Yoga. In San Francisco, yoga means studios with muted white lights and hardwood floors; bodies contorted and glistening with sweat … while some new agey music hums in the background and beautiful yoga teachers, women and men, soothingly encourage you to release and soften. With prices between $17 and $25 per class, it seems that only those with white-collar jobs have the means to cultivate a regular yoga practice.
Photo by Miya Peard
Enter Yoga Punx. A donation-based yoga class for those people who feel like they stick out like a sore thumb at the other San Francisco yoga studios. Brainchild of Khristine Jones, a homeless youth outreach counselor at Homeless Youth Alliance, Yoga Punx offers weekly classes at a warehouse space in the Mission known as The Koo Koo Faktory. A certified yoga teacher, Jones wanted to create a space for her fellow yoga punk rockers to gather and practice: “It’s yoga that’s accessible to anyone that feels like they don’t want to go to a yoga studio because they feel weird ”¦ I wanted to make a place that people that normally don’t seek out yoga could come ”¦ and anyone else who wanted to just party with us.”
“It’s yoga that’s accessible to anyone that feels like they don’t want to go to a yoga studio because they feel weird …”
Welcome to the Koo Koo Faktory. A warehouse residence in the Mission District of San Francisco, The Koo Koo Faktory is located down a little alley between Valencia Street and Mission Street. The first part of the alley is bordered on both sides by fenced in parking lots-leading me to wonder if I had turned down the right alley. But then appeared cute (dare I say, inviting) corrugated metal doors with plants and flowers on the outside, and kooky signs that welcomed me inside. A short walk through a storage hallway and I entered into the inner sanctum-a cozy room filled with furniture odds and ends. Overlapping rugs with varying designs insulated my feet. A solitary barber’s chair stood one corner. Three mismatching couches lined two walls. Reading the titles of the books on the two bookcases contained in the room, I was struck by the breadth of genres covered: textbooks in organic chemistry to mystery thrillers. A blackboard over one of the couches reminded me (not so gently) that “Your ego is not your F—–g Amigo.” A small stage in the corner of the room created an L-shape of usable yoga practice space. Taking all of this in, I felt like I belonged, perhaps because everything seemed to have found a home here.
A blackboard over one of the couches reminded me (not so gently) that “Your ego is not your F—–g Amigo.”
Hello. When I arrived, the Faktory owner (introduced to me only as “Pauly” ) and another class participant were vacuuming and cleaning before class. Three other participants were sitting on one of the couches chatting. Now, I have three tattoos-one of them large enough to cause my mother to think I got it just to torment her-but compared to these other five people, I felt as bare-skinned as a babe ”¦ and out of my element. Shoe on the other foot? Of course, I should have expected this, given that Jones is covered in tattoos. Her ink-black dyed hair has swaths that regularly change colors from hot pink to bleach blond and anything in between. She sports a nose piercing and several ear piercings as well. The existence of any additional piercings, though likely, is purely speculative on my part. In short, no one like Jones has ever appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal.
In short, no one like Jones has ever appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal.
Punxing Out. Jones arrives soon after me and is immediately and warmly welcomed by all. She is loved for what she brings-love and healing with authenticity. Jones begins creating her altar on the stage: images of Hindu gods and goddesses, candles and sage. The Yoga Punx donation chair is set up. We’re ready to begin, and then two more people arrive. And then another person. And then another two people. Mats are rearranged, and strangers get a little closer.
Yoga Punx t-shirts and donation bowl
Gimp Yoga. On this particular Sunday, Jones is leading “Gimp Yoga” : yoga for those suffering from wrist, shoulder and neck injuries. This means no downward dogs, no chatarangas and no upward facing dogs-nothing that puts weight on the upper body. This means leg work. After a short seated meditation, some chanting and a breathing practice, we all make our way to standing. Jones leads us through a series of standing poses, including balancing poses such as warrior three and tree poses, before taking us to the mat for seated poses-all the while giving thoughtful and skillful adjustments. At one point, one of the students mistakenly thought Jones had told everyone to go into “Loser” pose (instead of “Lizard pose” ). From then on, the students playfully called themselves Losers. After a few supine poses, we rest in savasana-every yogi’s favorite pose as it involves just lying on your back, closing your eyes and just not doing anything for at least a few minutes.
A little loving assist from Jones
Students rest in supta baddhakonasana.
Oh, Yeah-Rockin’ It. Though I did hear some “yoga music” peppered in her mix, the music did rock: Dead Milkmen (remember them?), The Gits, Violent Femmes, Rancid, The Pixies, Nick Cave and The Clash were only a few of the bands that played on her mix. This was definitely not your grandmother’s yoga music mix. Special guest, Melissa Esposito, played the harmonium and chanted to us in savasana-ensuring we all got our daily dose of yoga mantra.
Melissa Esposito chanting to Yoga Punx students during savasana while Jones listens.
The Nitty-Gritty. Jones currently offers donation-based yoga at The Koo Koo Faktory (1449 Stevenson) in The Mission District of San Francisco on Sunday afternoons from 2:00– 3:30 pm. A Tuesday evening class at 6 pm is coming soon to The Koo Koo Faktory, but the Thursday morning classes at 2 Spirit Tattoo (that’s right, yoga in a tattoo parlor) have been put on hold due to the summer upswing in tattooing, but may return come Fall. The suggested donation is $10, but everyone can participate no matter what their means. Jones once accepted a jar of honey as a barter for her class and was totally stoked. Connect with Yoga Punx on Facebook or keep an eye out for fliers posted around San Francisco. Jones promises an all-level vinyasa class “with kick-ass music.”