This year we are celebrating the 21st birthday of our yoga studio. 21 years, 252 months, 13,104 weeks, 91,728 days of yoga for the yogis of South London. So many moments, so many connections, so many vinyasas, so many ujjayi breaths!!! Here is some of our story from those two decades.
21 years: Connections
The Shala is many many things but mostly it’s about the people who gather under our roof and the connections that are made. The incredible teachers who teach with passion and integrity, our spirited Karma Yogis who generate a sense of warmth and kindness within our community and of course the students of all ages and walks of life who lay down their mats and commit to their practices. It is a melting pot of many personalities, cultures and energies, of life’s joys and troubles, ups and downs that all somehow settles into the unique vibe, that the Shala has. One wonderful student beautifully reviewed us on Google as “The Shala: kind, generous, nurturing, skilled”. We LOVE that.
21 Years: Our Founder
Every independent yoga studio has its own unique identity. The vibe of the Shala has been influenced by many factors including our inspiring team and the loyalty and friendliness of the students, but perhaps above all the identity and authenticity of the Shala has been defined by its founder Gingi (pictured above)who has been walking the yogi path for nearly three decades. Our laid-back, organic and unpretentious approach is definitely his hallmark!
Gingi talks about his early days as a karate kid on the streets of San Francisco, his relationship with his Sensei father, his first mind-blowing experience of India and his most influential yoga teachers here in his Blog.
21 Years: Our Shalas
The Shala means a place of practice in Sanskrit. Our light-filled peaceful West Norwood Shala is one of a number of places we have called home in South London over the last two decades. A converted warehouse space in Battersea named the Sangam was our first yoga home in 1998, from there we moved to Balham, then Clapham North briefly by way of Chelsea and Streatham. Each physical “home” was completely different but somehow the focused energy and the warm atmosphere that pervaded within was the same.
21 Years: Our Permanent Home
It’s been five fabulous years since we first laid down roots – and yoga mats – in West Norwood and WOW has the area changed with the influx of exciting new businesses and FEAST. Our opening weekend in February 2014 infused our new space with positive energy, it was a weekend of charged practices and hanging out over coffee in the lounge area with old-timers and new-timers. When we first took on the building it was an empty shell, cold, dark and lifeless, umpteen builders and limitless energy later, it took on a new lease of life and turned into a warm, inviting place of physical and spiritual learning and healing.
21 Year: Our Retreats
So many friendships and connections have been forged on the many yoga retreats we have run over the last two decades. The essence of our yoga community is really captured in the memorable moments spent in beautiful places, hanging out and doing yoga together. Highlights have been Chateau des Pauses 2005, Ulpotha 2002, 2016, Morocco 2011, La Gomera 2011, Goa 2009, EcoYoga Scotland 2016… the list goes on…..This is a time when relationships deepen, practices evolve, transformation and healing happens and adventures begin. Priceless moments for which we are grateful
21 Years: Inspiration
The Shala wouldn’t be in existence if it wasn’t for Derek Ireland (1949–1998) who is in so many ways the inspiration for the yoga centre. The Shala is dedicated to this extraordinary yoga teacher, who was instrumental in bringing ashtanga yoga to Europe. He started out as a semi-professional football player, moved on to become a punk rock promoter and then found his true calling as a yoga teacher. He was an inspiring and charismatic man whose legacy cannot be underestimated. This year he would have turned 70.
21 Years: Launch of the Shala School of Yoga
An exciting development in our story has been the launch of the Shala School of Yoga in 2017 which offers Yoga Alliance certified 200 hour teacher training courses and advanced trainings with some of the UK’s leading teachers. Our mission has been to raise the standards of teacher trainings in the UK by putting together a comprehensive course of true value, that will shape the foundations and the future potential of our trainees. It has been a ton of work but worth every minute of it for the feedback we have received.
“I can honestly say that The Shala TT course is one of the best things I've ever done. It's helped me so much personally, already, and it's such a privilege to be learning from such exceptional teachers, at such an incredible studio. I firmly believe that it is one of the best in the country.”
21 Years: Comings & Goings
Students come and go, they disappear, have families, move away, some even pass away and then some reappear. Teacher student relationships are formed and then lost and it is a constant reminder of the impermanence of life. But it is always such a joy to reconnect with past students when they do reappear and to pick back up with them from where we left off. One lovely student who practiced with us back in the late 90s, moved away, had a family and has now returned to do our teacher training programme. Her yoga journey started with us and it is a privilege to take her on to the next stage of that path.
21 Years: Our Students
It is always a huge inspiration and joy to have long-term students to the studio. Val first came to one of our yoga classes back in 2004 and honestly the Shala just would not be the same without this kind, gentle, thoughtful spirit who quietly rolls out her mat in our studio on most mornings. In the last 15 years she has done 2,800 hours of yoga with us. Astonishing. She is a walking advertisement for yoga! Sue, aged 70+, has been practising with us since 2007. and has done 1,638 hours of yoga with us since she first stepped through our doors. She is testimony to the incredible power of yoga to keep the body and mind – youthful, agile, strong and full of vitality.
21 Years: Ashtanga Roots
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga has been an integral system taught at the Shala for two decades. In our early days we were a dedicated Ashtanga yoga studio but as we have evolved and expanded we have embraced different styles, encouraging teachers to bring in more of their own personalities and personal approaches to teaching. So Ashtanga in a non dogmatic fluid form is still central to what we do, but you can now find other contemporary styles and fusions of styles, many of which have been hugely influenced by the valuable ashtanga system.
21 Years: Endorsements
"A sense of peace wafts at the entrance to the shala. Sincerely the warmest, most whole-hearted yoga studio I have encountered in my many years of practice. I instantly found a connection with this place and the team - just an open, honest and encouraging; liberatingly unassuming yet intriguingly magnetic living, breathing thing." SG
"Beautiful space, friendly atmosphere and passionate teachers. This is the true home of yoga!" MC
"a beautiful retreat for the soul" NR
Read more from the founder of the Shala here, about the evolution of the centre and the changing landscape of the yoga world during that time….