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What is Yoga?

The word Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where Yoga originated. We can think of the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit.(1) For thousands of years, Yoga has been a tool to open the mind and body and come to self-realization and transformation.(2) In modern times, it has become well known as a form of exercise to connect the mind-body-and breath. There are many ways to experience the essence of Yoga. The challenge is to find the style of Yoga that allows you to become sensitive to the messages your body is sending, so that your experience is both an enjoyable and enlightening one.


Benefits of Yoga Classes

The health and wellness benefits of Yoga have long been reported by Yoga practitioners and are now being confirmed by scientific research.(3) Give Yoga a try and discover what it can do for your body, your mind, and your soul. Yoga Alliance has given ten reasons to try Yoga for Life! below:

•  Stress Relief : By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower levels of the stress hormone, corisol.

•  Pain Relief : By practicing asanas (postures) and meditation, yoga can ease emotional and physical pain caused by conditions such as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions.

•  Better Breathing : Yoga teaches to take slower and deeper breaths, thereby improving lung function, relaxation response, and increasing the amount of oxygen available to the body.

•  Flexibility : Yoga asanas help to increase range of movement over time by lengthening ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Yoga asanas also improve body alignment resulting in better posture.

•  Increased Strength : Yoga asanas use every muscle in the body, helping to increase strength overall and relieve muscular tension.

•  Weight Management : Yoga can aid weight control by reducing cortisol levels also known as stress. Yoga encourages healthy eating habits through heightened sense of well-being and self-esteem.

•  Improved Circulation : Yoga asanas help to move oxygenated blood to the body's cells.

•  Cardiovascular Conditioning : Yoga practice can lower resting heart rate, thereby increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.

•  Focus on the Present : Yoga helps to focus on the present, to become more aware, and to create mind-body health. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.

•  Inner Peace : The meditative aspect of Yoga helps many to reach a deeper, more spiritual, more satisfying place in their lives. Many who begin to practice realize Yoga as an essential part of their daily lives.


How to Ease into Yoga

Here are a few suggestions to help you begin your Yoga journey as you begin to attend Yoga Classes(4):

•  Tell your instructor beforehand about any injuries or medical conditions you have. Check with your physician if you have any concerns.

•  Wear comfortable clothing, such as a t-shirt, leggings or sweat pants. Be careful that your clothes are not too loose- where it can get in the way or fall down during the postures! Ex. Oversized t-shirts may fall overhead when performing downward dog'. Yoga is practiced barefoot to allow for better grounding, especially during standing balances. Learn to love your feet- grin and bare them!

•  Eat lightly or not at all for two to three hours before class. Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach, due to inverted postures and twists at the core of the body.

•  Discard your worries! Yoga is a journey to find your inner self. Know that everyone's physical anatomy and goals are different. Avoid all competitive urges and judgmental thoughts, and keep your focus within.

•  Expect to Excel: Over time, students are able to progress into more difficult poses, are able to hold asanas for long periods of time, and can become better coordinated.

•  Reap the Rewards! Let your breath be your guide. If your breath becomes shallow and labored it is an indication that you may be trying to do too much.


Yoga Etiquette

Learn the common do's and don'ts when attending a Yoga class (5):

•  Arrive on time : Please arrive at least 10 minutes before the class is scheduled to start to allow your body and mind to transition for Yoga practice. If you do arrive late, please be quiet and respect your fellow students and teacher who may be in meditation. If you arrive more than 10 minutes late you may have missed the warm-up and may be required to do some asanas on your own to catch up.

•  Turn off your mobile devices : Make a habit of doing this as soon as you arrive. It can be quite embarrassing and distracting to have a cell phone ring during class. If this does happen, please own up and turn it off immediately.

•  Remove your shoes and socks : Please leave your shoes and socks at the door or side of the room. Since people are walking around barefoot it is most hygienic to remove them first thing.

•  Keep Variations Appropriate : Keep in mind the level of the class you are attending. If you are attending an advanced class and the poses are too hard, it is appropriate to practice a more basic variation of the posture. If the class is beginner, stick to the versions that are being taught to avoid confusing other students. The teacher will offer more advanced options when appropriate.

•  Go to the Bathroom during Resting Poses : It is fine to leave class for a few minutes to go to the bathroom. There is no need to ask for permission. The best time is to leave during a period of rest, such as downward dog, or child's pose.

•  Don't Skip Savasana ! Your final relaxation is an important part of your practice. Don't plan to leave early. If you do have to leave, tell the teacher in advance and take your own Savasana before you go.

1. Excerpt by Ann Pizer at site ; updated: November 26, 2007.
2. Excerpt by Joel Kramer, Yoga as Self-Transformation , The Yoga Journal ; May/June 1980.
3. Excerpt by Yoga Alliance site at ; updated 2006.
4. Excerpt by Lin Gibson on site ; March 2008.
5. Except by Ann Pizer on site ; August 2008.

Toronto Dance Salsa offers Yoga classes for beginners.  This nine week Introduction to Yoga course will address the basics of the Yoga practices used in a Hatha, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa.  We will learn the fundamentals of proper physical alignment, breathing techniques, and meditation methods.  Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles and improve your flexibility and strength.  This course will build confidence to begin your own Yoga journey in a non-competitive and relaxing environment.  Join us in discovering the benefits of mind-body-breath awareness!

Our Toronto Yoga Classes are taught by Pamela DeMesa. Here is Pamela's bio:

Born in Calgary and raised in Toronto, Pamela DeMesa, was introduced to Yoga by following her sister's Baron Baptiste's Power Yoga videos.  It was love at first practice and she has been practicing Yoga through gyms, DVDs, books, and private studios ever since. 

To continue her Yoga journey and deepen her practice, Pam has completed The Yoga Sanctuary's 250-Hour Yoga Teacher Training program.  Pam is a Certified Yoga Teacher according to Yoga Alliance requirements.  Other Yoga Teacher Training includes Yoga for Kids with Maalaa and PreNatal Yoga with Cynthia Funk.  She is also a certified Personal Training Specialist through Can-Fit-Pro. 

Pam has had the privilege of being taught by Cynthia Funk, Karusia Wroblewski, Dharma Mittra, Eoin Finn, Baron Baptiste, Blake Martin, Kailash, Ante & Felicia Pavlovic, and Lee Downer.

Click here to view our Yoga Classes in Toronto.

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