full (there were about 7 yogis.) The class wasn’t technically challenging and the teacher offered minimal adjustments so it was a great location to do a drop in class if you are in the neighborhood but probably wouldn’t become my go-to yoga studio if you wanted to grow and challenge yourself. This class seemed better suited for beginners since the instructor focused more on alignment, especially towards the beginning when she was teaching proper chaturanga alignment.

Pros
1.) Very convenient location, close to many shops and eateries in Harvard Square
2.) Yoga studio is a part of a gym and you can get a yoga + gym package, which can save you a lot of money

Cons
1.) Low-tech studio (you cannot sign up online and their credit card machine was down the day I went to the studio)
2.) The studio doesn’t offer advanced classes for more seasoned yogis

Karma Yoga Studio
(Third Floor) 338 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115
Back Bay

It was the Tuesday after Christmas and I was the only person who showed up to Cara Harley’s 12:15pm class. And it was wonderful–I got a private yoga class for $10! Cara asked me what I wanted to practice and I said handstands so she taught a Vinyasa class with some special handstand practice tricks to get me more used to putting weight into my hands & wrists and more aligned / less like a banana (yogis know what I mean by banana back.) Cara isn’t the most advanced yoga teacher I have practiced with (in terms of being able to do advanced yoga poses) but I did love that I got so much attention. She watched every single transition and adjusted my alignment, even if I was just a hair off–I really appreciated this. When you are a more advanced yogi or you are in a big class, you can feel a bit neglected because the teachers are focused on those who are confused about the next pose or they don’t have time to fix everyone’s alignment. Because I haven’t been to a full class here, I can’t comment on what a “normal” class with 10+ students feels like so I’ll stick to the facilities in my pros / cons report.

Pros
1.) Enormous facility (see huge practice room below); clean and airy feeling; individual changing stalls are available.
2.) Great value: $10 for a 1-hour long class and $15 for any class greater than 1-hour is a good price; at other nice yoga studios, 1-hour classes usually start at $18+.

Cons
1.) Small waiting area so if you show up early, there isn’t much room for you to hang out (there is a bench inside the sign-in area but there is also a sign in the stairwell before the sign-in area that tells you not to enter between classes.)
2.) There aren’t any showers (so if you get sweaty, you can’t fully clean up before heading to brunch or dinner on Newbury Street.)

Los Angeles Yoga Studios Reviews

I have been to several yoga studios in LA but only recently decided to include them in my blog posts. There are so many fitness options in Los Angeles so if you are in the area, it’s very easy to keep up your workout routine or to try something new. Celebrities are also interested in these public studios so while I don’t review non-yoga studios, I will say that I had a very fun SoulCycle Survivor class in Hollywood where Vanessa Hudgens biked on the bike the instructor usually occupies and the teacher walked around the class instead.

The Yoga Collective
512 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291

I took a class with Danielle Zuccarelli (who was substituting for Travis Elliot.) The class wasn’t too packed (although it was the Thursday before Labor Day weekend,) and the practice offered a good mix of inspiration and “working out.” I found the class to be more basic. We also spent 10 minutes or so repeating Warrior I and the teacher did the “go ahead and repeat this sequence of poses for several minutes” thing, which some people don’t like.

Pros
1.) The teachers interweave in spiritual aspects of the practice
2.) They provide free mats
3.) Studio is next to lots of restaurants / centrally located in Venice Beach

Cons
1.) No showers; only one bathroom so can be annoying if you have to wait in line but you have a class that is about to start
2.) Studio space itself is old so the ventilation isn’t good; it gets warm in there but the air system isn’t as sophisticated as some newer hot yoga studios are so it can feel “stifling”
3.) The practice didn’t feel challenging enough for seasoned practitioners

yogacollectivesvenice
The Yoga Collective in Venice Beach, LA