Yoga in Shanghai

Shanghai.  It is a word that is packed so full of meaning around the world today.  This city on the delta of one of the mightiest rivers in the world has seen its fair share of Spanda (the power of expansion and contraction) over the centuries.  As history goes, it is usually thought of as one city unconnected to China’s great and ancient past.   According to Wikipedia.org Shanghai was not even a city until 1292.  The first wall that Shanghai had was not even until 1554 (a mere 400 years before my mother was born).  According to most reading that you can do on Shanghai, it was a relatively unimportant fishing village prior to 1842 when the British took their ships up the Yangtze and forced a treaty creating the British concession which was quickly followed by the French, American, and Japanese.

Less than 100 years later the notorious Shanghai of the 1930’s was 1 of the most important ports in the world.  In fact in 1939 the first yoga studio in Shanghai was opened by a Russian woman named Eugenie Peterson.  Indra Devi (as she was later named) who was married to a Czechoslovakian diplomat was truly a powerful feminine force of Yoga in the world from then until her passing in 2002 at the wonderfully experienced age of 102.

So what is happening in the world of Yoga in the last 70 years or so since its first foreign yoga teacher started?  Let’s fast forward until the current decade, as yoga had a bit of a disappearing act shortly after The First Lady of Yoga’s (as Ms. Devi was often called) studio was in business.

Currently the Yoga scene in Shanghai is abundant with choices and styles of Yoga from teachers all over the world.  Although, some of my favorite teachers in this city are Chinese, this article is going to focus on the English speaking teachers.

The Orange Room is a Yoga studio that has been serving greater Shanghai since early 2006, and is a beautiful space about 15 minutes cab ride from the center of Shanghai in the Hongqiao district near the Hongmei road.   This road has some of Shanghai’s greatest restaurants, and this writer enjoys these restaurants often.  There are 2 wonderfully sunlit studios at the Orange Room, and after class you can very often get yourself some fresh home made cookies by Patricia Liao who is 1 of the 3 owners as well as the primary teacher at the Orange Room.  Originally Patricia started practicing yoga as a mean to relieve her sciatica pain.  After beginning yoga practice Pat learned that Pilates could also be a great way to feel good, and so she began her Pilates practice.  After the joy and freedom that Pat found she followed the path to become certified for teaching both Yoga and Mat Pilates. “In my class, I would encourage practitioners to seek the possibilities. I strive to help them appreciate the unique beauty inside each of them, realizing that everyone may have a different body condition. I see that each yoga or Pilates class is an opportunity for me to share with others. I attribute this notion to my teacher Steve Dodd, who had taught me the beauty of sharing.” 

Patricia’s style of teaching brings as much joy to her students as her amazing cookies bring to the writer of this article.  Her personality shows a true depth of wisdom as she guides her students through both Yoga and Pilates classes, with a smile, never pushing her students beyond their limits.  Her style reflects the mission statement of the Orange room in general as “a place that welcomes people of all sizes, shapes and abilities to practice yoga and pilates.” 

In addition to Pat’s Pilates, and Hatha Yoga styles, the studio offers classes that are taught by teachers who have studied Anusara, Vinyasa, and many different modalities of Pilates.  Teachers come from the greater Asia region, North America, and even from down the road in Shanghai, and all the teachers speak English, and some Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese, and even a little Shanghaienese.

Another delightful Gem of a yoga studio in Shanghai, is Yoga 109.  About 2 years ago Yoga 109 opened up in one of Shanghai’s historic buildings at the corner of Changshu road and Huaihai road.  Since then they have relocated to Fuxing Road in the heart of the deeply beautiful and tree lined French concession.  Nestled away from the street, this gorgeous space has 2 beautiful rooms that have trees outside the windows, and if the windows are open your yoga practice is likely to be serenaded by the local songbirds.  With an international teaching team ranging from all over the world, this studio is an amazing retreat from the hustling and bustling city just a few blocks away.  

This studio is host to some of the most beautiful and peaceful yoga classes in Shanghai.  It is so rare in this city that one can find classes that are a mixture of good Yoga with a truly peaceful atmosphere, and as you may expect in such a serene space, you can enjoy a wonderful cup of tea before, after, or during your practice.  Of course you can surely find a powerful workout at Yoga 109 as well, teachers Lorraine and John both teach powerful styles of Flow yoga that have been influenced by Anusara, Ashtanga, and Pranavashya.  There is also offerings of Anusara Inspired yoga at the studio, and certified Anusara teacher Patrick Creelman comes every so often to take students to the next level of their practice.

Both The Orange Room, and Yoga 109 have 200 hour Yoga Alliance Teacher Training programs lined up for the year 2011 and can be found at www.theorangeroom.cn, and http://www.yoga109.com. If you have any questions please send them through the contact form on the website www.jayarasa.com, and I will be happy to introduce you to my favorite Chinese speaking Yoga studios and/or teachers in Shanghai and many other cities in mainland China.