◊ THE CLASS: Flow Level 2-3 ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
We first heard of Octopus Garden Yoga Center from a friend that lives in the area and absolutely loves it, so we pulled ourselves out of bed on Saturday at 8am and were the first eager beaver’s to arrive at the studio. It was a good thing in the end, because we needed time to navigate their massive space. Octopus Garden occupies two floors, two studios, two change rooms, a holistic health center, and a big lobby with a co-designed meditation corner run by Muse. This fulsome wellness centre is big on their values, as they strive to provide a safe space for inquiry, practice, community and healing and we totally got that sense during our time. The style of teaching was kind, soft and real, and the community vibe is strong, with regular’s yoga mats stuffed in cubbys and personal intentions written on chalkboards throughout the studio. There’s a sense of true calmness resonating through this studio and we walked away feeling like we should talk a little slower, say hi to a stranger, and look up at the clouds instead of down at our phones. Om to that.
Octopus Garden is now located on College Street across the street from the YMCA and just west of Dovercourt Road. It’s easily accessible for west-enders with the #506 Carlton East streetcar stopping across the street, or a 15-min walk from either Ossignton or Dufferin subway stations. If driving, street parking is your best bet along College Street or Dovercourt Road and there is public parking within half a km from the studio.
The class schedule at Octopus Garden is incredibly diverse with over 20 styles of classes offered every week with everything from restorative yoga, to meditation to pilates to acro/partner yoga. There are drop-in and pre-registered class options, with the drop-in classes focusing on yoga and pilates for a variety of levels, and the pre-registered classes are specifically for kids yoga, parent and baby, prenatal and teen yoga classes. They also offer a ton of workshops, special events, private yoga, yoga teacher training, monthly Sangha and wellness retreats. We tested out yoga level 2-3 which offers progressively deeper work in asana, meditation, and pranayama, and if you don’t know what any of that means, you can check out their site which is quite robust in explaining traditional yoga theories. One of our favorite things about Octopus is their outreach program called Open Arms Outreach which brings free yoga classes to underserved neighborhoods in Toronto.
Class times are great, with 6 to 10 classes offered everyday which includes plenty of evening options, even on the weekends which is something that’s hard to find. The schedule is online and vieweable via MindBody however you can’t secure a spot for drop-in classes ahead of time. Only workshops, pre-registered programs, private yoga and holistic treatments are available for online sign-up, which caught us by surprise and was part of why we ensured we showed up so early to class. If you’re a regular, or live in the area, this may not be such a big deal, but if you’re trekking out of your way to come to this studio and the class is full, that could be an avoidable frustration. Call ahead of time to see how busy the classes typically are, and we recommend showing up 15 minutes before to secure your spot.
Class prices are on the low end for what we’ve seen in Toronto at $20 for a drop-in and cheaper by the bulk. The first week is always free for first-timers, which is such a great promo considering it gives more time to sample the diverse class schedule. It makes sense to sign-up for a one-month unlimited if you want to do a self-guided 30-day yoga challenge or something (which would mean $5.50 per class by the way), but unless you’re planning on going to class more than 3 times a week, it’s better to go with 5 class passes or a monthly membership to get the best bang for your buck. On Tuesday mornings at 10am and Thursday evenings at 6pm, Octopus has a Community Class at only $5 and proceeds go to the Yoga Education Scholarship Fund.
5 Class Pass: $90 ($18 per class)
One Month Unlimited: $165
Membership: $99/mth ($12.50 per class if 2x wk)
Annual Membership: $1080 = $90/mth
The studio has a very lived-in vibe, like they’ve been doing this for years. The smells are one of the first things that stood out to us, with the stereotypical yoga scent of tea tree oil and incense erupting from the lobby. The renovated front foyer is very open with tons of seating, a corner to meditate that has been co-designed by Muse (the geniuses behind the brain sensing meditation headband) and there is a studio, change room/washroom, and area to store mats on the main floor. The meditation corner is pretty freaking cool actually, as Octopus Garden has partnered with Muse to trail some of their new products, like a “meditation campfire” where you can borrow the headbands from the front desk and control the “flames” (lights) of the campfire with your mind (the calmer the mind the bluer and low the flames, but bouncing around and distracted thoughts brings big green and red flames). Anyway, it’s a great way to practice your meditation with access to some cutting edge fancy tech shit.
On the second floor is the second studio that hosts their Rope Wall classes, which utilises a full wall/roof of built-in rope supports that are used as resistance and suspension for some classes. The second floor also houses the full holistic wellness centre, a second change room and mini lobby. The change rooms are very simple and not huge with only one shower and minimal space for getting changed. There are no lockers or anywhere to securely store your things and no extra amenities, so be sure to bring your own blowdryer, etc. if you need to get ready after class. The building has character, with old creeky uneven floors and they’ve decorated the space with plants, chalkboards, and books to give it a very homey vibe.
The crowd for our Level 2-3 class was mostly regulars but very down-to-earth, friendly, non lulu wearing regulars. Our hour and a half, Saturday morning class was totally full with ~35 in the room of mostly female from the ages ~30-55. Even with the class being a Level 2-3 there was still a mix of experience levels so it was very approachable for all.
- Mats can be borrowed (no charge)
- Towels can be rented for $2
Octopus Garden began as a group of ‘three friends looking to find a home to express the evolving form of yoga’. It has been around for 10+ years, and their location on College Street is their second home, as they outgrew their first space in the Annex years ago. There are now over 10 instructors at Octopus with diverse backgrounds from ex-lawyers to oriental medicine doctors to dancers and they all share the same passion for providing a welcoming, respectful and safe place for students to practice.
Lisa is an Octopus Garden Yoga Teacher graduate and was taught by the studios founder and program director Pat Harada Linfoot. She is very welcoming and has beautiful energy that made us feel instantly comfortable. Although we didn’t find ourselves to be as challenged as we expected given the warning we were given before class that it was a Level 2-3, Lisa gave plenty of options for more advanced poses. The pace at which she kept the class moving was very rhythmic and intentional and she adjusted students throughout the class, demonstrating half the class and verbally guiding the other half.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
We’ve rated the Level 2-3 yoga class a MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES. Overall the class was very enjoyable, challenging at times, and allowed us to focus on ourselves for a solid hour and a half, however it didn’t challenge us physically like we were expecting from what was described as an advanced class.
Lisa started us off with breathing exercises and ‘om’s’ to give us space to get grounded and bring awareness to our bodies. The warm-up section of the class focused on opening our shoulders and chest, and with a few sun salutations we starting to heat up the room. The class flowed slowly and nicely. Lisa introduced a series of poses with each building on the previous, creating a really fluid experience. There was a balancing section and deep stretching opening the front and back body, but not that many challenging positions. The hour and a half flew by and we left feeling more open and awake on our Saturday morning.
To try this class or anything else on their schedule, see Octopus Garden’s schedule here.