Local yoga teacher and writer Karen Macklin's new weekly column on SFBG explores yoga, meditation, and conscious living in the big city.
Let’s talk about yoga. Ten years ago, when it was starting to gain momentum in the US, lots of people predicted it would be a passing fad, like Richard Simmons or the Moonies. No way this thing of stretching, breathing, chanting, meditating could stick in modern society. Remember Cabbage Patch Kids? Rollerblading? Reliable health insurance? Yeah, me neither. That’s the way Western yoga was supposed to go.
But something happened. Text messaging was invented, and Coca Cola bought Odwalla, but despite these setbacks to global consciousness, the yoga momentum didn’t die, it grew. What was once a small trend became a vibrant movement filled with people trying to better themselves and the world around them. Today, it’s estimated that 15 million people in the US practice yoga, and that this number is steadily increasing. Despite the fact that no one across the globe can agree on what exactly yoga is (physical exercise? a spiritual discipline? a therapeutic practice?) , this thing of stretching-breathing-chanting-meditating is quickly being woven into the fabric of our society. The country has become yogafied, and San Francisco led the charge.
This is what I was thinking about last Wednesday, at 8am, when I gathered on the grass with several hundred other people in winter coats and stretchy pants to lengthen our hamstrings and chant to Ganesh.
Yoga instructor Janet Stone leads the class as Michael Franti (right) and Jay Bowman (left) accompany her with bouncy tunes.
And it wasn’t just any grass—it was the freshly manicured outfield of the San Francisco Giant’s baseball stadium, where boho-reggae-peacenik-pop star Michael Franti was onstage with his signature naked feet singing “The Sound of Sunshine” while Janet Stone instructed a yoga-partner acrobatics-dance session in honor of Yoga Day at AT&T Park. People were moving and smiling and jumping (except me—I don’t jump until after noon), and the sun actually did come out after Franti sang that sunshine song. But even more surprising was the amount of people that came -- paid to come -- to this event at 8 in the morning on a work day.
That’s because we love yoga in San Francisco. If there was a contest for the nation’s best yoga town, we’d be top of the list. We know that a city that practices yoga is a city that gives a shiznit about society, a city in which inhabitants walk the juicy but daunting path to some kind of liberation, whether it’s liberation from the cycle of rebirth or just from that damned Iphone for 90 minutes. In San Francisco, there’s someone moving chi, balancing a chakra, or spreading shakti on practically every corner. And most of these people are actually sane.
San Francisco attracts the energetically curious, so when it comes to mystical and contemplative practices, there is a lot happening here. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one place to go to find out what’s good and glorious each week without checking 17 different Facebook pages while trying to eat lunch, finish a work call, and find the elusive green compost bin? That’s the essence of On the Om Front, this new weekly column about yoga and conscious living in the city. Here you’ll get info about local events, musings on yoga culture and urban consciousness, interviews with local luminaries doing crazy cool things, and who knows what other kinds of goodies. Ultimately, this column is a way to stay connected. And we all know that yogis love connection, so it really doesn’t get any better than this.
Let’s talk about the name. Om is a Sanskrit seed syllable that symbolizes the universal sound in which all sounds reside, and it is often said to represent the creation, existence, and dissolution of every moment. So it’s basically everything. It’s you and it’s me. It’s the heart, it’s the song, it’s the word. It’s so big that we definitely need to be in it together.
Have an event, story, or suggestion? Just want to say hi? Send me a note at OnTheOmFront@gmail.com 
Karen Macklin is a yoga teacher and multi-genre writer in San Francisco. She's been up-dogging her way down the yogic path for over a decade, and is a lifelong lover of the word. To learn more about her teaching schedule and writing life, visit her site at www.karenmacklin.com .