Downward Dog Downtown Review or The Sting of Serenity

Too cool for capital letters...

the basics

Downward Dog, Downtown Location (♦♦♦◊◊)
735 Queen St. West, 2nd Floor (map)
(416) 703-8805
Closest subway station: Bathurst

the ratings

Accessibility (◊◊◊◊◊)
Alas, yet another upstairs yoga studio, which makes it inaccessible to anyone with mobility issues. Considering how few accessible studios there are in the city, I think it’s time to do a focused article on which ones are accessible. Since I had taken a class at another location, they didn’t ask me to fill out a form. This says to me that those forms are more about covering the studio’s “sit-bones” than finding out what adaptations a client may require. The instructor came in and started the class quickly, which offered no opportunity to discuss limitations without interrupting her. I found some poses hard to do just because of the size of my chest or the length of my arms, so I can’t imagine that someone with further limitations would feel very catered too. The only consideration was some adapted poses for level of challenge. The instructor did not warn us ahead of time that there would be on-the-knee poses, so I once again had to hunt up some padding while folks were in mid-pose.

We're the best! But it's not a competition...honest!

Atmosphere (♦♦♦♦◊)
Imagine a yoga studio, as-seen-on-TV. The smell of incense, the dimmed lights, the tapestries, the hindu iconography, the pretty, skinny, white ladies. Yep, this place is that TV stereotype of North American yoga. And it’s really nice for all that. It’s sets a relaxing tone. It’s friendly and calm. The staff are mellow, yet helpful. The only whiff of high-falutin’ downtownery about the place are the plaqued articles about celebrities that have done yoga there, most famously Sting, and the pictures of their instructors in pretzel poses. Oh, that and the expensive organic snackery. 

Cost  (♦♦♦◊◊)
A single drop-in class appears to follow the community average, at $17. Unlike many studios, though, this doesn’t include tax. After tax, it’s $19.21, which is eking awfully close to that $20 mark. Downward Dog does have a variety of cost lowering measures, including a three class bundle ($15/class,) a five class bundle ($14/class) and a ten class bundle ($13/class.) They also offer kid and teen discount prices. I’m impressed that they offer a weekly, no strings attached, free class, but I question how many folks are available at 3pm on a Friday. 

Equipment (♦♦♦♦◊)
I can say that they had all of the standard equipment, plus one piece I had never used before – a long piece of doweling used for self-massage. What I can’t tell you is how clean or well maintained they were. I went to an evening class and the lights were kept very dim. Since my night vision is basically non-existent, I can’t really tell you if the stuff was clean or grimy. I certainly liked what they did with the equipment they had. I plan to make myself a yoga stick – or whatever the official name is for a broom handle that you use in yoga.

Instruction (♦♦♦◊◊)
After a long hiatus, due to illness, this class felt amazing. It’s hard to be objective when simply returning to yoga felt so good. But I’ll try. Leslie Kriekle has been teaching yoga for about five years, and has been practicing for much longer. She’s a good teacher and she seems to know her stuff, but she doesn’t seem terribly aware of what’s going on in the class. I find this a common problem, especially with younger teachers who’ve probably never been fat or disabled or really, really ill. I enjoy finding the edges of my practice, but when it’s clear that a pose has gone way past them, it’s nice to have a teacher who can offer an alternative or even notice that I’m struggling and give me a little nod or smile.

Studio Space (♦♦♦♦◊)
Pretty. It’s a pretty studio. The changrooms were a good size, though there was a line-up for the one washroom, sink and shower. There were hangers as well as cubbies, which is nice, I suppose, for the folks with pretty clothes that they don’t want rumpled. The studio space itself was small, but pleasant, with all the usual trappings: wood floors, candles, statues of godish folks. Again, it’s that as-seen-on-TV feel.

the conclusion

Unlike my previous visit to the Beaches Downward Dog Studio owned by the same company, I left this class feeling like I’d done some good yoga. While the braggy plaques and the teacher’s navel gazing left me with the distinct feeling that it’s about them and not me, this studio still has a lot to recommend it. It’s relaxing, it offers challenging classes and it has that free class for those who can’t afford regular yoga. Still, if Sting came to town again, I could think of a few other places I’d send him to first, like Kula or Ahimsa. I feel like this studio has all the pieces to be one of the best in the city, they just need to figure out the right way to assemble the puzzle. Until then, it gets a three.

And now, a little bit of Sting, just ‘cuz.

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2 thoughts on “Downward Dog Downtown Review or The Sting of Serenity

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