Octopus Garden Yoga is a tiny studio nestled innocuously on Bloor street by a hardware store and Outer Layer in the heart of the Annex. Classes are very popular and the teachers are excellent, but the facilities leave something to be desired.

Octopus Garden is easily the smallest studio I’ve visited. The waiting room is attractive, but there is no receptionist desk or receptionist. The change rooms are also rather cramped and the small time space between classes with students both entering and exiting puts a double load on the change rooms and two washrooms. The studio also provides a shower, but no extra amenities. However, herbal tea is provided with a donation jar, a nice touch.

The studio itself is long and narrow which means that unless you arrive early to grab a spot near the front of class, you will end up behind rows of students. The class I attended had roughly 16 people, and that was already reaching the room’s limit. I know another student who frequented this studio; you may literally end up with a mere 10 cm gap between mats which means negotiating with fellow students for stretching space. Smaller classes are spaced out better, with two rows of mats lined up against the long sides of the room, both facing the teacher in the centre. The studio is also a bit stuffy, perhaps due to its size, and to be frank, the floor could have used a good sweeping. Overlooking this, the facilities were as clean as any other studio. The one nice feature of the studio is its set of wall mounted props to assist students in more advanced inversions.

Octopus Garden’s strength is it teachers. If you read their bios, they are very experienced and are focused on delivering yoga classes about yoga, rather than “an experience” or a spa-like escape. I took Ashtanga 1/2 with Elke, who is also listed as a Yoga Sanctuary teacher, another studio I’ve reviewed on this blog. Elke’s class was a challenging intermediate level, using a metered 4-8 beat breathing rhythm for the vinyasa heavy sun-salutation sequences. While this rhythm may not have appealed to some students, attempting to stick with it immediately made you aware of when you lost your connection to the breath. Her instructions always brought you back to connecting with your body.

Overall, Octopus Garden is best for students who are looking to advance their practice, and who don’t want any frills.