◊ THE CLASS: All Discipline Self Directed Mysore ◊
WHAT TO BRING
- Yoga mat
- Water bottle
- Your notebook
Shala Ashtanga Yoga Centre is the first review we’ve ever done of a traditional Ashtanga yoga studio and a Mysore style class at that (where students practice independently at their own pace). And know this – as soon as we knew we were doing a Mysore style we were like…uhhhhhh. Even though I’ve been practising for over 15 years and Sydney and I go to a squillion yoga classes, we were still very intimidated. BUT – turns out there’s no need to fret. We’ll explain why going to a Mysore class as a beginner to Ashtanga might actually be the greatest thing ever and why this hidden sanctuary in the middle of downtown Edmonton is one of the greatest places to learn.
10018 105 St NW, Edmonton
Shala is located within a four block radius of some of our favs (Hive Fit Co, XTherapy, Credo Coffee). That said, it’s tucked away just off Jasper so it feels like a secret in the middle of the 9-5 hustle. The entrance is currently under construction (until Jan) so accessing the studio is through the back door/parking lot which adds to the hidden feel. This is also only one of two studios in Edmonton to practice Mysore, with the second being Yoga Central on the south side.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
As the name suggests, Shala Ashtanga Yoga Centre specialises in the Ashtanga style of yoga – which was first created by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century and is often considered a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches of yoga, and it is a set sequence of vinyasa (alignment of breaths with movement) often worked up to by dedicated yogis for years. The style of teaching is called Mysore but Shala also offers over 16 varieties of drop-in yoga and pilates classes. Some classes may move at a faster pace to follow traditional breath count, but every student, regardless of experience level, is welcome to all classes.
The schedule is pretty stacked with a Mysore practice everyday, and 4-10 classes a day. The 45 minute Half Primary class (where the breath is held for 3 breaths vs the usual 5) is a great option if you’re strapped for time and in the new year they’ll be piloting Family Yoga/Family Mysore and Post Natal Mysore classes. The Family Mysore class will be held once a week to promote practicing together, sharing and learning the Ashtanga practice in a welcoming space. It’s an important initiative for them since most of the teachers and practitioners at the studio are parents and they want to pave the way for people to incorporate their physical practice into their family life. What’s great about these classes is there’s no age restriction, as many post natal classes only allow babies before they’re mobile, for example, so you only have a short window to attend.
They’re reasonably priced and in-line with their Edmontonian neighbours at $20 for a drop-in, however the pass schedule is set up to encourage and foster a commitment to the Ashtanga System – and there’s a lot of options. Some memberships are priced based on how long you’ve been practicing Ashtanga, like the 3-6 years is only $110/month and if you go everyday (like many would do at that level) that’s ~$3.6 per class. They’ve done a good job curating pricing options for beginners with the Intro to Ashtangas or family prices where parents pay $15 for drop in and $1 for every child aged 0-7 or $10/class for 8-14 year olds.
Real high level though – if you plan on going more than 3x/week it’s worth ponying up for a membership, otherwise the 5 Class Card is the best value at $15 per class. They also have pay-what-you-can classes with a teacher trainee and only $15 drop in for seniors, students, and travelling ashtangis (which is so great).
- Drop-in: $20
- 5 Class Card: $75 ($15/class)
- 12 Class Card: $210 ($17.50/class)
- Intro to Ashtanga (10 classes/10 weeks): $140
- Intro to Ashtanga Intensive (10 classes/3.5 weeks): $140
- Monthly Unlimited Non-Member: $150/month
- Monthly Unlimited 1-3 years: $120/month
- Monthly Unlimited 3-6 years: $110/month
- Auto-Renew : $120/month
The Shala is quiet, calm, and peaceful. They’ve successfully created a sanctuary in the middle of downtown that somehow encourages independence just as much as community. And it’s simple. That said, every detail has been considered and, just like the practice of Ashtanga, in a thoughtful and intentional way. The hooks for jackets are beautiful, the signs for the washrooms are artfully sketched, and they’ve decorated with succulents and crystals. It’s small with a narrow hallway that leads to the washrooms, the sign-in desk, and behind the sign-in desk space for belongings and change rooms. There is also a massage therapy room for independent therapists.
The single studio is long, bright, clean and crisp with white and original brick walls, and windows to Jasper Avenue. Members can store their yoga mats in the changing area, which if taken advantage of by many could turn into a cluttered mess as space is tight. Which could also be said if there were a lot of people taking class but with the fluidity that an hour and a half Mysore class created during our time there, people weren’t on top of each other. Although the washrooms are adorable, they don’t include showers (yet) or extra amenities that many studios have come to include, so BYO.
The crowd here is unlike anywhere we’ve been. Particularly for the Mysore practice which is such an independent endeavour, the yogis were very self-focused and inward. There was major diversity in age, experience levels, and workout gear – think everything from lulu’s to pajamas to no name stretchy pants – and leaning towards a more seasoned crowd of 30+++, which is not a huge surprise given the dedication and discipline required for this kind of practice. In chatting with our fellow class goers, it seemed a common theme that people found their Ashtanga practice later in life; after pregnancy, middle age or into retirement for example. We met a stunning 65 year old woman that’s been practicing religiously for over 15 years. Given the studios location, they’re starting to see a younger demographic emerge, particularly for the noon beginner class. In the end, if you’re a seasoned Ashtangi this will feel like home, but if your not they’re still incredibly welcoming to beginners.
- Curtain change rooms
- Two washrooms
- Complimentary yoga mat rental
- Mat storage
Linda is one of the co-directors of the Shala and she was incredibly welcoming, warm, and grateful to have us be interested in, not only her studio, but Ashtanga as a practice. She has a calming energy oozing from her that immediately makes you check yourself and slow down. Linda started training in Vancouver in 2010 and reconnected with her Ashtanga practice after having her two children. She was also trained at the Sattva School of Yoga in Edmonton and her speciality at the Shala is multidisciplinary, meaning she will help each student develop and grow their practice in all disciplines of yoga. Linda was great about explaining the differences in some of the Ashtanga poses to other yoga disciples, which the nerds in us loved. Linda practices under Kellie Kitson (fellow co-director) who is of the Ashtanga lineage via Mark Darby, one of the first lineage holders in Canada who practices and was granted his certification to teach and pass on his knowledge by Pattabhi Jois.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
We’re rating this Hard considering the unmistakable heat that an Ashtanga practice generates. How it works is there’s an allotted Mysore time (in our case 90 minutes) and yogis can show up anytime, roll out their mat and do their thing at their own pace. A teacher scans the room like a triage, jumping in to help or correct through hands-on adjustments and verbal guidance where needed most. For an Ashtanga beginner, a Mysore class turns out to be kind of a golden ticket because it essentially ends up being a private yoga class. We’ll explain.
The Shala will offer print outs for anyone who wants them to use as a reference for the practice. Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with five repetitions of Surya Namaskara A and three repetitions of Surya Namaskara B, followed by a standing sequence. Next is one of six series (primary, intermediate, and four levels of advanced), followed by the closing sequence. The sequence is learned progressively over a period of time and they recommend new students commit to at least 1-2x/week to build a solid foundation. Beginners can expect to spend 30-45 minutes in the studio at first, with that time gradually increasing as more of the sequence is learned.
As our first experience to Ashtanga, Linda was close to us the entire time, articulating the importance of the connection of breath to movement and showing us the foundational postures as we followed the first half of the print out. The most powerful and challenging part of the entire sequence was just that – the breath. Ideally in Ashtanga, there are no “wasted” breaths, meaning each movement is matched to an inhale or an exhale in the most efficient way. Linda corrected me in one sequence that I had two extra breaths than were necessary, which just meant I was working harder than I needed to. Also, every movement in between (i.e. the transitions) is just as important as the postures so it ends up feeling like a fluid dance. In the end, Sydney and I walked away feeling highly intrigued. We both experienced calmness, concentration and relaxation that we gain from meditation and we could see how practicing on a daily basis would be incredibly grounding. We built a deep appreciation and respect for this practice and we’re impressed by basically anyone that considers themselves a practicing Ashtangi.
To try a class yourself, see the Shala’s schedule here.
T + S