“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
-popularly misattributed to Mark Twain.
July in San Francisco challenges the assumption of an eternally sunny California coast. As the Sunday Streets team unloaded equipment from our trucks at 9 AM, the steady wind ran through the tent, clouds overhead, giving the morning a cool breeze and gray pallet common to western San Francisco in the summertime. Our map board, made of snappable plastic, cracked and bent over in the morning wind, no match for nature.
Yet, by 11 AM, a large and diverse crowd, full of neighborhood families with children, filled Arguello Boulevard, recently opened for the day for people to reclaim without the danger of cars zooming by. For the first half of the day, the Farmers Market on Clement Street drew crowds shopping for their weekly produce – as well as hungry Sunday Streets volunteers…
Of course, many residents found themselves walking over to Arguello from Clement to check out such unique and unexpected attractions as an elementary school rock band…
…and a child-centric series of ballet performances…
…but in spite of the relative cold, physical activities predominated on the street.
One highlight for me was Purusha Yoga, a community-minded yoga studio focused on promoting equitable access to yoga education, including free yoga programs in outdoor locations throughout San Francisco, such as Golden Gate Park, and a non-profit branch, the Purusha Seva Project, which works to bring yoga classes to at-risk communities in the Bay Area. I had the fortune of corresponding with Joy Ravelli, who helped shape Purusha Yoga into the neighborhood institution it currently is – in order to ask her some questions about the marriage of yoga and Sunday Streets.
PB: How did Purusha Yoga get its start?
JR: Purusha Yoga was a branch of my original business which was called health in motion. I added the yoga school first. I needed more yoga teachers for my fitness and multi modality health programs. We provide classes to corporations, colleges and businesses. I needed people that could teach all levels and demographics. I realized there was a lack of qualified teachers. Once I started the school I realized many of the grads wanted more opportunities for community and to teach under served and at risk populations.
PB: What makes Purusha Yoga different from other studios?
JR: The Purusha studio offers a community space. It serves the west side of the city. We have several places to hang out, have a cup of tea and meet up. Purusha serves a wide variety of every day people. We have classes that offer fitness, Zumba, gentle yoga, yoga dance, yin and vinyasa. We have classes for all ages and stages of life. We also offer Thai body work, and private yoga therapy.
PB: How did Purusha come to get involved with Sunday Streets?
JR: Our mission is to serve our community and introduce more people to yoga, movement and health. Sunday Streets is a perfect compliment to our other free classes like free yoga in Golden Gate Park weekly.We show up with more people and get the kids moving as well as adults.
PB: How did the Purusha Seva Project take shape?
JR: Well it is morphing still. I wanted to bring yoga health and movement to partner organizations such as schools, jails, shelters. I think the traditional yoga studio in America is lacking diversity in its population that it serves. I am excited to share yoga with someone who can really benefit from its profound yet simple practices.
PB: I’ve been hearing about your Yoga in the Park classes. Given your interest in teaching yoga in very public, accessible spaces, what do you think the importance of healthy, accessible public space is to activities and communities like yoga?
JR: I think it’s vital and extremely important. Our cities, families and greater community thrives when we can come together as healthy individuals and share some fun movement, music and nature.
PB: What are some of your favorite things about Sunday Streets?
JR: I love meeting friends I have not seen for a while. I love meeting new people outside in such a fun and engaging atmosphere. It is a fabulous atmosphere for expression through yoga dance and play.
Before I left Purusha, I got a few action shots of students and trainers moving through another Sunday afternoon round of sun salutations:
By the end of the afternoon, the clouds broke and the sun finally became visible over the intersection of Arguello and Clement. The Shan-Yee Poon Ballet School was finishing its last performance, a stunning, vividly costumed and staged street-side duet between a thin, nimble East Asian young boy and a pale, small, graceful little girl, running swift, delicate circles around each other, wowing the crowd. A half-hour later, the kids, and the crowd along with them, have vanished – and Arguello is back to its usual stream of traffic.
It might have taken the sun until 4 to come out, but that’s San Francisco weather for you. As for the Richmond, cold summers didn’t stand a chance against the allure of an open street to come play in.