◊ THE CLASS: Vinyasa 1 & Restorative ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
Laya Spa and Yoga is a little gem that kept grabbing my attention as I saw it’s vibrant Moroccan pillows and big bright Queen West facing windows constantly show up on my insta feed. I legitimately walked by it a squillian times not knowing that it was even there, but the super bright orange door leading to the newest expansion, a separate yoga apartment, has peacocked it’s way into my line of sight and it can’t be missed now. This space is so damn charming and the friendly staff immediately make you feel like you’re taking a class in their actual apartment. We took two classes, a Vinyasa 1 and the Restorative class (which is one of their legacy classes) and after learning about their clever-ass pricing structure we were further seduced by this healing sanctuary of chillness.
Laya Spa and Yoga is located on Queen Street West just east of Ossington Avenue, before Shaw St. The spa part of Laya is located at 984 Queen Street West and literally one door down is the bright orange door of 986 Queen Street West that leads to the yoga apartment, as we liked to call it bc that’s cute. 986 is a recent addition to Laya, having only opened last February when they took over the old apartment space and converted it into an additional treatment room for the spa, the yoga studio, meditation space, washroom, and outdoor patio. With it being nestled in the heart of West Queen West, it’s definitely out of the way for Eastenders, but we’re still throwing it a full pineapple since it’s easy access for those taking public transit (Queen West streetcars and buses going E-W, and Ossington streetcars and buses going N-S), walking or driving. Parking is the most difficult with side streets being your best bet, but that’s what we’ve come to expect in TO. Waddayagonnado.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
The class schedule is not very extensive, with 3-4 classes per day and less on Fridays and Saturdays, but the times are well spread out giving most people an opportunity to take a before work, lunch, and after work class if limited by a 9-5. The styles of yoga offered vary and as they continue to build out their schedule and community, they keep evolving and introducing new classes. Most commonly, you’ll find levels of Vinyasa, different versions of Flow classes (Morning Flow, Hatha Flow, Easy Flow, and Align & Flow), Restorative (Aroma, Thai, and Reiki), and it’s one of the few studios we’ve seen that offer Tantric, Ayu and Nidra techniques (see here to learn more about WTH those are.) They also have Meditations Tuesday & Wednesday at 12pm, which are also PWYC and host many special guests each week. One of the classes that they’re most known for, partially because it’s been offered since 2012 when they started, is the blissfully wonderful Restorative classes. More to come later, but the infusion of Thai Massage, essential oils, and lying around on comfy bolsters was more like what we fantasize grown-up nap time should be (look into it Google HQ, were counting on you to lead the way for mandatory corporate nap time). One thing about the intimate and family-like vibe that exists at Laya is that no matter what class you’re signed up for, the class will be very tailored to the needs of the students that day. No same same power flow found here. Worth noting – since the yoga apartment doesn’t actually process payment, its ideal to sign up through Mindbody prior to class or arrive early to prepay and sign a waver on the main spa side.
Finally, Laya works hard at incorporating workshops and specialty classes into their regular programming such as Chakras and Chai which is a PWYC guided meditation focusing on the Root Chakra, or Tao Tantric Serpant Activation which combines ancient ecstatic practices that activate and raise our serpent (life-force/kundalini) energy to its highest state for self-healing, transformation and everyday ecstasy. Yowza. During summer, they’ll also take classes outside on their rooftop patio whenever the weather permits, no doubt the sunrise classes at 7am and evening classes are blissful as hell.
As for pricing, Laya has bubbled up a little something genius and is earning full fruits for it. First of all, they do have yoga mats that they’ll borrow you for free, but since they have limited inventory it’s still a good plan to bring your own. All other equipment is included. Drop-in rates are the lowest we’ve seen in Toronto at $18 per class and go as low as $10 per if buying a 20 class pack. The memberships, though, are where their big brains are on display. Memberships are categorised as bronze, silver, gold, and platinum and are designed to provide a holistic approach to your health, not just focusing on the fitness portion. What we mean by that is their memberships include both spa services, and fitness classes, and if you have health care coverage, it will cover all or a significant portion of the membership. Exhibit A – if you purchased the lowest membership which is bronze, it costs $140/mth and you get one treatment and five class passes. If that said treatment is a massage which would earn an RMT receipt, snippy snap, you submit that to your benefits guy and you get whatever they cover back and yoga classes are basically free. A bit sneaky, a LOT genius, and we’re SUPER into it.
- Single Class: $18
- 5 Class Pass: $70 ($14 pc)
- 10 Class Pass: $120 ($12 pc)
- 20 Class Pass: $200 ($10 pc)
Memberships (one year commitment)
- Bronze: One 1-hour treatment (massage, body scrub/wrap, facials), unlimited steam bath access & 5 yoga classes: $140/mth
- Silver: One 1-hour treatment, unlimited steam bath access & 10 yoga classes: $238/mth
- Gold: Two 1-hour treatment, unlimited steam bath access, unlimited yoga, 10% discount on workshops: $298/mth
- Platinum: Three 1-hour treatment, unlimited steam bath access, unlimited yoga, 15% discount on workshops, 2 private yoga classes per year, lunch w/ treatments, personal concierge, and access to private couples treatments: $3000/yr ($250/mth)
- Monday is also Service Industry Day which means classes are $10 or $20 for a class and a steam for those that work in the customer service industry. So nice guys.
The atmosphere at Laya is very very homey and it truly feels like walking into a friends apartment and that friend is really knowledgeable about essential oils, meditation and succulent care. The newest addition to the spa, the yoga apartment, opened in the beginning of this year after having undergone some minor renovations to make it studio friendly. Prior to having this space Laya had been holding yoga classes in their largest treatment room in the spa but it could only accommodate a maximum of six people, so this is a major step-up and we’re all really happy about it. The bright orange door off Queen Street leads up a v narrow old-ass staircase, where you leave your shoes half-way before continuing the climb. 100 stairs later (maybe an exaggeration) you walk into the front room which has been converted to the main yoga studio that has bright open windows looking onto Queen West and a beautiful sexually accepting piece of art at the back #loveislove. Capacity of the studio comfortably hosts 10-12 people. The hallway leading to the back of the yoga apartment is lined with storage where you can find all the gear your yogi heart desires. Mats, pretty floral bolsters, smaller bolsters, bands, blankets, and yoga balls (like the two balls in a sac – I have seen NO ONE be able to describe them differently). There’s a washroom including shower (which would double as a change room), another treatment room for overlow from the spa, and (our favorite little oasis) the small meditation room at the back. Looking onto a back rooftop patio, the mediation room has been made so damn cute with an aggressive amount of throw pillows, big leafy plants and nice smelling air that makes you feel like you’re somewhere else completely if you close your eyes and take a big deep calming breath.
As far as the clientelle that Laya typically sees, it’s often a very feminine tribe. During my chat with studio owner and director, Allessandra, one of her biggest goals for Laya is that they provide a welcoming and accepting place for all walks of life, and there are actually a LOT of male regulars that attend the spa, but Aless can’t deny the power of being a woman and she gravitates to providing female workshops and educational gatherings that often draw a more feminine audience.
- Access to the spa services next door
- Filtered water and cups
- One washroom and shower
- All yoga gear included (bolsters, blankets, etc.) but they have limited mats so its encouraged to bring your own
Before I even get into the instructors we had for the Vinyasa 1 and Restorative classes, it’d be a good idea if you grab yourself a flat white and some pulpy OJ and settle in to learn a bit about how to be a lady boss a la Alessandra De Oliveria. I think I fan girled out a bit bc after she took the time to sit down with me for an interview, I was so captivated by her chill AF energy and beautiful skin tone that I likely dragged the interview out longer than was actually necessary. Aless, as her team calls her, is the Owner and Director and is one of the most inquisitive yet wise souls I’ve ever met. She grew up in Rio and was around the beauty scene from a young age, learning about nails and the OG Brazilian wax in her aunts salon (#gratitude). After attending York University and trying the corporate scene she realised it wasn’t for her and being an aesthetician was calling to her – and this is probably her proud Brazilian Aunty.
So she began her career as an aesthetician in 2002, working at a holistic spa, where the practices of natural wellness sparked her interest and she wanted to learn the best ways of healing the skin and body in the most natural and holistic way. Since then, she has been on the most impressive #studentlife journey’s I’ve seen. She completed her 500HR Yoga Teacher Training at Downward Dog, trained with Andrea Oliveira at Rituals Ayurveda School to learn as much as pos about the Ayurveda technique to bring to Laya, completed training in Yoga Nidra Meditation, Theta Healing Meditation and Restorative Yoga and JUST completed her education as a Registered Massage Therapist. And since the training will never be over, as she says it, she’s pouring her energy into plant medicine at the Gaia School of Healing which involves learning about Plant Spirits and Herbal Healing derived from the Wise Woman Tradition. (<clickable links cuz what?). Aless’s philosophy is “growth, evolution and a steady flow of energy” and she believes that continuing education is a key factor in providing her clients with the most informed advice and treatments. All of this impressive resume to say that Aless has the wise energy of Grandma Willow from Pocahontas and a calming and chill energy that oozes out of her to make everyone around her slow down just a bit. It’s truly because of this powerhouse leader that Laya has the chillest vibes, and we know her team of twelve yoga and meditation instructors are incredibly grateful for her guidance and for creating such a space. You can catch a class taught by Aless on Sunday mornings at 10am (Easy Flow) or Wednesday nights at 6pm (Vinyasa 1/2).
Alisa Donkers – Vinyasa 1
Alisa was our instructor for the Vinyasa 1 class and she gave off a similar chill vibe that instantly made us feel like we were at a friends house to do some yoga. Her background is like many yoga teachers we come across in that they start in the corporate world in some capacity, for Alisa it was in the radio and broadcasting world, and after a certain amount of long-ass days and nights working for the man and feeling far too little life enjoyment she gave it all up to travel the world and teach yoga. She’s been at Laya for over a year and she also teaches yoga at Shopify, Google and Freedom Factory. Her hippie-like energy results in a very easy-going teaching style but she’s very articulate and can create a super fluid yoga sequence off the top of her head that will be exactly where you’re body wants to move. She tailored the class to what the five of us were needing at the time and, as mentioned earlier, even though we were signed up for a Vinyasa 1 class, Alisa scaled back the difficulty level a bit from a typical heavy sun salutation flow class bc we were all feelin’ a more laid-back time. Super appreciated and the result was a perfect mix of challenging, stretching and breathing.
Louisa Pucci – Restorative
Taking one of Louisa’s classes was a must for us since Louisa has been the longest running teacher at Laya since they first started the yoga program in 2012, and her Restorative classes (especially the Thai Restorative) have drummed up quite the reputation. Right out of the gate, Louisa approached every student like she would a close friend, asking about recent ailments, chatting about mutual friends and catching up since the last time she saw them. Her teaching style is very Mother Goose, constantly attending to every students needs whether that meant getting us props mid-class, moving our props mid-position, draping blankets on us, or giving us mini massages that felt like pure heaven. More to come in the next section, but know that Louisa’s gentle approach and soothing voice is exactly what you need in a Restorative teacher.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
I’m considering the Vinyasa 1 class to be a Middle of the Roadsies and the Restorative to be Hella Chill (which is 100% why we GO to Restorative) and we’re giving full fruits for this section because they were both exactly as described. Vinyasa 1 is considered a slower paced level that “allows for a deeper connection to your body, moving with awareness and focus”, which is pretty damn accurate for what we experienced. Alisa guided us through a very smoothly structured flow that incorporated some balances, took a pit stop in all warriors and grounded us with sun salutations in between each sequence that we built upon. We moved to the ground for bridge poses and hip stretches at the end of class and ended in a blissful savasana. None of the class was a surprise and we didn’t do any positions that were new to us, so it was a very familiar and comfortable class.
The Restorative class was also what I expected in that we held each position for 4-5 minutes and utilised many many props to assist in our quest for maximum relaxation. With a smaller class size and only five of us in the room, Louisa was able to spend a considerable amount of time on each one of us. She would explain each position and in some cases show us how to set-up and she was very diligent about guiding us so that the positions worked best for each individual, resulting in the five of us often being in totally different versions of the pose. She would then rub essential oils on our temples, or hold it above our sinuses, or (what was absolutely my favorite part) she would give us mini thai massages in EACH POSE and assist our stretches just a tiny bit further. Honestly, it was SOOOO GOOOOOOD. I’m feeling very nostalgic rn and would just like to time travel back to that exact moment in time. Le sigh.
To try anything else, see Laya’s contact info below:
Web: www.layaspaandyoga.com Phone: 647.438.9032 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram