The Awesomeness of Jesse


What: All Levels, 90 minutes
When: Sunday at 11:15am
Where: Octopus Garden (967 College Street)
Who: Jesse



Somewhere along the way of my 30 day challenge I got chatting with Nicole (a teacher at Moksha Yoga Downtown) one Thursday night about things I could do to mix up my yoga routine (including yoga quickies) studios I should go to, and teachers in the city I need to take class from. She highly recommended I take a class with Jesse at Octopus Garden. Who this Jesse was I had no idea, but if your name is Jesse you are already awesome in my mind. I have yet to meet a Jesse I don’t like: Uncle Jesse, Jesse St. James, Jesse from Gilmore Girls are all perfect examples of awesome Jesses.

So last Sunday, I rolled out of bed early enough to eat, get some coffee into me and mentally prepare for the class to come. I was really excited to see the new space on my march down to College Street. I’ve been to the studio once while the renovations where still underway and haven’t been back since completion. Boy, did I arrived to a pleasant surprise. The smell of the studio was to die for. If you love the Urban Herbivore in Kensington Market you’ll be happy to know another location exists right in the studio! Yum! The bright, vibrant, and spacious studio is just fun to look at. I checked in with my Passport to Prana (which was kind of a drag because at Octopus Garden your first week is free. Unlimited drop in classes for 7 full days. Now that’s a yoga deal, and a perfect reason to indulge at the cafe for a whole week).

When 11am rolled around Jesse entered the practice room. And we got right to work. He spoke as nicely as he looked and seemed, this is one fit yoga man. Flow after flow to twists and crow pose, to putting our legs over our shoulders and lifting off the ground, I was a beyond confused. And Jesse did all this while laughing and cracking jokes! Jesse’s humour got me though the class not his instructions. Nicole told me his classes always make her laugh, now I know why. Stunned by his yoga insane moves, I would go back just to watch Jesse do yoga.


Take is class if: you’re not taking yoga to seriously and looking for a fun challenge.



How to survive your first 30 day challenge


Now that I successfully crossed off completing a 30 Day Yoga Challenge from my list, I’ve put together 5 key pointers (based on my own experience) so you, too, can survive your fist 30 day challenge. Hopefully at the end you’ll find a deeper appreciation to yoga — or at least a reason for doing it in the first place.




Do these 5 things and you will survive 30 days of yoga in a row:


1. Mix up your routine:

Changing up where you do yoga is a great way to forget what Day you’re on. I was terrified to think I had to take 30 classes of hot yoga straight. Don’t do this. Take a hot class one day, then a yin or restorative class the next. Or flow for 3 days. then a hot class then a yin class. Whatever you want, it is all okay. This is where a Passport to Prana comes in handy.

But, keep in mind you don’t have to be at a studio for your class to count. Try a yoga quickie or listen to a class on a CD – don’t get stuck taking the same class day after day. This includes mixing up the times when you practice. If you’re an after work yogi, try a morning class then don’t go until the next evening. The length of time between your classes can feel like ages since you last practiced.

2. Find acceptance:

I struggled with this one for a few days. Understand that doing yoga for 30 days isn’t about doing yoga for 30 days, but rather about giving the time for yourself to connect to your body and practice and letting go of everything else (wow, I sound like a teacher!). Lie in shavasana for an entire class if that’s what your body needs to do. This is yoga. Also understand your body changes daily and each day will be different from the one before. Just be there in the moment and not worrying about what the day was like prior.

3. Get a buddy:

For your fist time, don’t try this alone. Find someone at your studio — a friend, a fellow yogi, a teacher — anyone to share this experience with. Not only will you be determined to finish day 30 this way, you have someone to get you though those not-so-fun days. Tiffany was mine, and boy was I ever glad to have her around!

4. Share your progress:

Nothing made me more happy then having people ask me what day I was on. Whether it was at work, at my own studio or away on work vacations (Moksha Halifax, I owe you big time) I felt proud of myself. Tell everyone you know what you’re doing. You’ll feel great knowing you’re not the only one who cares. And talk to your teachers specifically, not only will they understand you, but they’re incredibly helpful for those not-so-great days.

5. Make a Sticker Chart

Probably the most important part of your challenge! It’s kinda sad how rewarding sticking a sticker on a chart under the day you just completed can be.


If everyone could have this girls energy and optimism 30 day challenges would be a breeze! The clap kills me every time.


Om Sweet Om: Detoxing at EnergyXchange


What: “Om Sweet Om” Detox Cocoa Sundays
When: Sunday @ 3pm
Where: EnergyXchange (698 Queen Street East)
Who: Shauna Ireland


I’ve been skeptical of EnergyXhange, despite being so close to my house, because I hate their website. The sound effects and flash animation drive me bananas. They just feel so over-the-top and unnecessary for a website that’s for a gym.

I finally caved on Sunday. After my epic running weekend, I wanted a class that was gentle and relaxing, and it looked like their 3pm “Detox” class would fit the bill. My initial thought? Detox = restorative. As in, lots of sleeping masquerading as exercise.


Soooo pretty!


It doesn’t. The class was 75 minutes of gentle, easy flowing. Lots of movement and breathing. It was a tad more intense than the yin and hatha classes I go to. Shauna, the teacher was professional and soothing, but she spent most of the class up front, demonstrating the poses. As someone who does a lot of stuff wrong (Of course I can touch my toes! You want me to put my leg there? Just watch me!), I found this a bit strange. It’s a fine way to lead a class, but it’s not for me. I like my teachers to get a little handsy.


Even their hallway is pretty.


The best part? Shauna gives you a little head massage at the end. Then feeds you chocolate. Any place that equates health with chocolate wins points with me.

EnergyXchange is stunning and their class schedule is extremely creative. I’m just disappointed I didn’t save my Passport for one of their “Joga” or “Gravity Turbo” classes instead. I can’t wait to look like an idiot during “Hip Hop Yoga.”


Take this class if: you’re an experienced yogi looking for something more low-key than your regular practice.







Spin + Yoga = Spynga


What: 60 minute spyngaFlow
When: Tuesday @ 6:15pm
Where: Spyna: the Yoga & Cycling Studio (1415 Bathurst Street)
Who: Joanna Rosenberg


What do you get when you combine spinning with a little yoga? You get Spynga of course.


This looks crazy, right? This is Spygna.This image is from Spynga's Facebook page.


Sypnga?! I know, this was my thought too just over a year ago when I was a Spynga virgin. I first heard about this “Spin-ga” from a colleague at work. She would rave to me about this amazing place that offered classes where you spin and do yoga. Spinning and Yoga… say whaaat?!? Was there even such a thing? Apparently so because not to long after this, I found myself making the treck to Bathurst and St. Clair to give Spynga a whirl. I don’t travel north of Bloor, it just doesn’t happen.

Now there is something you have to understand other than my ignorance of Spinning Yoga, at this point in the fitness regime I never spun in a real spinning class before. Ever. The thought of spinning scared me to death. Back while I was a GBC gym rat I loved the bike. It was a easy cardio workout out that wasn’t running. I liked being in control of my workout and avoiding a room full of hardcore bikers. But, what I didn’t like was my tendency not to crank up the resistance or increase my speed. That was until James came along. James was my video instructor on the new spinning bike George Brown brought to the fitness centre. James and I started dating instantly — yes I named the guy in the videos James. I would select the program and length of time I wanted and James would instruct me on what to do. It was perfect, now I could tell people I was a spinner and I had someone to push me when I wanted to slack off. Sadly, as most college relationships end, this did too — when I began to believe James was calling me by name, I needed to start seeing other people.

And so I agreed to this “Spinning Yoga” and gave Spynga a try. It was love at first sight! Not only was the class a bizarre combination that surprisingly meshed together perfectly, the act of spinning to the voice and command of a real instructor was amazing (sorry James).

So last Tuesday, a year later, I find myself traveling North of Bloor once again for one reason – to take my trusty ‘ol Passport to Prana to the tiny St. Clair studio to spin my little hear out once again, then flush it out with a solid yoga sequence. I felt strong on the bike and heck knowing it’s only 30 minutes till you hit the mat — you might as well go for it! 8 days into my 30 day challenge I was craving a “work out” the kind that yoga can’t satisfy me with. And seeing how there is a yoga component to class, it totally counted. It may also explain why on day 9 I hated my life, but that’s another story.

Our instructor for the 6:15pm 60 minute spygnaFlow was Joanna Rosenberg. And boy, did Joanna gave me the push I was looking for! Finishing the spinning component blaring Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You”, which I love for two reasons now 1) because of Glee and 2) it’s a kiss ass song to sprint to. Joanna, my life needed your class.

You can listen to Kelly belt it out below. You know you want to:



It still surprises how similar these teachings actually are.


Take this class if: you’re an experienced yogi looking to throw a curve ball in your practice. The yoga sequence is quick and light, but after a good spin this really tests your balance.




Monday Miles: Marathon Training Week #2



This week was an exhausting week, but a productive one. Working out this much means I’m tired and achy all the time — but I sleep great! Again, I moved the training plan around to fit my needs (Tuesday’s running-to-yoga plan was so good I might permanently switch Tuesday with Wednesday). Thanks to a bunch of snow Thursday night, my jumping rope and hill training plans didn’t quite work out. But there’s always this week, right?!


At the beginning of the week, I didn't even own this fancy contraption. Now, I know how to use it! Impressive, right?


Here’s how week 2 of my marathon training broke down:

Monday: 60 minutes Moksha Yoga

A morning workout? Check! A yoga class? Check! Having a yoga-obsessed sister is helpful, they can guilt you into waking up at 6am to stretch in a hot room.

Tuesday: 6.2km in 44:00 minutes; 60 minutes Kula yoga

Tuesday was a workout breakthrough. Running to yoga is my new favourite thing.

Wednesday: 9.4km in 1:11:30

This run was a bit of a slog. After three straight days of yoga, I felt stiff. But I powered through — need to keep those kms up!

Thursday: rest

This was not a planned rest day (Friday was), but after a tough work day and an exhausting run the night before, it made sense to flip Thursday and Friday.

Friday: 6.4km in 45:38

Friday finally brought us WINTER! Snow was everywhere. I went out and bought a pair of YakTrax after reading a positive review on Run with Jess. I totally count that as a workout in itself. Shopping is physically, mentally and financially exhauasting.

Saturday: 12.1k in 1:40:26

Not the fastest pace, but when you add -20 degree weather and an icy and snowy trail to the mix, I’m just proud we finished this one. My pal B. guided me on a loop through High Park, through the Junction and along the rail line. I love how running gets you out into new neighbourhoods — and makes you feel like a badass when passers-by look at you like you’re insane.

Sunday: 7.0k in 54:08; 75 minutes “detox” yoga

On Sunday, I was determined to hit the 40k total for the week — and try out my new pair of YakTrax. I accomplished both, and discovered my second new favorite thing of the week: winter trail running. In the afternoon, I hit up EnergyXchange for the first time on my Passport to Prana for a “detox” class. It was more intense than I was hoping, but let’s face it: I was hoping to lie down for an hour and call it “exercise.” Expect a full review in the next few days.


My goals for this week? Simply to keep it up. Last week was a solid fitness effort and if I can keep that up until May, this marathon might not be so hard after all.






Yoga Heaven has expanded, Hallelujah!

Being the yoga junkie I am there is no better deal out there – that I can think of anyway, better than the Passport to Prana. Yoga is an expensive hobby, as most hobbies are. But, if you’re like me and commit to doing yoga at least three times a week (and that’s usually the minimum) classes add up and fast.


All these yogis are in heaven. Just like me. (Thanks 889 Yonge for the pic!)


So when a friend told me about the Passport I was instantly sold. For those not familiar with it I’m telling you now go treat yourself and buy one. It’ll be the best 30 bucks you can spend. I promise. And now the Passport is good for an entire year (even more reason to get one!). This magical card offers one drop in class/studio/year. I told you it’s amazing. It’s great for yoga newbies, for those who can’t afford to do yoga any other way, or for those still in search of their perfect yoga sanctuary– which is also a great spot you can try on the passport.

Now, I have to take a moment to reflect on my first visit to 889 Yonge. I still often dream about it. My “yin yoga partner in crime” and I made a pack the summer of 2010 to try all the yin classes possible on our passports. It was love at first sight when we walked into 889 – Yoga Heaven dawn its name. I remember the white, glowing walls, the soothing music, and the free lockers and towels were to die for. So when I found out a second Yoga Heaven now exists, I am have shed a tear. This tiny, little studio, quaintly tucked away on the 3rd floor, instantly teleports you out of the Thompson Hotel and off the busy strip of King West. When you’re felt wanting to curl up on a cloud and float away – that’s a serious yoga buzz.

The practice room overlooks the roof top patio, which can make for awesome outdoor summer classes. At least I hope that’s the plan. If not, it needs to be.

Passport to Prana: Kula & The Yoga Sanctuary

I’ve been doing yoga, off and on, for about five years now. When we moved to Toronto, I became a dedicated student of Emma O’Neill for about two years, attending her Sunday morning class at The Yoga Sanctuary religiously. Emma is great and I highly recommend her, but once I started running, I found that I couldn’t do both long runs and an intense yoga class every weekend. So the yoga had to go. Since then, I’ve been bouncing around, trying to find the right mix of yoga and running, and trying to find classes that fit my hectic work schedule.

I haven’t found that yet. So I got a Passport to Prana.

For those not familiar with Passport to Prana, it’s an annual pass that let’s you try different yoga studios in the city. It’s available in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria, Vancouver, and Winnipeg (in addition to Toronto, of course!) and it’s A STEAL at $30. That’s right: $30 gives you access to what feels like a billion (it’s actually about 70) studios in Toronto, Oakville, Burlington and the surrounding areas. Even if you only go to three classes, it’s totally, completely worth it.

So I decided to try to chronicle my Toronto-yoga journey here. I have 52 weeks and plan to use the pass once a week, trying out as many studios and different kinds of yoga as I can.

Kula in the Annex

Class: Wednesday, 8:30pm Hot Hour
Teacher: Leah
Score: Nailing a headstand (with the teacher’s help and wall-support)

This class is a bit of a cheat. I’ve been to Kula before (it’s the home studio of my pal JK) and I love it. The temperature is right, and the teachers offer the right mix of challenges, playfulness and therapy. It can occasionally get too hokey for my tastes (a class I took near Valentine’s Day was love-themed), but overall, it’s my favorite studio I’ve been to so far. It’s just too far from my house to go to regularly. Boo.

Leah was a sub, and she was a new teacher. Her theme for the class was based on a card she got at a fairy reading — something about being playful and seeing things from a new angle. It worked better than some of the other themes I encountered. Leah’s transitions were rocky, but the class was exactly what I needed in the middle of CBC Books Giller madness.

The Yoga Sanctuary: Danforth

Class: Monday, 7:15pm, Yin
Teacher: Sue
Score: Almost falling asleep in savasana

Another cheat. Shhh, don’t tell the yoga studios! Sue’s yin class is the class I go to whenever I need to stretch and don’t want to do other yoga. I’ve been to a handful of yin classes at Moksha, but this one is hands-down my favourite. Sue is very cheerful and explanatory, which I enjoy, but she is repetitive. For example, she explains her theory behind how deer pose got its name in every class. Once a month is all I need here. But the studio is lovely and has the added bonus of being uphill and near a grocery store, so I can grab dinner supplies right after and then soar down Broadview on my way hom. (Okay, I get that this isn’t exactly fair crieria in my judging of yoga classes, but I’m new at this. Give me a break.) This class attracts a lot of newbies, which is great (welcome to yoga!) but it also means that if you look like you know what you are doing, you won’t get a lot of attention. And I like attention. I’m insecure like that.

That’s it. No more cheating. My next class needs to be a studio I’ve never been to before, with a teacher I’ve neve rhad before. I’m scared. And excited.

I just hope by the end of this I’ll be able to do a headstand.

I’ll also take real pictures next time.