◊ THE CLASSES: Flow 2-3, Parent and Baby, & Rope Wall ◊
WHAT TO BRING
- Water bottle
- Yoga mat
- Baby (for Parent and Baby)
Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre is the type of yoga studios that focuses more on their community than, say, growing their instagram. That’s not the kind of thing they care about. This giant studio in Toronto’s west end has one of the most diverse yoga schedules we’ve seen and a cutting edge meditation space that’s worth getting into meditation to try it. OG is big on their values; providing a safe space for inquiry, practice, community and healing, and we get that every time we roll out our mat. There’s a true sense of 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 sky instead of down at our phones. Om to that.
Located on the south side of College Street, west of Dovercourt Road, OG is easiest for west-enders. Public transport options are plentiful though with streetcars along College and Ossington or Dufferin subway stations 15 minutes away. Bike locks are right out front, and if driving, street parking is avails along College Street or Dovercourt Road.
With over 20 styles of classes, the schedule is supa diverse and includes Restorative Yoga, Meditation, Pilates, Aerial Yoga, and plenty more. This is one of the best resources we’ve found for prenatal and postnatal classes also – mammas, read on for Parent and Baby class info! The always have cool workshops and events on the go (Puppy Yoga), and they host a yoga retreat every year – 2019 is Costa Rica, yo. One of our fav things is their outreach program, Open Arms, that brings free yoga to underserved neighbourhoods in Toronto. Erbody deserves to namaste.
Class times are great with 6-10 classes every day – even on weekends which is SO RARE. Parent and Baby classes are at 11:00am on Tuesdays (yoga) and Thursdays (Pilates) and they’re available for drop-in. An 11:00am time is interesting since sometimes that’s terrible for your LO bc of naps, which are life, but that might only last a month and then you’re on a new schedule. The one thing – OG currently doesn’t have the capability to pre-register online (coming soon though). 99% of the time it’s a non-issue as most classes have a 45 person capacity so you can feel confidant there’ll be space, but it’s worth giving them a quick call before Rope Wall and Parent and Baby.
Rates have increased since last year, but considering the competition in TO we’re not mad about it. Most drop-in classes are $25 but if you buy class passes or a membership, prices drop. They have special pricing for members which is coo’, ex. Aerial Yoga is $15 (vs. $25 non) and Meditation classes are free (vs $15 for non). It makes sense to do a membership if you plan on going more than 2x/week, otherwise the 6 class/month Membership is a good one or the 5 Class Pass. They also host a Community Class every week for $10, with proceeds going towards the Yoga Education Scholarship Fund.
Drop-in Yoga: $25, Meditation: $15, Aerial Yoga: $25
5 Class Pass: $100 ($20 per class)
One Month Unlimited Pass: $180
Limited 6 class/month Membership: $79/month
Annual Membership: $1296 ($108/month)
The studio has a very lived-in vibe like they’ve been doing this for years, cuz they have. Thirteen to be exact. The building oozes character, with old creeky uneven floors, and the place is decorated with plants and books in every corner. The main floor has a studio, washroom, mat storage and a meditation area co-designed by Muse (the geniuses behind the brain sensing meditation headband). This is pretty freaking cool actually, as Muse uses the meditation lounge to trail new products. Like a “meditation campfire” where you control the “flames” (lights) with your mind (the calmer the mind, the bluer and low the flames, the more distracted thoughts bring giant green and red flames). It’s a great way to practice your meditation with access to some cutting edge techy brain shit.
The second floor has the wellness centre, another change room and another studio for Rope Wall classes, so there’s an entire wall of built-in supports – kinda like a school gym. The change room is simple and small with one shower and one washroom. There are no lockers in the building, so if security is important to you be sure to leave your things behind the front desk. Extra amenities like complimentary products, hair tools, etc. are pretty sparse – which is something we’ve come to expect for a $25 drop-in – so be sure to bring your own things if you need to get ready after class.
Almost everyone was a regular for Parent and Baby and had been going since their bub was six weeks old. One couple came as a couple which was goddman adorable and it was nice to see a male in the class. Ages of the parents ranged from 30’s to 40+, and babies from 7 weeks to 6 months – but all pre-crawling which is required. The best part is that it didn’t feel like a snobberific mum-club, which many can. Everyone was welcoming and smiley to us as newcomers and the vibes were chill as hell. Level 2-3 was also mostly regulars but very down-to-earth, friendly, non lulu wearing regulars. Ages ranged from 30’s-55+ and a mix of experience levels. Rope Wall had people working with injury’s to younger peeps who do a lot of functional training. The most common thing they see with Rope Wall though, is people working 9-5 office jobs trying to combat horrible desk posture. Read on for why you NEED TO TRY THIS.
- Mats can be borrowed (free)
- Towels ($2)
- Meditation zone with Muse headbands (free)
- Beverages and small snacks for purchase
- Retail boutique
Nicky Poole – Parent and Baby & Level 2/3
Big call ahead – Nicky may be one of our fav instructors in Toronto. She is PHENOMENAL. As one of the co-owners of OG, this kiwi is articulate, chill, approachable, and she moves in a beautifully fluid way that many don’t master. For the Parent and Baby class, Nicky set up stations for mums as they came in, offered to help carry babies or baby things, and she multitasked like crazy, calming LO’s while teaching the damn class. Her technique is flawless and full of breath, meaning she injects subtle movement into every balance and posture. In Level 2-3 she had us in a twist, and noticed the class get into the pose like soldiers, holding it stone-still for five breaths. She stopped to show how it would serve us so much more if we chilled TFO (our words) and let movement be part of it. It made for a FAR more enjoyable 30 seconds, and by doing that she brought a dancer-like agility to the class.
David Good – Rope Wall
I love David. This tatted, tall drink of water sashayed into the room with a giant, kind smile meaning business. As a yoga teacher, David prefers to be zen, but this class forces him to be more bold and authoritative so people don’t hurt themselves. Which CAN happen, you have to LISTEN. Coming from a strict ballet background, I respect the nice but firm approach and I’m big on punctuality, and David jokingly (but with side-eyes) scolded two people that casually strolled in five minutes late. Tisk. He’s super clear about how to get into every position, always speaking slowly about what to do so, again, no one hurts themselves. David demonstrated getting into the poses but then walked the room offering assistance or alternative positions. He kept a great pace and read the room well, allowing us to stay in positions a bit longer than he had planned if everyone was really into it. Full pineapple locked and loaded.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
Flow Level 2-3, 90 minutes: Hard
I didn’t realise this was a warm class but it defs was. The class started slowly with five minutes to work out kinks in cat/cow and twists. We did a lot of sun salutations, side angle, warriors, and balances but with connected transitions that made for a very flowey and dancey class. Nicky broke down dancing warrior into two versions, both using a strap, that reinforced proper hip technique which is commonly done incorrectly, even in the most experienced yogis. It’s definitely more of an advanced class, as there was opportunity for advanced positions like splits and full pigeon, where she encouraged everyone to use a bolster under the hip to get proper pelvis alignment. The class built on a foundational knowledge, pushing everyone to a deeper practice but in a safe, conscious and correct way – really great.
Parent and Baby, 60 minutes: Chill
I wish I did this earlier. Oliver is six months so he chilled on his tummy for a lot of class, but when they’re super new and don’t really do anything, it’s the BEST time to go. The hour long class (that can wrap in 50 minutes if the babies aren’t feelin’ it) flew by. We started by introducing ourselves, our babies and their age. Then we warmed up with cat/cow and d-dogs, very gingerly to consciously guide our deep abdominal muscles back together. We used a dowel for an upper body stretch which was simple and slow, but incredibly effective in re-engaging belly bits. We used a stability ball in between our thighs for bridge pose to focus on our pelvic floor, and we managed two full flows stopping for one breath in each pose. Only when possible, of course. Parents stopped to tend to their babies, feed them, give them a soother, or actually do exercises holding them.
We wrapped up with a butterfly and namaste song for the babies and they were FASCINATED. The class was less hectic and loud than some Parent and Baby classes we’ve done, thanks to Nicky and her helpers who were each carrying a baby the whole class. On that – this class often has a baby whisper which is worth a full fruit alone. They’re purely there to look after the LO’s so you can fully focus on your practice – which is unlike some Parent and Baby classes that focus more on the baby than you. To Nicky and our calm, grey-haired helper who did everything from holding multiple bubs at a time, to feeding, to playing – just…
Rope Wall, 60 minutes: Hella Chill
This class, man. I can’t. I happened to feel so soar in my low back that day and I literally couldn’t have found a better class. How it works is you have two straps with balls on the end (that go into the wall) and one padded strap that attaches to the two balled straps. The class is slow, and moves through 10-12 restorative poses connected to the wall in some way. It’s great for anyone working with injuries especially, as the ropes help to relieve joint pressure.
We started with the straps in the wall and the padded strap an inch off the ground, with our heads resting in the strap. Ideally, this it to let go of the jaw and it’s the actual best. We did things like downward dog with the straps around our hips, upside down child’s pose (see below photos) and squats holding the straps. We worked up to hanging in supta baddha konasana (which is where two people biffed it btw, so you have to be careful). Every single position was total heaven and the hardest part was hanging upside for extended periods of time. This is a must try.
To try Octopus Garden, visit their website here.