Students at Showga Summer Kick Off Party, by Estefany Gonzalez
Showga (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)

Katie Clover started Showga — a fusion of live music and yoga in a bar in Downtown Oakland — as a way to help others create a mind-body connection through movement and music. Once a week, she turns the Starline Social Club into a place to meditate, strengthen the body, and celebrate the Oakland music scene.

“It’s a historic ballroom. They have big shows in there and stuff, and there is a bar in there. So, yeah, it’s yoga in a bar,” Clover said. “Musicians play on a stage and there’s a really nice sound system. I have a wireless mic for the verbal instruction and it’s just kind of an experiment.”

When Clover first started this project, it was a way for her to combine her love of teaching yoga and music.

“I wanted to teach community yoga and I wanted it to be affordable and accessible.  I wasn’t so into the yoga studio culture or vibes, so I was thinking about alternative settings,” she said. “I just started thinking, ‘What about doing an experiment with yoga and different kinds of music?’ Exploring how they inform each other through the creative expression and healing processes.”

Over the past five years — with the exception of her year off —  Clover has treated her students to countless of different bands and musicians. She now holds three-month residencies, where four different musical acts will play for her classes once a month.

Musicians Honey and the Emperor had a residence with Showga. They’ve played other yoga and music fusions but said none of them have been as organized as Showga.

Synth player Mary Mailhot teaches and practices yoga. She likes playing Showga because she said it allows her to feel a different energy from her audience. “I think it’s a really powerful way to experience movement,” Mailhot said. “People are actually listening and sensing your music.”

Guitarist Joel Davidson said he’s noticed people at Showga connect to his music more than at other venues. “I don’t know if it’s because people have their eyes closed the whole time, or if it’s because they’re focusing on something else and they don’t realize it’s creeping into the back of their head, but when we play here we get a very good response,” Davidson said. “Afterwards, a lot of people that we don’t know, that we’ve never seen before and have never been to our shows before outside of this, tell us that they really appreciate the way that we sound and why we’re here.”

Clover’s sister Monica Clover attended Showga when it first started and has been a regular since she moved to Oakland three years ago. She enjoys the diversity of the live music. “It’s always completely different. Sometimes it’s ambient electronic, sometimes it’s singer-songwriter, looping, all sorts of different things,” Monica Clover said. “It’s always interesting to see how that works with the yoga poses.”

She said she enjoys her sister’s teaching method because the class isn’t too serious. “The vibe isn’t as pretentious as a commercial yoga studio. It’s not like Lululemon vibes all over the place. There’s a lot more diversity,” she said.

For Showga regular, Shannan Slevin music is a tool to provide energetic movement. She believes the vibration of one’s breath brings energy into the body. While she teaches yoga herself, she thinks Showga offers something different and has attended for more than a year.

“It’s a totally different experience when you’re in a place that brings in live music and it’s large enough that you don’t feel like cattle. It’s a really unique concept,” Slevin said. “I think the vibration of the instruments and the vibration of the sounds, make an extremely large impact on someone’s experience to fall into a meditative state.”

She likes the environment Clover created for both music and yoga “I feel like they compliment each other more so than going to a yoga studio where there’s more hassle and bustle,” she said.