I’ve had a few students and friends tell me in the last couple of months that they really enjoyed April’s post on “Favourite Things”. It always surprises me that people not only read what I write, but take the advice to heart! So I thought I’d follow that post up with a few of my favourite places to practice movement in Toronto.
– It will come as no surprise that my favourite yoga studio is Downward Dog. I’ve practiced there since 2007 and worked there as a teacher since 2009. I’ve taken too many classes there over the years to count, so it’s hard to choose favourite, but at the moment I’m really enjoying the Level 1 class with David Bruni. He teaches a demanding class, peppered with motivational messages. He communicates really well with beginners, giving them plenty of encouragement and positive feedback along the way. Dave’s use of dowels gets people who aren’t familiar with the idea of self-massage feeling things they’ve never felt before. I always walk out of this class feeling like a new human!
Strength and Mobility
– Movement Lab with Andre Talbot at Spirit Loft is my favourite way to spend a Saturday morning. He teaches this class several times throughout the week, attracting a wide range of practitioners. Each class is different than the last and incorporates mobility work to warm up, locomotive movement (traveling across the floor in different ways), and then might focus on building strength in a particular area of the body, handstand practice, hanging and/or ring work. Come to class with an open mind, prepare to be challenged, and leave feeling renewed.
– My friend Leslie Parker owns the Mindful Movement Centre in Yorkville and is one of the best Pilates instructors with whom I’ve had the pleasure to take class. I really enjoy the reformer classes because of the seemingly limitless ways they can challenge the body. It also really puts me in the “beginner’s mind” headspace, because this type of movement isn’t something I have much experience with. If you’re looking for a class that will teach you more about how your body is designed to move, look no further.
– If you’re looking for something more like Pilates on steroids with a dash of top-40 remixes thrown in for good measure, check out Studio Lagree. My friend Sheldon leads classes here that use a modified reformer machine designed to push the body to its limits. Working to failure is the name of the game here, and you may or may not struggle to put your shoes on and get down the stairs after class. These classes are great for those looking for a quick dose of full-body intensity.
– While I’d tried rock climbing on a few isolated occasions in the past, over the past 6 months it has become a more regular part of my movement routine. Finding a great climbing partner is key to being consistent. Since my partner Sarah and I live on opposite ends of the city, we tend to frequent both Joe Rockhead’s in the west end and Rock Oasis in the east. I love climbing not only for the physical demand it puts on the body, but also for the mental challenge—it’s the only thing I do that really puts me in scenarios where I’m (momentarily) afraid and I can feel my mind trying to control my body, telling me to quit. But then I remind myself that it’s ok to fall. Each time I go back, I’m a little more likely to take risks. Rock climbing is a great thing to do with a partner or kids—if you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for?
I also want to throw out a few honourable mentions to places my students tell me they love:
– Misfitstudio, for an alternative take on yoga, pilates, dance and magic-infused movement
– Brass Vixens, if you’re looking to get a body like a pole dancer
– Academy of Lions, if you like the taste of Crossfit Kool-Aid
– Ahimsa Yoga for JP’s awesome Sunday morning flow
– Octopus Garden for Yumee Chung’s intelligent, technique-oriented approach to yoga, Scott’s self-practice and Pat’s meditation class
Did I miss your favourite? Leave it in the comments below! Happy practicing, movers.