This is Brian Monnier, my yoga instructor and the man at, nay, the heart of the California Yoga Company.
Brian – a United States Yoga Association-certified yoga instructor and a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer – and California Yoga Company have been instrumental to my ongoing wellness kick; I have been a regular at class since June, and, lemme tell ya, I feel stronger than ever. Combined with a renewed commitment to all my healths (physical, mental, spiritual) and what I hope and trust is a clearer patience-for-zero-bullshit-moving-forward policy, yoga, Brian’s yoga, has been a game changer. They have been a nice present to myself, these hours I’ve taken to dedicate myself to focus on the rhythm of my respiration and to breathe. Which now I can do better than before, which, for the asthmatic kid within, is a major victory.
I learned about California Yoga Company when it was on Polk off Clay, in 2014. Last winter, Brian set up shop at his new sun-kissed studio at 1586 Bush St. in San Francisco, where he serves hot yoga – it’s not that hot – Friday through Wednesday (on Thursday we rest), and where he provides a welcoming, healing space for yoga neophytes and folks suffering from chronic pain. Unlike most yoga studios, which focus on classic Hatha yoga (which combines physicality with an element of spirituality), California Yoga Company focuses on your self. You’re encouraged to let go of everything (administration, bills, and loans; your phone; your trauma and your pain), breathe in and out through your noise, and be in the moment. Every class is fairly the same: There are 40 asanas (poses) in the Monnier Method, and all that changes from class to class is our individual intention.
This summer, I was feeling like I needed to re-invent, so I took the 6-Week Yoga Transformation Challenge and got to it. Challenge accepted. Happily. And here I am, sharing the wealth.
Now, this isn’t a quiet yoga studio. It’s hot, it’s intentional, and it’s for you. You get from it what you give to it. And Brian talks to you through it all. He guides you, corrects you, encourages you to go for it, and always has your back – literally – with modifications. He likes it when we leave it all on the mat (so be ready to sweat it out), but he always puts our safety above final form. It’s a process, and he clearly enjoys it and wants you to enjoy it, too.
Also a martial-arts practitioner, Brian got into yoga on account of years of unattended injuries and the good ol’ twentysomething life. (Ditto. Ish.)
“My body at 25 was a wreck,” he says. “I had knee and back injuries that my doctor wanted to operate and I didn’t have the money. My girlfriend at the time was a Bikram yoga teacher and she literally dragged me by my hair to my first class.”
Brian locked into the introspection of yoga, which, much like the martial arts, requires a certain commitment. Best lesson he ever learned from his yoga teacher? You know it: consistency rules. Yoga, he says, is a maintenance system. “As long as you put in the time regularly, it will keep healthy.”
By committing to his practice, he revolutionized his own system and, “managed to avoid the obesity that most my family has, and my internal health has been really great for 20 years.” His Achille’s these days? His 5-year-old son. Y’ know how kids pick up everything. That means every little bug, too.
For many, yoga may still be an idea, an under-understood notion. A fad, a trend. A privilege. Once I revisited it, though (I did practice in my twenties…), I said good-bye to my chiropractor, farewell to the pain relievers that caused allergic reactions, and see ya when I see ya to the myriad massage therapists I met in my thirties. Again, what a gift to be able to do something about our health, no? And with someone who knows his stuff, like Brian.
“So many of our community members are overworked and stressed out,” he says. “We get caught up in the torrent and the current of this lifestyle that comes with living in the city and quickly it can wrap you up into being unhealthy. It causes pain, stress, and often depression. Our studio helps with that.”
True that. Namaste.
Now, as Brian would say, get your ass to class.