Studio Blue Yoga
Studio Blue Yoga, the newest addition to Dundas West's burgeoning yoga scene, prides itself on taking a playful approach to practice. Owner Jessica McIntyre, a bubbly instructor with a head for business, completed her MBA in the UK and worked the corporate world there for a few years before moving back to Toronto and opening her own studio this past February. (She says she knew it was time for a change when she started looking forward to her part-time yoga teaching stints more than any aspect of her actual marketing job.)
McIntyre, a former Moksha teacher, tweaked her classes to be a tad more inclusive and less intimidating to beginners. While the place is a perfect environment for wannabe yogis to hone their practice, it's also great for those just looking for a enjoyable time on the mat.
The cheerful studio, formerly a drab Dundas West office, was completely gutted and re-vamped to fit Jessica's vision: a space that feels like being outside on a bright sunny day.
In addition to sky-blue accents and framed photos of sunflowers along the wall, all classes are warmed to a perfect 26 C - which I love because it's hot enough to work up a decent sweat, but not so unbearably stifling that I feel dizzy at the thought of a slight backbend. What really sets the place apart, though, is that the yoga room is outfitted with full-spectrum LED lights that are designed to mimic the sun's rays.
I popped into a midday "Dynamic Flow" class, pretty intimate with only five other students, all seemingly in their mid-twenties (and refreshingly, with nary a Lululemon item to be found). I fully sensed the vibe of the place when I came up for my first upward dog and the LED lights came up brighter, feeling like a natural sunrise. Combined with a well-thought-out playlist, it made for an energizing atmosphere. And instead of staring down my tense reflection in a mirror, the classes all face a front wall where massive red lettering spells out a constant reminder to "Let it go".
While the start of class was fairly gentle, it ended with a slew of invigorating back-bending and heart-opening postures. I found individual poses weren't held quite as long as in Moksha flow sequences, and Jessica added plenty of movements and core work in between flows to mix it up. We finished the class with a challenging forearm balance against a wall followed by a long, relaxing savasana (with the bright lights mercifully dimmed down to a dull glow). I floated out of the place feeling utterly peaceful.
Though the majority of classes in a week are Dynamic Flow, the studio also offers a few restorative sessions, including a weekly "Bliss" class that uses blankets and other props to execute extended stretches and poses. The "Viscosity Vinyasa" class, on the other hand, focuses more on the depth of postures. For the more athletically-inclined, there's "Yoga Camp", that combines yoga with boot camp for a serious workout. On Saturdays and Sundays Jessica even offers a "Hangover Helper" class, heavy on twists and compressions to detox the body from a boozy evening.
As for pricing, it's as steep as you'd expect for yoga in the area: approximately $20 for a drop-in class, and $140 for a month unlimited. But luckily there are solid introductory deals for new students, and Jessica offers a community class on Friday evenings that's a steal at $8. Mats and towels are available for rent at $2 each, and the changing rooms, though not very large, have a few showers for an after-class rinse.
Writing by Jean Grant; photos by James C Lee .