Swami Sivananda

The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre is located just West of Spadina on Harbord, close to a smattering of excellent restaurants and specialty bookstores. It is very different from the other studios included in the Passport to Prana card. It is a registered charity that offers classes, some of which are free, for a very specific style of yoga as well as other practices such as meditation and ayurvedic cooking. This is not the studio to go to if you are looking for a workout, to simply relax, or many of the perks other studios offer. However, if you want to deepen your yoga practice and go beyond asana yoga, or if you are simply looking to get away from the lithe and young professional Lululemon crowd, this place is perfect for you.

I attended a small open class with a volunteer teacher, Nicole, who made sure to inquire about my familiarity with yoga because this is not an instructional class. We began with two pranayama breathing exercises, with three full rounds of bhastrika (where you exhale rapidly and forcefully) and singular nostril breathing. We then did several rounds of sun saluation As (lost count) and then moved into a series of 12 postures, with a brief corpse pose inbetween. I’m very glad I didn’t choose the advanced class because some of these poses were quite challenging.

The teacher made extra efforts to assist me in poses I had never tried before such as headstand, but for the most part, I would highly recommend going to an introductory course at Sivananda first unless you are already familiar with different styles of yoga practice and breath work. The style of class is not for beginners, and while the instructor was very sweet and kind in disposition, the instructions themselves were delivered in a more rigorous manner than what you might find in other studios.

I liked Sivananda a great deal, especially the students. The class was small, perhaps 10-12 people who were almost all older in age, and there was more ethnic diversity than other classes I’ve attended. There was none of the trendiness you find in other studios which was particularly refreshing. Although the students were taking poses far more advanced than in other classes I’ve taken, there was never the sense that people were pushing themselves in competitive way, not even in the sense of competing with oneself.

I attended the centre’s open house which was held later that week and was able to participate in a meditation class as well. The teacher was more stern that Nicole, but he gave clear and helpful instructions, and I quite enjoyed it (even though I had come straight from work and was wearing uncomfortable fancy work pants the whole time!). Sivananda’s definitely one of the gems on the Passport card and I highly recommend checking it out.