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!

Exciting news for 2017!


I want to thank everyone for being so supportive of my adventures in 2016! This year, I began practicing pole and yoga more seriously, dedicated much more time into creating YouTube tutorials and publishing blog posts, reviewing yoga studios and products, started my online shop, and finally, began teaching private pole lessons. Throughout all this, I realized this is what I realllllly enjoy doing. Despite having a very stressful day at my 9-5 work, coming home to teach classes, editing videos or doing anything related to my business immediately makes me so happy!

Two exciting news I want to share:

1. Rebranding: From Kaybbt to Pole Asana

Kaybbt (pronounced Kay-B-B-T) was a username I picked for my blog back when I first started writing. Kay is my nickname and since that username was taken already, I chose to add something else I really liked: yes, bubble tea (BBT). Back in 2013, I didn’t think anyone would read my blog so I regrettably did not spend too much time thinking of a better name! To date, a few people have asked me what the name meant or how it’s pronounced. When you start feeling embarrassed having to explain your nonsensical branding, that’s when you know it’s time for a change!

I spent a few weeks thinking of names I want to call my pole and yoga business, and bounced ideas off a few close friends. The ideal was a memorable name that conveyed the marriage between pole and yoga. We came up with a few that I liked (I even started designing a logo for it!) but I had to admit I didn’t love them. Out of nowhere, I had an eureka moment and the name ‘Pole Asana’ came to mind.

Pole Asana was the perfect name for me! In yoga, ‘asana’ generally refers to poses or postures such that Pole Asana literally translates to ‘pole poses’ with allusions to my love for yoga. Whether it is for blogging, social media, online business or teaching, I already feel so much more confident with this new brand!

2. Next Stop: 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training in India!

The previous news might have foreshadowed this announcement since I’m trying to rebrand to a pole and yoga business. I’ve been doing yoga for almost 7 years now and have always wanted to become an instructor. Timing, costs and all sorts of excuses got in the way but I finally decided to just do it! I got a scholarship from the yoga school, paid my deposit, booked my flight, and will be spending 4 weeks in Rishikesh, India in March 2017 for my 200YTT! This will be a very exciting journey for me and I look forward to sharing this experience with you in my blog!

I’ve been trying to find more information on what it’s like to do a YTT in India but haven’t been able to find a super detailed blog for it. If you or you know any friends/family who have gone, please let me know! Also, this will be my first time visiting India so any tips would be super helpful!

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I really want to thank each and every one of you for supporting me! Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday!

 

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.

 

7 Modified Yoga Poses with a Yoga Wheel

 


The yoga wheel is such a great yoga prop to deepen your favourite yoga poses and try newer challenging poses! I especially love the yoga wheel for backbends <3

If you’ve been following any yoga related tags on Instagram (don’t forget to follow me!), you will likely have seen these curious circular props. Touted as one of the newest, revolutionary yoga props, I certainly wanted my very own Yoga Wheel! Unfortunately when they first became available, the only manufacturers were in the USA and sold for around 70USD. Couple the weak Canadian dollar with costly shipping, tax and duty, this would have been a very expensive prop once it reaches your Canadian doorstep.

Fast forward to Fall 2016, Canadian companies are starting to manufacture the yoga wheels as well, meaning lower shipping costs, no duty fees and exchange rates! Two weeks ago, YogDev reached out to me and asked if I would like to review their yoga wheel and I agreed without hesitation! YogDev is a Canadian company based out of Vancouver, BC. They currently have 4 beautiful colour combinations for their yoga wheels and are open to new product colour suggestions! From my research, YogDev offers the lowest price on the yoga wheel, so if you’re interested, please visit their website here.

 

White/grey YogDev Yoga Wheel

The specs for the yoga wheel can be found on their website:

  • Designed for Dharma wheel poses
  • 12″ diameter, 5″ thick
  • 6 mm of padding for extra comfort
  • 300 lbs weight capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Portable

I chose the white/grey combination and I love it! Shipping was really quick and I received it within 2-3 days. The wheel is a very simple prop but super versatile! The YogDev yoga wheel is a very high-quality product; the plastic part felt very solid,  edges are polished to a smooth touch,  and the padding was cushiony soft with an intricate grip pattern. I tried standing on it (it’s actually a lot harder to balance than I thought!) and the wheel felt solid supporting my weight. One other thing I did notice was the YogDev yoga wheel is really light; there was another yoga wheel brand at a yoga studio I visited and I was shocked at how heavy that one was. I also love the ‘instruction manual’ included to start you off on some yoga poses with your new wheel.

Close up of YogDev Yoga Wheel

I played around with the yoga wheel for two weeks before writing this review. Some words of caution:

  • Do be careful with the new prop. It’s a wheel and it’s designed to move, not something we’re used to in yoga if we’ve always used blocks.
  • Practice with a wall/spotter close by to help with balance.
  • The wheel can tip over on the side so be careful not to squish your fingers and toes when it tips over.
  • Use your best judgement! Try easier moves and slowly work your way up to the more challenging poses 🙂
It took a few days for me to get used to the yoga wheel and explore other poses. Below I’ll share 7 of my favourite poses, enjoy!
Pigeon Pose with Yoga Wheel

1. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

I’ve struggled with this pose since forever. To get into the pigeon pose, you start on your knees at hip distance apart. Supporting your back with your arms, slowly bend backwards into the camel pose. When you’re able to touch the mat with your fingers, walk your hands toward your toes. Bend your elbows and your forearm should be on the mat to support your weight.
The picture on the left shows my progress on the pigeon. As you can see, I’m still working on walking my hands back towards my toes. I always have this fear that my arms will collapse and I hurt my neck.
The yoga wheel is an EXCELLENT tool to assist the pigeon pose. You begin by placing the wheel between your calves in kneeling position then enter the pose in the same manner. Since the wheel is supporting your back as you bend backwards, you won’t need to worry about breaking your neck! Once your elbows reach the mat, grab the wheel and slowly inch your fingers closer to your toes. With the yoga wheel, this pose feels very comfortable!
Low Lunge with Yoga Wheel

2. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Low lunges are great for waking up the hips. This pose is great for warming up for the splits but sometimes I feel it’s just not quite enough.
On the top photo, this is what my low lunges normally look like to give me a bit of a stretch in the hip. I was playing around with the wheel and found propping the front leg up while lunging is great to deepen the hip stretches. In the lower photo, it does take some balance to stay upright so I wasn’t able to add in the backbend. I rotated the opposite way to ensure my hips are squared. A variation of this pose would be to use the yoga wheel to practice the oversplits with if you extend the front leg and lock the wheel with the nook of your ankle.
Mermaid Pose with Yoga Wheel

3. Mermaid Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variation)

The mermaid pose is such a beautiful and graceful pose! On the left is the mermaid pose which is a great pose for a full body stretch! On the right is the same pose on the yoga wheel.

If you’re feeling super comfortable in the mermaid pose, add the yoga wheel to make it a bit more challenging! Be mindful to take your time to get into and out of the pose. As you can see, you will be balancing with only one foot on the ground and the other thigh balancing on the wheel. This pose takes practice to figure out where the yoga wheel should contact your thigh.
Chest Stand with Yoga Wheel

4. Chest Stand

The chest stand, like the pigeon pose, was one of the poses I was never able to do before! If you have a moment to watch the YouTube video, you can see my futile attempts to kick into the chest stand. I’ve looked at other videos to suggest rolling onto your chest from a kneel. None of these work and I was never a fan of using momentum to get into poses.
On the left, I’ve screenshotted my embarrassing fail kick to chest stand. On the right, I discovered my back is more flexible than I thought and capable of doing chest stands!
To get into the chest stand with the yoga wheel, start by kneeling with knees at hip distance apart. Place the yoga wheel between your thighs and bend at your hips. The wheel should be wedged between your tummy and your thighs. Gently lower your upper body down with arms in chataranga position. Once your chin touches the mat, re-position your arms towards the wheel and grab the farther side of the wheel. Lift your legs off the mat and with control, bend backwards. Make sure to do this slowly  and keep your balance! If needed, use your hands to bring the wheel closer to your belly deepen the back bend. To safely exit the pose, engage your core to unbend your back and come back onto the yoga wheel. Remember to counter stretch with a child’s pose!
Child’s Pose with Yoga Wheel

5. Child’s Pose (Bālāsana)

The Yoga Wheel is also great for very simple poses like the corpse pose and child’s pose. While a regular child’s pose is a get resting pose, using the wheel adds a gentle stretch for the shoulders.
Forearm Stand with Yoga Wheel

6. Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)

From the photos it doesn’t look like the yoga wheel played that much of a role in the forearm stand. But in this particular pose, the wheel gave me the confidence I needed to reach back into a forearm wheel pose from a forearm balance.

In the top photo, I was able to come up into a forearm balance but I was very hesitant to drop my back leg to touch the mat. The fear of toppling over, and landing on my back plagued me!

With the yoga wheel, I had something to hold onto with my hands to keep them in place. If at any point I was worried about the how far the ground was, I can always tap the wheel with my foot to give me the reassurance. Lastly, the wheel is there to help me exit the pose once I do land. I absolutely love how the Yoga Wheel literally has ‘got my back‘.

Wheel Pose with Yoga Wheel

7. Wheel Pose (Chakrāsana)

I’ve practiced the wheel pose for a few years and I’m proud to say I’m able to do this very comfortably. I do notice entry into the wheel pose was so much easier with the yoga wheel propping up your back! I think this is a great tool for those who are still learning to get their wheel pose. With the yoga wheel, your body is already half way up, your arms, legs and back only need a little bit more effort to push into this beautiful backbend.

For me, the yoga wheel was a fun prop to explore other wheel pose variations. Finding my balance, I lifted one foot and used the wheel to guide my foot to touch my head. This adds a new stretch to an all time favourite yoga pose!

Summary

The yoga wheel is a great yoga prop for beginners and more experienced yogis and yoginis. There are so many restorative yoga poses that can be enhanced by the yoga wheel. It’s great for deepening stretches as well as challenging yourself by incorporating a balancing component to a pose you’re already comfortable with. What I love most about the YogDev’s yoga wheel is the quality: it’s lightweight, strong, and its beautiful colours.
Let me know if you have a yoga wheel and what your favourite pose is! I’d love to try some new poses as well 😀

 

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Thank you so much to YogDev for the yoga wheel! 
The awesome yoga wheel used and reviewed in this blog post is provided by YogDev. 

YogaTree Bay & Dundas | Studio Review

Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
The popular Yoga Tree studios definitely live up to the hype. The brand has become so successful over the years and it’s well-deserved!

The Richmond Hill Yoga Tree location was one of the very first studios I’ve been to when I started my yoga journey. For this reason, I’ve always had good memories of it and the Yoga Tree brand. Seven years later, it makes me happy to see the brand has become so successful, expanding to over 5 locations within the Toronto area. Today, I finally had the pleasure to step foot in the Bay & Dundas location, the newest and largest of the Yoga Tree location.
I admit it’s been a while 7 years since I visited the Richmond Hill location, but I do remember it was very clean, modern and I definitely can’t forget the endless rows complimentary lockers in the change room! I was nervous to see if anything has changed since then.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
You should have no trouble spotting the studio on Dundas with the help of these colourful signs
From the outside, you will see the brightly coloured lime-green banners for Yoga Tree along Dundas Street (the address is 123 Dundas St). It’s located just a few steps away from the Longo’s, but you probably won’t have trouble spotting it.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Reception area by the entrance
Walking into the studio felt like a luxurious spa. All the furniture and decoration looked meticulously chosen to fit with the theme. Even the shelves for the shoes and mats look functionally beautiful!
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Mat storage space can be rented for $10/month
Registration and payment was a breeze (I pre-booked with my Class Pass) and the receptionist was ready to give me a tour. Just like the reception area, every where else looked beautiful, clean, and well-cared for.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Clean and spacious change room
The ladies change room was moderately sized, with a ridiculously large amount of lockers! One thing I loved about Yoga Tree was the lockers. They’re complimentary, and you won’t have to worry about forgetting to bring a lock since you can input any 4 digit code in. I arrived early so was able to snap a few shots of the empty change room. However, between classes the locker room gets pretty busy and take care when walking past with a yoga mat so you don’t accidentally hit someone in the head!
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Sinks and vanity mirrors for polishing up after class
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
So many lockers! I was a little confused on how to use the lockers but there’s plenty of instructions posted throughout the change room and inside the locker’s door. If you can’t open the locker after class, the receptionist will be happy to assist you.
There are also six spa-like shower stalls with glass doors at the back of the change room to wash up after a sweaty hot yoga class.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Shower stalls tucked in the back of the change room to offer privacy
If you’re interested, there’s a sauna room outside of the yoga studio. I’ve never seen anyone actually use the room though, but it’s a neat feature!
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
There’s also a sauna room by the change room
Throughout the studio space, there’s lots of long corridors leading up to the studio rooms. The corridors are brightly lit, decorated with beautiful artwork or and have benches lining the walls to offer even more lounging space.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Even the corridors are beautiful! Benches really optimize the use of space.
At this location, there are a total of 3 studio rooms (1 on the 2nd floor, and 2 on the 3rd), as well as a wellness center for RMT or chiropractic treatments.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Tea and water before class?
Right before you head upstairs, there is a small tea station to enjoy a cup of hot tea or fill up your water bottle.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
Heated classes are on the third floor, regular temperature is on the second floor
I took a peak at the two empty yoga studio rooms upstairs and they look almost identical, other than the fact that one is slightly larger than the other. There are so many things I love about these rooms.
  1. They are completely obstruction free, meaning there are no structural pillars in the center that may block your views.
  2. The ceilings are finished and the heating elements are hidden from view. With so many yoga postures where we’re staring at the ceiling, I think the ceiling should look as nice as the floors and walls. Some studios with unfinished ceilings, or with the heating elements, wires and everything hanging right above scares me a little!
  3. Floor-to ceiling mirrors and lots of windows. Nothing makes me happier than having lots of natural light!
  4. Air purifiers. Heaters, fans, humidifiers are common in most studios, but when you’re in a room of sweaty yogis, an air purifier is a great idea! While it might just be a placebo effect, the room smelled clean throughout the class.

 

Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
‘Fire’ room
The studio offered many classes throughout the day so it was very easy to find one that fit my schedule. I attended the 4:30pm Reduced Heat L1-L2 class with Rita. I’ve never tried a reduced heat class before but I’m starting to like it! The class was set at 28°C, which is perfect for keeping the body warm enough to deepen stretches but not leave you dripping in sweat either. I was able to leave the class in the same clothes without feeling gross.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
‘Fire’ room
Rita was a very articulate instructor. The class incorporated some intermediate moves but would still be suitable for beginners to follow since she provided very clear instructions. She also offered more challenging version of the poses for more advanced yogis. I found the level of instruction she provided was perfect – she was succinct and offered clarification when needed.
Yoga Tree Bay & Dundas Review
‘Unity’ room is slightly smaller but equally beautiful

Summary

If I had to describe Yoga Tree in one word, I would choose the word ‘prestigious’. The facility is interior-designer magazine worthy, the amenities are superb and I think the brand naturally attracts some of the best yoga instructors. With 5 locations, I’m sure there will be one close by so go and treat yourself if you haven’t already visited the studio.

KIND Yoga By Heart | Studio Review

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
KIND Yoga By Heart Review

Absolutely surreal yoga experience that brings you so close to nature! As good as it gets to doing yoga under the stars!

KIND Yoga By Heart has always been on my list of studios I wanted to visit. This weekend was their one year anniversary and they hosted an open house with free yoga all day. As soon as the announcement was made, I signed up for an evening class.
What makes KIND Yoga By Heart so special? From what I know, it’s the only yoga studio that’s on a farm! The studio is a tent built on Reesor’s Farm in Stouville, on Ninth Line just north of Elgin Mills. It’s a little far from where I live but was definitely worth the trip there.
As I had signed up for the 6:30 pm class, the drive up north just as the sun is about to set is breathtaking. The drive also takes you through a mini road trip to escape the busy city as you cruise along the soft hills in the country side. I felt I was already preparing to relax before I stepped foot into the studio!

 

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
Cute handwritten chalkboard sign leading to yoga class
There was plenty of parking on the farm at the time since the farmer’s market was closed at that time. Free parking is available on a patch of empty grass surrounded by tall trees. I almost felt bad driving onto the grass 🙁
At the entrance of the parking lot, there was a hand written sign giving directions to the yoga studio. If you’re lost, just follow the other people holding their water bottles and yoga mats!
The short walk to the studio was beautiful. The path is well worn but can become muddy during rainy days. It’s a short walk through pumpkin patches and other vegetation before you see the big white tent at the end.

 

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
Big tent along the path on the farm
I absolutely love the concept of the tent. It’s not a solid brick and mortar structure – it was a really big tent with mesh to keep the bugs out while allowing us to feel as outdoors as possible. Once we entered the door, there were lots of storage space for us to leave our shoes, coats and bags. The studio is just one big open space with minimal furniture and props around.

As it was the beginning of September, the temperature can get a little chilly at night. Feel free to grab a spot near the front of the studio where the canopy opens and faces the fields, or if you tend to feel cold during your yoga practice, there is a mini fireplace in the back to keep you warm. Yoga straps, blocks and blankets are plentiful as well.

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
Close up of the entrance to the tent
Do keep in mind there are no change rooms or washroom in the studio. There is an outhouse close by but I haven’t had the need to visit that yet.
The class waited for a few minutes for the musician to come in (it was supposed to be a live music class!) but unfortunately they were sick and weren’t able to join us. Tina carried out the Hatha class without the music and I enjoyed being able to hear the sound of nature throughout the practice. The crickets singing and gentle wind rustling the leaves definitely helped add to the experience. Closing my eyes in Shavasana felt like I was lying on an open field at night.

 

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
Inside the spacious tent, outfitted with fans and paper lanterns
It’s been a while since I practice Hatha yoga and this class made me really miss it. Tina’s angelic voice guided our practice through gentle flows and stretches. My husband who is relatively new to yoga was able to follow along and said he enjoyed it a lot too.
The combination of the surreal environment and a very gentle yoga practice was very fitting to calm the body and mind for the night. While the tent was not facing the sunset, I enjoyed being able to practice yoga in the gradually dim light. The walk back towards the parking lot was very refreshing as you can barely catch the end of the sunset. On the way back, some of the other students were raving about how great Tina was, and how Ellen (the owner) is also just as amazing.

 

KIND Yoga By Heart Review
Mini fireplace to warm up the studio on chilly days

I came to the yoga space feeling relaxed from the beautiful drive here, I left the studio in almost in a dreamy state, feeling very happy, relaxed and zenful. I can’t wait to go back and would urge everyone to practice there at least once!

Summary

The pictures speak a thousand words and the pictures here don’t do justice to describe the beauty of the yoga studio. The studio itself is nothing fancy, but the location and the unique experience is definitely worth a visit!

Yin Yang Yoga Loft | Studio Review

yin yang yoga loft review

Walking into the Yin Yang Yoga Loft made me feel very positive and alive! It must be the beautiful orange colour and energetic yoga instructor!

yin yang yoga loft review
Door to the studio, it’s Suite 204 on the second floor!

Location

I used to drive by this area quite often and never knew there was a yoga studio here. If it wasn’t for Passport to Prana, I may not have known the Yin Yang Yoga Loft existed! The address is 8108 Yonge St, just few streets north of Centre St. The signage for the plaza does show ‘YOGA’, and the merchants along the ground level facing the street didn’t look like they were yoga studios. I ALMOST walked into the wellness spa since that was the closest thing to yoga!
There is plenty of parking in the front of the plaza, as well as the back. Having circled to the back, I noticed a small glass door on the side leading up to the offices. Good thing I didn’t walk into the spa with my yoga mat because that would’ve been the wrong place! The studio is actually on the second floor of the plaza. Keep in mind there are no elevators in case you have injuries that prevent you from taking the stairs.
yin yang yoga loft review
Receptionist area

Schedule

The number of classes offered at the studio is very limited (see schedule here), I would say there is usually only 2-3 classes per weekday and 1-2 on Fridays and weekends. The classes here, according to the descriptions, are typically hatha yoga, yin yoga, or gentle stretches. There are mixes of core work in there but on the most part, the classes focus more on the proper alignment than trying to force a sweaty workout.

yin yang yoga loft review
Studio room with beautiful windows and sheer curtains!

Receptionist

I usually arrive early for my classes so I felt particularly bad that I only had 2 minutes at check-in before class was scheduled to begin. (I really couldn’t find the studio!) The instructor was courteous and just asked me to sign the waiver and we will sort out payments after. She also showed me where the props were and calmly told me what I would need for the Yin/Core class (1 bolster, 1 blanket, 2 blocks and 1 yoga strap).

I was grateful she didn’t refuse me at the door and that she didn’t rush me or make me feel bad in any way for showing up late.

yin yang yoga loft review
Cubicles for storage and props

Studio Space

The studio space felt very happy, exotic and tropical. I attribute this to the orange colour scheme used throughout the studio, from the reception area, change rooms, fitness room, and the studio room. Many yoga studios have opted for neutral colour palettes; while I personally love those colours they sometimes do get a little boring. The shades of orange and yellows in the studio is well done and not overwhelming.
The space where we practiced was nicely lit by the natural sunlight spilling in through the sheer curtains. It just felt really nice practicing in an airy space and so easy to let the mind rest in the yin poses.
In the corner of the room, there were cubbies to storage your belongings next to the props. This area is really busy just before class begins and after class when students are returning the props and trying to retrieve their items. I think it would be more efficient if they placed the storage cubbies in another area.
Change room offers more storage space in case you don’t want to bring your belongings into the studio space

Amenities

Since the yoga studio was a regular temperature studio, the change rooms are not used as much as studios that offered hot yoga. The change room was not busy at all as most people just headed out after class. Despite being mostly under utilized, it was a pretty large change room.
yin yang yoga loft review
A few storage benches and cubes in the change room
Directly in front of the receptionist desk is a fitness room with a variety of props and machines. I was definitely interested in the suspension straps and the rings!
yin yang yoga loft review
Fitness room with variety of machines and props.

Summary

The Yin Yang Yoga Loft may be the perfect studio for those that are new to yoga or are looking for a more restorative yoga practice. The instructor gives lots of explanation for each poses regarding its benefits and what to look out for. She also offers a hands on and gives adjustment if you wish!
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I visited Yin Yang Yoga Loft using my Passport to Prana, paid for by myself.