Infinity Yoga & Fitness | Studio Review

Beautiful artwork in progress @ Infinity Yoga + Fitness

In the past week, I had the opportunity to visit Infinity Yoga + Fitness, a new yoga studio opened in Richmond Hill! I learned about the place through Facebook when one of my friend, an instructor at the studio shared that she was teaching there.

Of course, I’m always looking to visit different studios so I looked up the website to see what the schedule is like. I wanted to comment on how beautiful the website is! All the information you need is very easy to find as well.

Clean, chic and sharp reception area

Infinity Yoga + Fitness currently offers around 3-4 classes per day, where two of those classes are after work hours. For those who work a 9-5pm job, there are a few classes that conveniently begin at 6:30pm so you can grab a small dinner before heading to class. While the schedule does not offer too many classes, I believe this is only temporary since they’re still fairly new! I’m sure with time, there will be plenty more classes on the schedule.

The different classes offered are also very interesting since it’s a fusion between yoga and fitness. You’ll easily find your vinyasa, hatha, yin and restorative classes on most days. If you’re looking to sweat and try something other than yoga, they also have high intensity training (HIIT) and ballet barre classes.

Loving the red sofa in the waiting area

Feeling a little lazier and still recovering from a surgery (4 wisdom teeth extractions!), I opted for a restorative class with Jenna. I arrived a little earlier to take pictures for the review and chatted with the owner Joanna. From the second I walked into the studio, Joanna was so friendly and I felt like I was visiting a friend I haven’t seen in ages. I’ve never met her but her whole demeanor felt very genuine and she was very happy to answer some of the questions I had about owning a studio, hiring yoga instructors and so on – questions I’ve always been curious to ask but was scared to.

Another angle of the waiting room – it just looks too beautiful!

The practice room was very spacious with lots of mirrors and possibility to turn up the heat reallllly high (I was told it was previously a bikram yoga studio). The room was dimly lit by flameless candles placed throughout the studio. As I unrolled my mat and sat quietly, I can hear Joanna warmly welcoming all the guests.

Gorgeous wall to floor mirrors on all 3 walls give the illusion of an infinite room

Class begins and we were encouraged to think of one person to dedicate this practice to. The idea was we are usually more willing to push ourselves for someone we love than we would for ourselves. In times of struggle and discomfort, think about this person and we will be able to overcome the challenges.

Spotless change room featuring 6 showers

The last restorative class I took was in Victoria at Found City Yoga, immediately after a bikram class. In that class, I was able to snooze off in the poses since we held them for at least 3-4 minutes each. At Infinity Yoga + Fitness, the class was much more dynamic and so you won’t have the opportunity to take quick naps 🙂

Even the soap dispenser matches the red colour accents!

What I really love about the class was the instructor, Jenna, was very hands-on. I am probably very biased, but I love classes where instructors offer adjustments, even if it meant just tilting my arm a little farther back in Triangle pose, or asking me to opens me knees out a little more in Warrior II. Jenna walked around and attentively made adjustments to all 10-12 of us. She’ll add just the perfect amount of pressure to get you deeper in your stretch, offer variations to further challenge a pose you thought you were comfortable in, and most importantly ensure you have the correct posture.

Open concept change room with lockers (bring your own lock)

If you’re looking for some great yoga classes with friendly instructors and a welcoming new owner, please visit Infinity Yoga + Fitness. Their first class is free, so what’s not to love!

Ajna Yoga | Studio Review

 

I’ve been to many yoga studios before, taken many classes and none was quite like the unique class I took at Ajna Yoga!

What is yoga? Traditionally, yoga has always been a practice for the body, mind and spirit. In the western culture, yoga has often been associated with fitness classes, focusing heavily on the postures and movements rather than connecting with ones mind. If we were to take only the physical aspect of yoga, then wouldn’t it be great if yoga instructors had a background in anatomy so they can better explain how these postures actually benefit the human body?

 

Anatomical spine and brain models on the window ledge

This is my first time taking a therapeutic-based yoga class so I wasn’t sure what to expect! Stepping into Ajna Yoga was a very different experience. At first glance, the studio is what you would expect from any other studio, clean open space. Upon closer inspection, you will notice the shelf of props has a lot more variety, including spikey balls, deflated balls, foam blocks in various shapes and sizes, akin to those used in pilates or physiotherapy. I started to cue in the subtle differences from the anatomical models on the window ledge, namely the spine and the brain model.

Once class began, I felt reminiscent of my years studying anatomy in university courses. Jules, our instructor led us through the Hips, Necks, and Shoulders class. The language she used was similar to those in your typical yoga classes, but she occasionally added scientific names of bones, muscles and body parts. What I really loved about therapeutic-based yoga was when she also reported findings from scientific studies to support the beneficial claims.

We used a total of 10 different props for the class!

The class I took was a relaxing class, utilizing a range of props to help target specific body parts in our stretches. The class was relatively small with 12 other students and Jules paid plenty of attention to each one of us. She remembered all of the students by names, and for newer faces, she came by often to make sure we understood the instructions. Unlike the other fitness-style yoga classes I’ve visited, most of the students in the class were older and had more even mix of men to women. Overall, the class was very gentle and very appropriate for the audience.

After spending an hour through a slow sequence of long stretches and playing around with a few props, I laid in shivasana and thought how great it would be if my parents and in-laws could take a class like this regularly!

The therapeutically-based yoga class would be a great addition to your regular practice as it offers gentle stretches and movements to help increase awareness of your body. The instructor was amazing and so knowledgeable! The explanations and little tid bits of scientific knowledge offered also makes you feel smarter after every class!

After the class was over, I thanked Jules and asked if she could give me a copy of her class schedule and highlight the classes that would be suitable for my parent in-laws (I was visiting them in Victoria, BC over the holiday break). Jules explained a lot of the classes offered at the studio are therapeutic in nature and therefore are perfect for an older demographic.

Unfortunately, while the class schedule offers plenty of classes, the times offered doesn’t quite work well with my mother-in-law as she still works during the day time. Perhaps I can recommend Anja Yoga to her once she retires!

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Thank you to Jules Paynes, co-owner of Ajna Yoga for welcoming me to your studio!

Ashtanga Yoga Victoria | Studio Review

Ashtanga Yoga Victoria

Welcome to Ashtanga Yoga Victoria, a studio which specializes in Ashtanga yoga through a Mysore teaching method!
If you’ve never tried a Mysore class or you’re not sure what it is, here’s a little definition from AYV:

“Mysore” is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga yoga and is named after the Indian city where Phattabi Jois lived. Mysore is a self led practice, through Ashtanga postures (also called Asanas). This “self-practice” is performed under the guidance of a highly experienced teacher, who helps the student advance through the series by teaching new asanas when it is safe to do so.

Reception and boutique

Since Mysore is a self-led practice, you can practice any time you want and for as long as you want. There are long sessions of Mysore classes on their schedule and you would drop in when it’s convenient for you. Another benefit is the individual attention you get from the instructor. Since everyone is doing their own thing, the instructor will walk around and help you with what you are currently working on. Lastly, Mysore is great for working at your own pace. For example, if you have injuries that require modification, the instructor will show you different asanas to work on.

Women’s change room and mat storage

Unfortunately, it was the last day of my short vacation at Victoria, BC so my schedule was rather tight. I wasn’t able to try the Mysore class but I did join their Hips ‘n’ Hammies class, led by Sachiko Walton.

Ashtanga Yoga Victoria is located in the heart of downtown Victoria at 560 Johnson St. As with downtown locations, parking can be a little hard to find but there are definitely options. The closest parkade is the Bastion Square Parkade, which offers the first hour for free! The studio is located on the second floor of a quaint building with high ceilings and beautiful windows.

Men’s change room

The studio spreads out through a few units on the second floor of the building. The receptionist, boutique and changes rooms are located in unit #203 and the main shala is in the unit just adjacent to it. The washrooms are accessible in the building using a key from the receptionist.

When you enter, you will be greeted warmly by the receptionist behind the desk. There is an assortment of yoga gear for sale, featuring Manduka yoga mats, clothing, towels and bottles of Ayurvedic potions. Do be sure to arrive earlier if this is your first visit as the check-in process requires an online waiver form and payment system. I really liked the idea of going paperless since it’s so eco-friendly and they even email you a copy of the waiver!

The women’s and men’s change rooms are small rooms tucked away in a hallway behind the receptionist, with the women’s being slightly larger. Both rooms offer mat storage space should you want to keep them there, although I’m not sure if there is a rental fee.

Main Shala

Since I wasn’t accustomed to yoga studios being in separate suites, I stumbled into an empty room behind the change rooms and thought that was the studio. It was small, but so beautiful – exposed brick walls, gorgeous windows and so warm! Unfortunately, Sachiko chased after me and told me the shala is in the unit next door. Oops!

The main studio room (shala) was even more beautiful. It had almost floor-to-ceiling windows, making the room invitingly warm and bright on a cold winter day. The shala can comfortably fit 12 yoga mats with plenty of space between you and your neighbours and allow the instructor to walk freely.

Props – bolsters, yoga blocks, straps

After committing to a barre class the day before, the Hips ‘n’ Hammies class was perfect to stretch my tired and cramping muscles. Sachiko led the class through a few Sun Salutations A and B series to warm up our bodies for the asanas. The stretches consisted of a variety of standing forward bends, standing hand to big toe (front and side), dancers pose, triangle pose, lizard pose, seated straddle poses and pigeon poses. These poses were great for opening the hips and hamstrings, as advertised in the class name and description. Throughout my yoga practice, I’ve become pretty familiar with these poses and often use them to train for my flexibility. For this class, I was hoping to learn a few more poses to incorporate into my practice, and receive feedback and adjustments on what I was currently doing.

The secret room I stumbled into!

Ashtanga Yoga Victoria specializes in Ashtanga yoga (evident in the name!) and a Mysore style of teaching. AYV embraces the yogic traditions and practice, rather than making significant modifications to cater to the western mainstream fitness classes. The studio is a great introduction to the history and philosophy of yoga – from calling it a shala instead of ‘studio’, dedicating many web pages and resources to enlighten students on what yoga is, and the deity statue and photos of gurus at the front of the room. With the breathtaking high ceilings and grandeur windows, you’re sure to find inner peace as you settle into your practice with AYV.

Studio Fitness in Victoria, BC | Studio Review

Studio Fitness in Victoria, BC


On this brilliant New Year’s Day, I visited Studio Fitness which specialized in barre, pilates and dance. I felt especially happy since the sun was shining, there was no traffic on the drive to the studio, everything was off to a perfect start. The studio is located inside the Quadra Sports & Fitness with plenty of free parking in the back. There were no clearly marked signs indicating where the studio was but to quote Justina Bailey, the owner of Studio Fitness, ‘Just follow the women in legging and you’ll find us!’. Surely enough, I found it!

Mirrors in the studio
Having only taken 1 barre class before, I consider myself a complete novice! Justina recommended I jump right in a try the Essentrics Barre class:

The Essentrics exercise program offered at STUDIO FITNESS is the same program that has been aired on PBS as ‘Classical Stretch’ since 1999. It has been rated the #1 fitness show on the network for over 10 years. Essentrics is used by numerous business professionals, Olympic athletes and celebrities. Performing the STUDIO FITNESS Essentrics stretch class will help slow down the aging process while keeping the body young, attractive, strong and healthy. Participants will notice an immediate increase in flexibility and a release of tension in their muscles after each class – improving their posture and range of motion. Stress is released and aches and pains are soothed through the gradual unlocking of the entire body. Justina Bailey has learned the methods directly from Miranda Esmonde-White at her facility in Montreal. More info about the brand here: Essentrics.com

Even with the amazing class description, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be like a pilates-barre type of class. Sore legs and butt? Sure, I need to work off all the food I ate over the holiday anyway! The class was surprisingly full (around 20+ students) for new years. Perhaps everyone had the same thoughts as me (eg. holiday guilt, new years resolution, etc).
The barre is actually a bamboo stick!
The essentrics barre class began with the students in the middle of the room facing the mirror as we began doing warm up exercises similar to those you do in dance classes. The warm up exercises were dynamic and flowed well with the playlist Justina picked. As we progressed through the warm up exercises, the music also seamlessly picked up in pace to match!
As we transitioned towards the barre, we completed series of workouts for the legs, butt, core and arms, balanced with active stretches to strengthen and lengthen our muscles. While at times the class felt challenging and our muscles shook relentlessly, the atmosphere was light-hearted and we laughed at ourselves while we acknowledge the shaking legs. In the different poses or reps we did, Justina would make sure to come by, offer encouragement and adjustments.
Storage cubbies and banana leaf plant
My favourite part of the class was the last portion. No, not because it was coming to an end, quite the contrary! I actually loved the class and didn’t want it to end. But the last portion of it was dancing in slow motion, while stretching and strengthening. Again, all the movements worked soooo well with the music she is playing (I really want her playlist now!) I’ve never really done something like that but the way Justina led the class to flow with the music while being strong, graceful and confident was beautifully unique.
At the end of the class, I just had to ask what this whole dancing/stretching/flowing thing we did was! She said essentrics is ‘tai-chi to music’! On hind sight, it was exactly that! The movements in the class were so fluid like water and air that it felt like a dance class, but also strong and powerful martial art. Truly the best of both worlds.
Registration area
I really want to thank Justina for introducing me to Essentrics. It was a great work out that disguised itself as a fluid and graceful dance. The moves were super simple to follow along, even for someone uncoordinated like me and have trouble memorizing dance steps! Justina was so sweet and beamed with positive energy. She is such a strong and graceful instructor role model that it’s no wonder women are drawn to the class, even on a holiday!
Now that I’ve fallen in love with essentrics, where else can I find classes? According to Justina, there is only 1 other studio in Victoria that offers essentrics, but is very popular out in the West.  On the Essentrics website, there are two offerings in Toronto from Framewrk and MisFitStudio, so I might visit them some time soon!

Found City Yoga | Studio Review

Found Yoga City is a one of the few yoga studios in Victoria, BC that specializes in bikram yoga and they do it very well! 

Happy new year everyone! It’s been a while since my very first bikram yoga class at Bikram Yoga Yonge (in Toronto) and reading my own blog post made me chuckle a bit at how I almost died back then. Just before 2016 ended, I decided to give bikram yoga another try!
So, what’s the longest session you’ve stayed at a yoga studio? For me, I spent almost 4 hours at Found City Yoga (formerly Bikram Yoga Saanich) last week! Was I super tired? Of course! But I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Huge thank you to Owl, the owner of Found City Yoga for generously offering a one week traveller’s pass to me to immerse fully in the bikram yoga experience. In my conversation with her, she highly recommended I join her for a 90 minute bikram yoga sessions, followed by a yin class to fully balance the hard sweaty workout with a delicious flow of deep stretches. And so I did!
View from entrance of Found City Yoga. Beautiful oak-coloured storage and sitting areas.

Location and Schedule

Let’s start off with location. The studio is situated very close to the University of Victoria, nestled among the plazas that serve the residential area nearby. It is easily accessible by walking, cycling, bus or driving. Bonus: There’s plenty of free parking!

Since it is recommended to practice bikram yoga everyday to reap it’s full benefits, finding a studio close to home, work or school is very important! The class schedule was also designed with the community’s schedule in mind so there are plenty of classes for everyone’s availability.

Cute boutique with yoga gear for sale!

Atmosphere

The studio itself was beautiful, spacious and airy to help prepare your mind physically and mentally for your practice. As the receptionists gives you a quick tour of the place, they will show you their unique selection of yoga clothing and items in their boutique, their bulletin board for news and promos, the change and shower rooms, and the huge hot studio.

Inside the hot studio, there are mirrors along the front of the room and on one side of the room. For the bikram class, the instructor stood on a small platform in the front of the class as she led our practice. One thing I wasn’t quite used to was how brightly lit the room was for an evening yoga class but I think this is the difference with Bikram yoga. For the yin class that followed, the studio was dim and lit by an ocean of flameless candles. It was so beautiful and relaxing!

Spacious women’s change room, but can still get crowded before and after classes. Yes, their classes are that popular!

Great Intro Package

As you sign up for classes, you will find mat and towel rentals are included with your $39 introductory month membership. One of my pet peeves with going to hot yoga is having to carry an armload of gear to the studio which is already a workout on its own! At minimum, I need my yoga mat (I’m currently in love with the B Mat!), 3 towels (one for my mat, one for wiping my face, for showering), change of clothes and water bottle. At Found City Yoga, who ever came up with the idea to provide these things as part of the membership deserves a huge praise! They clearly put their students’ convenience in mind and offer them the best they can.
They have a variety of class passes or monthly passes (starting at $79/month autopay) and different pricing options as well. If you’re a student, they also have great discounts as well! Check their website often and bulletin board for promos 🙂
Washroom stalls, sink and vanity area.

Instructor

In the 90 minute bikram session, Owl welcomed everyone and made special shout outs to new students, including myself! The class was relatively full, bordering the 40 student limit in which the studio caps attendance. Despite the large class, Owl still made efforts to make personal suggestions to each of her students, which she seemed to have remember all by name and level of experience! Given the faster pacing of a bikram yoga class, it was not feasible for her to come around to correct everyone’s posture. Instead, it made sense for her to stand on the platform in the front of the room so she can quickly scan everyone’s postures and comment on adjustments. Even for someone hiding in the back (ahem, me) she was still able to see all of us. My previous reservation about bikram yoga was resolved with Owl’s session. Perhaps I had a better expectation of what the 26 poses are and how long it would really feel. However, I attribute my pleasant experience to her level of enthusiasm, energy, motivation and her ability to connect with individuals that made my practice feel so much more fulfilling.
The shower room is very open-concept, can be intimidating for those who are a little shy.

The 90 minute yin session that followed was led by Meagan, in a candlelit warm yoga room. Before we began, she informed us we would be holding each pose on average for 3-5 minutes, so brace yourself! Sounds like a long time right? Well, after a 90 minute bikram session, I was super tired and was hoping yin translated to variations of corpse pose. Unfortunately, we didn’t just lie there for a 90-minute long nap, but the poses surprisingly felt comfortable. In fact, for pigeon pose, I dosed off while we stretched on each side for 5 minutes. I was only woken up when the instructor came by and gave THE BEST massage in the world. Don’t worry if you don’t like being touched because she will ask at the beginning of class, but it’ll be silly to decline!

Large heated yoga room with antimicrobial non-toxic recycled rubber flooring. The floors feel very hot when you first walk in.

Overall Experience

I love everything about this studio! Even though bikram yoga was not my cup of tea originally, I’m willing to be converted thanks to Found City Yoga. The facilities, services, people (super friendly and efficient receptionist to the committed and experienced instructors) are one of the best I’ve seen in a studio. It might be crazy to think about doing two 90-min yoga classes consecutively, but the yin class after the bikram class is so nourishing and the best form of self-love. I highly recommend trying to do a yin class after a more physically demanding class (doesn’t necessarily need to be bikram) and if you can, visit Found Yoga City on Tuesdays and Thursdays when this is offered!

MokSana Yoga | Studio Review

Down-to-earth yoga studio and teacher training program in Victoria’s historic Chinatown

During my short stay in Victoria, I’ve visited a few yoga studios and have loved the experience so far! Today, I wandered a little closer to the downtown and was excited to try MokSana Yoga as it’s been voted ‘Best Yoga Studio in Victoria’ for almost every year. The studio offers a variety of drop-in classes (a poster said they offered around 36 classes per week), and a 250hr yoga teacher training program. There’s also a lot of promotions going on for memberships, as well as first class free so be sure to give them a visit!

Since the studio is located in downtown Victoria, it is easily accessible by public transit and by cycling (the designated cycling paths here are amazing compared to Toronto!). However, there is no parking in the building or on the street. I followed the detailed instructions from MokSana’s website and found the City Parkade around 2 minutes walk away. Parking is free for the first hour, and $2/hr thereafter. While parking is not free, it’s still very affordable!

Arriving in the studio, I was quickly greeted by the smiling receptionist and check in was done with no hassle. The studio gave a very down-to-earth vibe, from the very colourful walls, decorations and furniture choices. The gorgeous sky light windows allowed the rare sunlight to fill the room, a brilliant contrast to the few gloomy days.

The waiting area offered a few shelves of merchandises and various yoga mat brands. If you’re shopping for a new mat, or forgot to bring yours, the studio offers a choice of yoga mats for rentals so you can try the different brands, thicknesses, level of grippiness that works best for you! It’s really nice to be able to find the right mat before committing to one. The studio offers three single-occupant change rooms (not gender specific), but the washrooms are located outside (shared with the building).

In a separate hallway, there are two large shelves for yoga mat storage. Judging by how high the rolled mats stack up, this studio must be really popular! However, I think the yoga mats could be better organized so they don’t squish each other or potentially create an avalanche when you need to retrieve yours from the bottom. Some of my favourite yoga mat storage solutions are from IAM yoga, and YogaTree but these solutions may not work with a smaller space.

Entering the studio room, I immediately felt at peace. The room had lots of windows to allow the sunlight to brighten the space and the exposed brick walls offered an effortless and genuine atmosphere. While the harsh Canadian weather doesn’t permit us yoga-enthusiasts from practicing outdoors in the nature, MokSana really tried to bring the nature to us. The greenery in the corner of the room adds the final touch of zen to your yoga practice.

I joined MokSana today for their Foundations & Meditation class, taught by Fab Alberico. This is the first meditation classes I’ve taken and also the first time I’ve seen this mini piano in a box called a harmonium. During the mediation portion, he read a few beautiful passages and encouraged us to create a Sankalpa (resolve or solution), which coincides nicely for the new year. As he guided our foundation practice, he broke down some of the fundamental poses with very simple directions and explained common mistakes. His teaching style was suitable for beginners and was still very beneficial for advance practitioners!

While Fab was a great instructor, he can seem a little intimidating since he didn’t smile very much during the practice. Contrary to instructors who offered encouragement and continuously shouted ‘You’re doing great!’, he was much more down to earth and reminded us some poses take lots of practice. ‘Some poses may take a few days to get, a few weeks, months, years, or lifetimes, but it’s the journey that counts’. For beginners this may sound discouraging, but I think it’s also wonderful to remember yoga has no end goal, but it’s simply a journey.

If you’re looking for a place to practice yoga and let your mind, body and breath become one, this airy, bright and spacious yoga studio may just be the one! MokSana offers a beautiful space for their knowledgeable teachers to lead a variety of specialized classes, as well as a full yoga teacher training program! Classes start at $19 (with tax) per class with deals for memberships of different durations, student discounts, and the current New Year Resolution sale!
So what’s your new year’s resolution?

Shelbourne Physiotherapy Pilates Studio

Shelbourne Physiotherapy Pilates Studio Review
Amazing little studio offering a full range of pilates props and fantastic teachers! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but think I’m starting to love pilates! 

The Pilates method of body conditioning is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises developed over 90 years ago by Joseph H. Pilates. It strengthens and tones muscles, improves posture, provides flexibility and balance, unites body and mind and creates a more streamlined shape. – Shelbourne Pilates Studio

When searching for fitness classes, we’ve probably all heard of yoga, pilates, barre, pole and a few other trendy activities. I thought I would start off with a short quote from Shelbourne Pilates Studio to define what pilates is! I’ve tried lunch pilates classes before as part of work benefits and my one-liner to describe pilates would be ‘kinda like yoga, but lots of core’. Yes, all I can recall was sore abs from the dreaded ‘hundred’. Unlike yoga, the pilates classes I took never ended with the rewarding shavasana like yoga would! 🙁

Reception and waiting area

I decided to take a Strength and Stretch class at a dedicated pilates studio since it sounded more forgiving to my abs (or lack thereof) from the holiday feasts. Shelbourne Pilates Studio is located on the second floor in a medical complex across from the Hillside Mall. There is plenty of free parking on the premise and is easily accessible by public transportation. Throughout the day, there are plenty of pilates classes in just the mat room, or in the reformer room. The prices differ depending on what type of classes you choose but given the small class sizes (3-6 students), the semi-private classes are very reasonably priced!

Main studio with lots of props!

The studio consisted of one main mats room, filled with lots of props! The room is large enough to accommodate 5-6 yoga mats comfortably so the classes are very intimate.

As the students slowly filled the studio room, Dana, our pilates instructor helped distribute the toys for the session. This actually made me very excited since the previous pilates sessions I’ve attended consisted of only our mats sans props. In this class, we used a variety of equipment and it was refreshing to see how they add some challenges to otherwise simple movements.

Props shelf and wall

As I was the first in the class, I asked Dana how we should orient our mat. At first I was a little surprised (scared) when she said she would just be walking around near the front. Inside I was thinking ‘I need someone to demo this! What if I don’t know what I’m supposed to do? I forgot everything I’ve learned in pilates…’. After class began, I totally understood why this format worked so well! With many of the sequences lying on the back, it helped to be able to watch the instructor while she’s standing rather than trying to peak over to see what’s going on. In addition, since the instructor only needed to demonstrate it once for our repetitions, she was able to spend the remainder of the time assessing our postures to offer adjustments or more props.

Look at all the toys we got to use for today’s class!

Dana was a very knowledgeable and friendly instructor. The small classes made it really easy for the students to connect with each other as well! With challenging poses, all the grunts and groans made it more fun as we motivated each other to persevere. In this class alone, I received a lot more personalized tips, pointers and answers to my questions than I have in all my previous pilates sessions. That’s not to say my previous pilates instructor wasn’t equally as amazing, but simply she had a lot more of us to take care of. At Shelbourne Pilates, the instructor-to-student ratio makes it possible to get the individual attention to improve your postures and alignment.

Reformer room

The class I attended was a mats-pilates session, using only our mats and some props but the studio also had an auxiliary room filled with specialty pilates equipment called reformers. I’ve personally never used these machines before and feel a little intimidated by them. According to some of the wall charts found online there’s a million ways to use the machine!

Entrance to private pilates room

If the semi-private classes are not enough, the studio also offers private one-on-one lessons. The spacious private room offers a lot more props and equipment.

Private pilates room with more fancy equipment

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with pilates! The weekly classes I’ve attended for 6 months at my former work place was a very intense full-body workout, leaving me super tired, sore but feeling super accomplished. My experience at Shelbourne Pilates Studio made me rediscover pilates again.

Today’s class was not the type of class that would make you sweat and sore for days. Instead, we focused a lot more on the smaller movements, postures, alignments and anatomy. After today’s session, I think I fell in love with pilates and can see why many people love both pilates and yoga. If you’ve never tried pilates before, I would highly recommend Shelbourne Pilates Studio or a studio which offers a low instructor-to-student ratio to get a personalized experience!

Setting the Barre High! ft. Alive Mindbody | Studio Review

Alive Mindbody Studio
A very chic studio for all your barre, pilates, yoga and pole needs! 

Welcome to this special series where I take you along my adventure of scouting out some yoga studios in Victoria, BC. Yesterday I visited Yew Tree Yoga, for a warm welcoming yoga session and today I wanted to try something completely new!

Kristen, the owner of the beautiful Alive Mindbody studio invited me to try a barre class – something I’ve never done before. I joined her this morning in a Barre Flow class and the description sounded perfect for a beginner like me:

Soulful music challenges your body in a different way when we hold poses longer and complete deeper stretching throughout this Barre class. It’s like a Yoga class on ginseng..and upright. You’ll feel like a zenned warrior at the end.

Before we begin, I also wanted to share their beautiful website with you! I absolutely love the colours and the Easter egg is really the class descriptions where there are the most adorable stick figures. They also offer quite a fair number of classes throughout the day, everyday of the week. With some many classes available, the unlimited monthly membership is quite a steal, so make sure to check it out!

Reception desk and waiting lounge

Since I’m new in Victoria, I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to find parking. Luckily, the website had parking information listed out here and details which streets offer free parking and for how long.

Let’s take a look inside! The studio is located on the third floor of the plaza complex. Once you enter the clearly marked doors, there are plenty of signs directing you to the right place. Everything is colour coordinated with their business logo so you won’t get lost!

Spacious lounge area for catching up with friends before and after class.

The receptionist greeted me and checking in was a breeze. I was given a quick tour of the place and I asked if I could take pictures for this review.

Little locally crafted potions and jewelry with a beautiful mirror.

In the waiting area, there are two large benches and merchandise for sale on the walls. The decor with the mirror and little succulents are so cute! Lots of the little bottles of potions are also made locally.

Lots of merchandise and local crafts available for sale!

The change rooms are a very simple room with a partition for some privacy, a large mirror and wall hooks. Just like the cute stick figures on the website, there are cute logos on the doors for the ‘chicks’ and ‘dudes’. There’s a few other stick figures throughout the studio but I’ll keep that a surprise for you when you visit 🙂

Minimalistic change rooms with adorable stick figure labels on the door.

As this was a barre class, I figured we won’t be using a yoga mat much. I didn’t bring my own and that’s alright since all the props you would need for class are stored in these cubbies and free to use. Again, most studios in Toronto charge rental fees for yoga mats so this is a very nice change I can get use to.

Yoga mats, blocks, bolsters, blankets, free weights, toning balls, and anything you need for class.

There are two studio rooms at Alive Mindbody. The smaller room is relatively bare, featuring clean white walls, floor-to-ceiling mirrors on two sides of the room and a storage shelf for pole classes. The studio just looked so clean and well-kept!

Beautiful and spacious studio.

The main studio had large windows on one side of the wall and mirrors at the front and back of the room. I really loved the different chandeliers and plants they hung from the ceiling!

As this was my first class, I wanted to find a place to hide and not draw attention to myself. Some of the other girls looked super well prepared with their special grippy socks, hair tied in a perfect bun (I still don’t know how to tie my hair in a bun!). I wasn’t sure where the front or back of the room was, so I just picked a corner and hoped for the best. Yes I was super nervous and worried I won’t be able to keep up. Well, I soon found out there is no ‘front’ or ‘back’ since we change direction quite often! So much for trying to hide!

Main studio with barres along the walls and oh-so-cute chandeliers!

For my first barre class, I think I did pretty well and survived! I could feel my legs were a little wobbly when I was driving home after class. Coming from a yoga background, barre was quite different. There is a lot more emphasis on leg work and some shoulder. I would say it’s almost like a pilates class due to the repetition, with the exception of mostly standing up and having a horizontal barre for balance. The exercises we did was perfect! They were simple enough for beginners to follow, but the challenge really comes from the repetitions. Any ‘easy’ movement becomes so much harder when you have to repeat it ~8 times! With the relatively small movements in barre, I was able to discover groups of muscles that I’ve never really thought about. Yes, you will sweat a little, your muscles will feel a burn and shake but you also feel so accomplished after! I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be sore the next morning.

Candles by the window add to the holiday spirit.

I was really glad I got to try a barre class at the Alive Mindbody studio. The instructor and owner Kristen was so energetic, friendly and encouraging. These qualities are so important especially for a more dynamic flow type of class to keep students motivated! If it wasn’t for Kristen’s reassurance that we’re all doing fantastic, I might have taken a few more water breaks 😛

Have you tried a barre class before? If so, please let me know where you practice and what you like about the studio and the classes!

Yew Tree Yoga | Studio Review

 

Cute boutique yoga studio by the Victoria beach side! Loving the vibe and community here <3

Greetings from the west coast! This is the first winter I’ve spent away from Toronto and I’m in love with the warm weather here. I sometimes feel out of place when the locals here talk about how cold it is and I’m just rejoicing how warm it is! Definitely would want to come here more often.

Since I’ll be in Victoria, BC for the next two weeks, I’ll be visiting the local yoga studios and writing reviews. It’s really nice to experience yoga, a universal practice, and seeing how it differs by location.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Yew Tree Yoga this morning. The studio is located in a cluster of boutique-like shops next to the University of Victoria and directly on the waterfront (click here for map). In fact, it’s a two-in-one shop with a surf shop. The entrances can be quite confusing since there are 3 doors to the place. However, the main entrance is through the doors of the ‘Gyro Beach’ shop.

Once I entered the studio, I was warmly greeted by Sam, the owner of the studio! It was a little busy inside as the other students settled down their mats. Sam quickly gave me a quick tour of the place, a very short waiver form to sign and said I’m welcomed to settle my mat anywhere. A really nice benefit is that the first class is free, so please check it out if you live close by!

Going past the studio entrance, there is a cozy place to hang your jackets, bags and place your shoes. All the yoga props are stored in a huge wall shelf just behind the coat room. One thing I noticed is the yoga mats are provided for use free of charge, which is usually not the case in Toronto! Behind the curtain is a small space to change and also a washroom. Other than that, there is no change room but most people came in their yoga attire so this was not a problem.

One really cool thing I loved about the studio is the great use of wall space. They displayed lots of different artworks, presumably from local artists. I really like this idea! The local artists get their work displays and hopefully attract potential buyers, while the studio owners also have some nice artwork for their studio.

As for the studio space, it is a long rectangular shape and there was no particular strategy to place the yoga mats to maximize the space. Generally, people placed their yoga mats with the long side parallel to the longer wall and the instructor was in the center of the room. Compared to having a very large room and the instructor in the front of the class, this felt much more intimate and personal! I really love this arrangement and enjoyed being able to connect with the instructor.

 

I chose the Hatha Flow class with Sam and really enjoyed the variations she offered based on our level of energy and experience. She offered a very clear explanation on how to do ujjayi breathing and a proper chaturanga, perfect for those new to yoga and for more experienced students to correct their practices. With a small class, the instructor was able to walk around to offer adjustments, suggestions and provide props to students. I might be biased, but I feel with the smaller class, the instructor felt more comfortable introducing more challenging poses compared to larger studios. This is likely because they are physically able to go around to offer help, and personally know the level of experience from their returning students.

One thing that I did feel a little torn about was also the same thing I praised about earlier: the paintings. They are so beautiful and intricate! I had a spot relatively close to the wall and my arm would have swept the paintings if I was not mindful of them. While I loved having them there, I also wished I didn’t have to worry about knocking them over throughout the class. Next time I’ll find a space farther away from wall!

We ended the class with the instructor showing us a pose (Valakhiyasana) she wanted us to try in her sequence today. Everyone gathered around to inspect the photo and made friendly comments on their own progress and supportive remarks on other students. It was such a nice experience that I left feeling very happy.

Since this is the first yoga studio I’ve visited outside of Toronto, this review might be a little biased! I’m not sure if this is representative of most studios in Victoria, BC but I’m so excited to try out other ones!

Moksha Yoga North York | Studio Review

Great yoga studio in the heart of North York!

Moksha Yoga North York is one of the first few studios I visited when I first started yoga. I remember how gorgeous the studio was when it was still brand new, definitely one of the best ones back then. I’ve also sporadically visited their wellness center for the RMT and I keep coming back to them (Kate Taylor is amazing!).
Throughout the years you can tell the studio is getting a little older but they’ve done an amazing job maintaining it!

Location

Moksha Yoga North York is located at 100 Sheppard Ave E #100, close to Yonge St. and Sheppard Avenue East.
An embarrassing confession: I actually couldn’t find the studio the first time I went (around 5 years ago?). There was instruction on their website saying it’s close to the Sheppard-Yonge station and free parking for 1-hr  in the building. I assumed it was at the Sheppard Center and walked through every floor but couldn’t find it. Later, I realized it’s actually closer to Yonge and Kenneth Ave (two streets east of Yonge).
The location, while very close to home is not very convenient either by transit or driving. The closest subway station is Sheppard-Yonge Station and would be around 6-7 minute walk. During winter time, this can feel like forever and lugging a yoga mat is not the most pleasant.
Driving is very convenient since it is close to the highway. However, parking will not be free. The studio used to offer 1-hr free validated parking for clients but you will still need to pay since most classes are at least an hour long, factor in changing, showering, then you’re there for around 1.5 hours. Alternatively there’s paid street parking along Kenneth or parking further into the residential area for free. Tip: It’s free on weekends so that’s when I usually go!
As much as I love the studio and it being the closest studio to home, getting there is sometimes too much trouble! For this reason, I’m hesitant to commit to a full membership.

Receptionists

I come by maybe once every few months for yoga and then for RMTs. I don’t remember any of the receptionists specifically but they’re all very friendly and efficient. Check-in is always a breeze with either the Passport to Prana or a membership. With regular students, the receptionists greets them by name and they just tap their barcode and that’s it! One thing I can suggest for improvement is the storm room where you leave your shoes and coat. The area is carpeted and there is always sand and gravel that stick to my feet!

Lounge and Shop

There’s a cute lounge area in front of the reception desk for relaxing before class starts. They have expanded their small selection of merchandise to a floor-to-ceiling high shelf to display clothing, yoga mats, water bottles and accessories. Their fridges are always stocked with healthy drinks like coconut water, kombucha, and there’s always free tea of the day for you to enjoy while you wait.

 

Change Room and Facility

The open-concept change room offers the basic necessities. To the right there is a large changing area with plenty of bench space, wall hooks, shelves and a limited number of lockers along the bottom of some benches. Lockers are nice to have, but not necessary depending on location. From experience, all the yoga studios have been fairly safe and I’ve never had anything stolen.

To the right are two private washrooms for changing if you’re feeling a little shy. There are also four shower stalls as well. At the vanity station, I absolutely love the handsoap they have! They have a different scented organic soap every time I visit.

 

Studio Room

Moksha North York has only one studio room and it’s pretty large! The extra large frosted windows provide plenty of natural light to brighten up the room and it feels especially nice on sunny mornings and afternoons. When it comes to studios though, I am picky about obstructions and unfortunately the studio has two large pillars in the room. The pillars don’t bother other people and I noticed some people really enjoy taking up the space next to it (those were actually really popular spots!). The mirrors installed on the back of the pillars were a nice attention to detail.
Spending time in the studio is quite enjoyable. The heating was very even and consistent. I did take a spot next to the big window one afternoon and it felt so nice to be bathing in the sun while doing hot yoga. I definitely suggest a window spot where the sun hits if you’re looking for a bit of an extra heat!

 

Summary

This studio is very popular! I’ve visited on weekday mornings, evenings and weekend mornings and all of them were fairly packed. However, I still had my own personal space and didn’t graze anyone else’s fingers while on the mat. I’ve been here several times and had different instructors. Overall, the teaching style felt very consistent and the sequence was relatively similar. The class was great for a sweaty workout but I unfortunately never felt the connection with the instructor. I personally really enjoy instructors going around giving adjustments and pointers but those were rare at this location. With that said, I still came back often. It was nice to fall back to a similar routine but it was not the type of class that introduces more challenging options for advancing your practice.
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I visited Moksha Yoga North York using my Passport to Prana, paid for by myself.