ABOUT THE SHALA
foreword by Gingi lee, director
It was in 1998, after many years of studying yoga and martial arts, that I set up my first yoga studio. Known then as the Sangam, tucked away behind an orange gate just off the Northcote Road in Battersea, it was one of only two yoga centres in London and it was exciting times. Word was spreading like wildfire about this amazing life-assertive form of dynamic yoga and classes filled up almost overnight through word-of-mouth recommendations. The palpable highly-charged energy of those early ashtanga practices was unforgettable.
The yoga scene has changed dramatically since those times. It is a huge blessing that yoga is now reaching the lives of so many, though it is with some misgiving that I look upon the mainstream modern yoga world and observe the dissipation of some of the “essence” of yoga. It is this “essence”, this “spiritual” and philosophical dimension to the practice as a way of life that I strive to keep alive at the Shala today (the Shala translates as “a place of spiritual practice”).
I have been privileged to work with many incredible teachers at our centre, all of whom share a deep love and respect for yoga and a genuine passion for sharing their knowledge. These teachers teach from the heart, generously and without judgement or ego. They bring their own individual style of teaching and their own strengths. I hope that everyone who passes through our centre will find their own teacher who can help them on their journey to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
The greatest blessings over the years of teaching, have been my loyal students – inspiring extraordinary people, of all ages and from all walks of life, each with their own life struggles and victories. Many of them have been with me from the outset for more than two decades, many have gone on to become teachers in their own right, some sadly have passed away. From each I take away something and learn something new. Teaching for me has been a humbling and enlightening journey.
Gingi Lee – Director
We are an independent, community-focused Yoga Centre that aims to create positive change and provide a sanctuary for our practitioners. We aim to serve people from all walks of life and welcome people of all ages, with differing levels of experience and abilities. We aim to share yoga with our community through our exceptionally experienced, talented and knowledgeable senior teachers who honour the tradition of yoga as well as respecting modern advances. Most of our teachers have a minimum of 10 + years of teaching experience (and some also train other teachers) and a they cultivate an environment where students can practice in safety, comfort and at the right level of challenge to meet their needs.
We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide a place of healing and nurture for those who come through our doors.
We strive to place yoga ethics at the heart of our organisation, from our business practices to consideration of the environment. One of these tenants includes Ahimsa, non-harm and this principle is woven into the fabric of what we do. Our practice ethos specifically involves teaching students to tune into their needs in class and to challenge themselves in a way that is detached from striving, competitiveness and goals. We encourage practitioners to learn how to practice in a way that is attuned to self-nourishment, physically, emotionally and often spiritually.
Our teachers honour the yamas and niyamas (ethical principles of yoga) and bring their experience and knowledge of the practice to facilitate growth on your own personal journey. We firmly believe that Yoga teachers are not gurus, meaning they are human, not perfect enlightened beings to be revered. We always welcome students’ feedback so that our teachers can continue to grow as teachers themselves.
Yoga is about inclusivity and we do not tolerate discrimination in any form. We offer low cost places in all our classes and workshops for those who would not otherwise be able to access yoga. We also offer concessions on our class passes for full-time students, unemployed and those who have retired from work – please email us to enquire about these.
We recognise that our building is not accessible to those with mobility impairments and wherever possible we try to accommodate this by offering alternative ways to access our teachers and workshops.
For nearly 25 years, the Shala has served a wide community in London and built a strong reputation for high-quality authentic yoga teaching. We have also hosted workshops and retreats around the world as well as teacher trainings through our affiliated Shala School of Yoga. Over two decades we have inhabited various South London warehouses and since 2014, we have resided happily in a beautiful, peaceful and spacious Victorian warehouse in West Norwood, close to West Dulwich.
When we opened in West Norwood we expanded our offerings and team and diversified from our purely ashtanga roots, offering a schedule of up to 60 classes a week with a team of 25+ talented teachers. In 2020 when the pandemic hit, we braced ourselves for the online world and pivoted almost overnight with a virtual offering. It was not without apprehension, but we were astounded at how potent the yoga was even in this different dimension. The sense of community and collective support was incredible and we found ourselves reconnecting with old students from around the world. The Shala really became a support system to a global community during this time.
We are grateful that our studio doors are now open again for workshops and trainings and classes and we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our community in an ever-changing landscape. Teaching and practising in person has never felt so energising and we managed to also keep a remnant of our virtual offering by creating a library of on demand classes to practise in spaces outside of our South London Studio. In 2016, the Shala School of Yoga, our sister organisation, was set up to provide a platform for our most experienced Senior teachers to pass on their considerable knowledge through more in-depth courses and trainings. Our training programme has gone from strength to strength since then with nearly a thousand students having studied with us since its inception
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