Set in the former, much loved, 109 Yoga space on Fuxing Lu, Yoga Garden owners Sarah Lowe and Ashley Wall, two former teachers at 109 (who are continuing to teach at its new incarnation) took over the space in a seamless weekend transition.
That continuity is good news for yoga newbies and anyone who’s been put off practicing by a supercilious attitude that prevails in some of Shanghai’s other studios; 109 had a reputation for being a ‘safe’, non-competitive place to learn and that legacy, says Lowe, is something they’re keen to honour and build on: ‘We honestly believe that yoga is for everybody.’
Alongside ashtanga, hatha, vinyasa and prenatal yoga classes, they’ve introduced a happy hour ‘donation yoga’ slot on Friday evenings, serving up not cocktails but a healthy dollop of community-mindedness. The idea is that the class is taken by a new teacher on a five-week rotation and students pay what they can or what they think the class is worth, with all proceeds of the class going to charity. (The designated charities will be Lifeline Shanghai for the first three-four months, followed by Xinxing Aid Centre, a local organisation helping out street kids). ‘We want to build a community and give something back,’ says Lowe. ‘It’s a great way for new teachers to get some practice and for everyone to contribute to good causes.’
As for the ‘new’ space, there’s no pack ‘em in approach here. The two wooden-floor studios, with leafy tree-top vistas, hold between twelve and sixteen students at capacity, but eight’s the normal number of attendees, meaning you’ll never flounder anonymously at the back. Teachers are trained to teach varying levels, too, so seasoned yogis can get something out of beginners’ classes, and vice versa.
Yoga Garden also run a series of family-friendly classes including a ‘Baby Om’ toddler and baby class, and Family yoga, aimed at ages 5 years and up, which promises to build strength, flexibility and trust in a fun and safe environment, by tackling traditional poses including the Tree, the Warrior and the Chair, as well as an ‘invigorating’ classic hatha sun salutation.
By Selena Schleh