◊ THE CLASS: Core Yoga L1-2 ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
This is a big one for us, because this is our first review as an expecting mumma! We’re pretty stoked about it but we have to say, being a fitness class regular and then finding out we’re pregnant we were like, errrrm so can we still do stuff!!? Long story short (and this will be different for everyone) our doc has given us the green light to do basically everything we did pre-pregnancy – sans contact sports, which is a non-starter for us anyway. So here we are! Bump and all, and ready to let you know about a whole other side of the fitness world. We’ll sprinkle in some mommy specific pre-natal classes now and again, and probably as I get bigger, but for now you can expect the same kind of reviews across all styles with a pinch of #thisbumpisgettingintheway.
So over to Yoga Tree. We chose this Toronto staple as our first prego review because we knew we were in good hands with an experienced staff that has seen it all. We let them know right away we were expecting and they were on it. Making sure we knew not to use the sauna (didn’t know that, so that was good), let us know of any modifications during class, and noted it on my file. This super zen yoga powerhouse has been around for 10+ years and has 5 busy and vibrant locations in the GTA and downtown Toronto. We visited their newest and largest studio at Bay and Dundas and we were pleasantly surprised around every corner with the bright and cheeky decor and all the amenities akin to a boutique fitness centre without the inflated price tag. This studio has received glowing praise over the years from BlogTo, Toronto Life and Toronto Star and we’ve officially joined the fan following. With the enormous schedule, membership flexibility to go to any studio, and a massive roster of some of the most influential and popular yoga instructors in the city, this yoga brand is a must visit that we’ll visit again and again.
Yoga Tree has 5 locations across Toronto and the GTA. Their original studio was in Thornhill which, after very little time, they outgrew and replaced with the current Vaughan studio, another in Richmond Hill, and three downtown studios at Richmond and Spadina, Yonge and Eglinton, and the newest Bay and Dundas. Considering how well spread out the studios are, there’s no doubt you can find one that’s convenient for you. The Bay & Dundas studio is centrally located within steps of the Eaton Centre, Ryerson University and the Financial District and it sits beside the Longos and above the Denny’s, who doesn’t want to down dog and then go for a Grand Slam? Well, us actually. It’s easily walkable from just about anywhere and transit options are endless with St. Patrick station down the street and Dundas streetcars running every few minutes.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
The Bay and Dundas studio contains 3 spacious yoga rooms that can support an impressive schedule rammed full of over 205 classes per week in every style from hot, yin, hatha, core, iyengar, ashtanga, vinyasa flow and restorative. There are a number of speciality classes that we’re big fans of within that mix like #TGIF Flow and Flow in the 6ix which is a reduced heat class set to an energetic, urban and carefully curated playlist of local artists. LOVE. With classes almost every half hour and ranging from 50-90 minutes long, there’s no doubt you’ll find a time on their schedule that works for yours – plus their weekends offer more classes than any other studio we’ve come across thus far with 8-9 classes running until 7:15pm. Another pro is their easily navigable and informative website that allows you to search by location, style of class, and what your intention is (I want to relax, I want to sweat etc.) and it provides an intensity and relaxation level for each class. With their huge team of teachers (which we’ll talk more about later) this is all the more important so you know exactly what you’re walking into even if you’re unfamiliar with the teacher. They also reserve 50% of the classes for walk-in’s which makes sense given the location. We love this commitment that not only accommodates our busy and unpredictable schedules, but it usually makes for less crowded classes. Yoga Tree also offers a 250 hour yoga teacher training, corporate yoga and workshops on the regular like beginner workshops, mommy yoga and workshops that focus on building up to particular poses and balances.
As far as prices, Yoga Tree is sitting in the middle for a drop-in rate at $22 (compared to $20 at Octopus and Pure Yoga, and $23 at Afterglow) but it by far offers the lowest unlimited monthly membership at $99. They actually don’t have other package options (other than a premium monthly version that includes mats and towels) so they very much encourage the monthly memberships. If attending class twice a week the membership works out to ~$12 per class (!!) and includes unlimited classes at all locations, cancellation at anytime, and a vacation extension whereby you can extend your contract by a week each month if travelling. If you’re hoping for an even sweeter deal and you’re a last minute kind-of dude or dudette, visit the website and a pop-up box will appear that will notify of current offers across all locations coming up that day. They also have a locker rental/mat storage program for $15/month so you don’t have to lug your mat from work or if you’re on the go. They really have made it as convenient as possible to squeeze into a class on the fly, which we love because #life.
- Drop-in: $22.12
- Monthly membership – $99 per month ($60 for the first month)
- Premium monthly membership – $129 per month
The Bay and Dundas studio is ginormous. With over 10,000 square feet sprawled between two floors, this studio is probably our favorite one of all of Yoga Tree’s – although to be fair we’ve only visited the downtown locations. It’s our ultimate fav not only because of the beautiful open space and what feels like cheeky surprises around every corner, but it’s a modern and relaxing oasis that makes us feel like our top spa and our pinterest account had a baby. Decorated with metallic sayings and motivational quotes like ‘too blessed to be stressed’ and ‘drop and give me zen’ we were poking around every nook and cranny to make sure we saw them all.
There are three spacious studio rooms to rotate the massive class schedule, a tea lounge, infrared sauna, and a full Wellness Centre on the second floor that offers massage and holistic treatments. Both male and female change rooms are very roomy with 3-4 washrooms, 6 showers and a ton of programable lockers and changing space. They’re a shoe-free environment, they ask for scent-free consideration (apparently scents are amplified in the heat) and they’re big on encouraging students to practise asetya, which means non-stealing in sanskrit. We used to refer to that at lulu as well – so zen. Don’t steal our shit, I mean asetya. Namaste.
The crowd for our Core L1-2 was super diverse in experience, age and gender. Half the class was warming up on their own before class even started with handstands or a flow, and the other half were whispering with their peeps or lying in stillness. The class was a nice fullness with enough space for us all to spread out and 18 people filling the upstairs studio comfortably. There’s no doubt the vibe of the crowd was accepting and not fussed about what everyone else was getting up to. People were there for themselves and to connect with their mat for some 1:1 time.
- drop-in rates include free mat and towel on first visit ($2 after)
- programable lockers
- hairdryers, q-tips, make-up pads available in the change rooms
- Daily Pressed Juicery on tap – well not actually, they’re in a little mini-fridge
- A very impressive shop of all the yogi things including one of our fav athletic apparel brands Onzie, Swell water bottles, Manduka yoga blocks and mats, essential oils, vitamins, Warrior mat cleaner, eQua towels, sage sticks and more. You could really go for your life here at Christmas if you have a special yogi someone who’s stocking you need to fill.
INSTRUCTOR + STAFF
Yoga Tree was founded in 2007 by Debbie Fung and Jason Lu, an unstoppable duo that left their corporate jobs at 23 to open their first studio in Thornhill. They built the studio from the ground up, doing most of the construction themselves and in no time had expanded beyond their humble beginnings and started to take over pockets of Toronto bit by bit. Even though they are widely spread across the city, they’re dedicated to staying firmly rooted in the neighbourhoods they’re in by supporting local charities and responding to the immediate needs of the community. Their team of teachers is massive. There are over 85 instructors on staff, which can be a challenge as it’s difficult to have a consistent experience or know what you’re going to get. That said, the members of the yoga tree team are some of our personal favorite teachers, like Queenie and Jonathan Phair, Jovian, and Margaret Coffey and they often rotate across the locations so you can organise your classes by teacher if preferred.
Jovian stole a piece of our heart immediately with his kiwi accent that took us back to our days living in Australia. When we spoke to Yoga Tree about what class they highly recommended, they suggested Jovian’s Core L-2 immediately as his class has a loyal fan following that’s always popular. He started yoga in 2010 and graduated from Yoga Tree’s own teacher training program. His style is fun, fluid and dynamic and he excels in offering modifications for every pose so that beginners and advanced yogi’s alike can find a challenge. He kept our focus on breath and he was keenly aware of what I was doing to make sure I was comfortable with the preggo modification (no belly lying – and no back lying after week 20 by the way). He hung around after class to offer more personalised guidance on some of the advanced poses he introduced during class which was a nice touch and it was obvious that he’s deeply engrained in the TO yoga community.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
We’re rating this class a Middle of the Roadies because although it had pockets that could challenge us, we weren’t necessarily feeling the burn for the entire hour. That said, it’s exactly what we wanted as we navigate this new bumpy world. tehe. The Core Level 1-2 class is, obviously, concentrated on the core. Pregnant insert here – we weren’t sure if this was something that was appropriate for us, as we’ve read some things saying that crunches during 1st and 2nd trimester is a no-no and we’ve read other things that say how important core work is. So whats the real deal?! Again, always defer to your physician, but what we have been able to deduce after plenty of research is that there is a big different between core and abs and the short story is that core strength during pregnancy is super important. Core strength doesn’t just mean your six pack that’s trying to break through, but it refers to your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals, both of which comprise your deep core, and both of which are super important to stay strong during this time of change. So in summary, this class was completely safe for us to attend, actually encouraged, and as long as we stay in tune with what feels ok for our body, we’re ok to move forward.
The class is designed to focus on the core to provide support and proper posture and to develop strength, awareness, stability, flexibility and control. This class was in a non-heated room set to soft music (and silence during shavasana) and the constant flow made the hour fly by. After warming us up, Jovian took us through many rounds of sun salutations that built on the same sequence over and over and he gave us the option to try out poses like side crow, flying pigeon (learned that for the first time) and eka pada koundinyasana – which surprisingly done’s have a non-sanskrit name but basically means hard af flying leg arm pose. All in all, the class was an awesome pace for beginners but with the various modifications could prove to be a challenging class for intermediate and advanced yogis. Win win for erbody.
To try this class or anything else on their schedule, see Yoga Tree’s contact info below.
Yoga Tree (Bay and Dundas location) Web: www.yogatree.ca E-mail: email@example.com PHONE | 416.205.9642 Instagram | Facebook | Twitter