At a moment when much of the country has reverted to Amazonian levels of jungle heat, the steamiest room in temperate San Francisco is the 5th floor of a warehouse at the corner of 16th and Mission Streets. On a clear day, the downtown skyline polks out to the northeast and the Castro unfolds to the west across Twin Peaks.

Today the view is obscured by the collective fog of some 100 yoga-goers whose hippie sweat mists the windows of Yoga to the People’s 6 PM class.

“…and I haven’t even managed my New Year’s Resolution to shower every week,” I hear a brown-banged blue-bra’d brunette say I spread my mat across the floor.

An older blond is discussing a trip to Isreal. “These guys came with Solomon and stuck a million dollars underneath their bags,” she says. “The border guards caught them and they left me with the baby.”

“Let’s get started,” our fro-haired instructor—recognizable in type as the guy down the hall freshmen year with a lava lamp and hacky sack—begins.

I rest my face on the spongy, sweet-sweated odor of a purple rented yoga mat in a sphinx-like child’s pose. Our teacher steps heel-to-toe, fingers touching. Beruit’s “Elephant Gun” plays gently in the background.

“These hang-ups—your day at work, your boyfriend, your anxieties from yesterday, tomorrow, this week—let them all go,” he says.  He looks about my age—at YTTP, guru and pupil are as likely to share electric bills as common studio time. “Take your deepest, fullest breath of the day—sip air until you can breath no fuller—and let it all go.” The class gives a collective sigh and the windows fog a tint darker.

The teacher guides the class through a series of motions that send limbs skewed and scissored into the first active postures of the day.  Neighbors swap sweat as clothes are shed and tattoos revealed.  The room is trapped in a game of New Age Twister that ends with some perverse gesture called “flipping the dog.”

Half guidance counselor, half drill sergeant, yogis must juggle unconditional appreciation for their students with warnings that they are most likely doing everything wrong. “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” the teacher says at a moment when my arms are intertwined and I am attempting to imitate an airplane perched on my left foot. “You know what’s natural for your body,” he urges.

A few of the older members of the class who have set up shop in the very back of the room are ignore all instructions in favor of a routine of headstands and inverted push-ups. Perhaps they doubt any philosophical underpinning which is grounded in a reading of a Bruce Lee quote at the end of class, but that is their loss, because Mr. Lee is wise.

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

We’re urged to lie on our backs, palms open and receptive in cosmic appreciation. I spend my time squirming to find a way for my palms to avoid my neighbors’. A beer pong game in the startup beneath us erupts in cheers, and an ambulance races up 16th, as the Tibetan signing bowl rinses the room and I feel, for a moment, at peace.

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