Once believed to be the center of all things alternative, San Francisco has seen a lot of change over recent years. But even as the cultural makeup of the city is in flux , a few free-spirited institutions remain in the city. The Center
is one of these.
Located on Fillmore near Fell, The Center's building was once housing and offices for priests at Sacred Heart Church, which is now vacant
(rumor has it that investors are looking to fill the space with condos). The Center took over the building next door in 2011, establishing a shared space for private businesses, workshops, classes, a 25-person collective household and a self-proclaimed sanctuary for “transformation, consciousness and community.”
Approach The Center at street level and you’ll walk through a quaint courtyard with tables and chairs (look for the lit-up “yoga” sign). Just inside is the bamboo studio, where The Center holds movement classes such as yoga, capoeira, and dance.
Men’s naked yoga (no class description necessary) is perhaps the most unexpected of The Center’s offbeat offerings. Hey, “if you can’t do it in San Francisco, where can you do it?” said Event Director Anayana White. Interested readers take note: Naked Yoga is the center’s only BYOM (Bring Your Own Mat) class.
Also downstairs is the Tea Lounge, a dimly-lit room with low tables, pillows for seating, and a seemingly endless supply of Chinese ceremonial tea. An evening here will put you back $10, and if you need to escape the bustle of city life regularly, $56 a month grants you unlimited access to the lounge. If you want to take a more proactive approach to getting centered, head upstairs for everything from Thai massage to hypnotherapy to meridian repatterning with The Center's holistic healing services.
The rest of the building is composed of bedrooms and living space for residents. The Center is less radical than other communes, in that members don’t share food, possessions or—for the most part—sexual partners. But they do share a kitchen and living room, bathrooms and a charming rooftop overlooking downtown. They’re democratic, and all residents carry equal weight in household responsibilities.
Three of the Center’s four founders are DJs (the most notable is DJ DubVirus), so naturally, we had to ask about parties. “Those have happened here, but the real ragers are next door,” White told us, pointing to the Center’s sister community, The Convent. Their biggest party of the year, White said, is the one that's held on Halloween.
The Convent, which once accommodated the nuns of Sacred Heart Church, stands adjacent to The Center on Oak Street, and is relatively gothic and mysterious. Instead of holistic healing, the Convent’s focus is on music, performance and art.
This fall, The Center will begin Naam Yoga teacher training, kundalini classes and (maybe) tai chi, all held in their roomy bamboo studio.
If this sounds like your thing, check out The Center’s calendar
. Most classes are donation-based and beginner-friendly. And if getting physical isn't your thing, you can still stop by the Tea Lounge to relax in a community-based environment that harkens back to the city's bohemian past.