Last Updated May 2020
Instead of squeezing yourself into a room full of people and getting confused by obscure class names, consider building a solid foundation at a boutique or private studio. Most of these places are run by experienced teachers who like to keep classes personal. Shanghai has a lot to offer, especially if your Chinese is okay.
A few suggestions:
Most of these studios are in Jing‘an and Xuhui. Class sizes vary from three to ten people, though there are options for all budgets and levels. Private sessions are generally around 400-600rmb. Cheaper if you buy more.
All contemporary yoga originated from hatha, and every studio offers a class with the name. The term now just means the class will focus on fundamentals – less moving around, less sweating, more focus on breathing and static postures. There are still places in Shanghai that keep the practice more traditional.
The term refers to a breathing and movement system. In modern yoga studios it is synonymous with "flow." According to T. Krishnamacharya’s son Desikachar, this method was used by his father to teach teenagers who wouldn’t stay still. The pace is usually faster and you move from one posture to the next without holding still for long. Every studio in Shanghai offers vinyasa or flow classes. Some are gentler than the other. Ask the teacher for guidance. If you fancy yoga-gymnastics, go to MANI Yoga.
This practice was made famous by BKS Iyengar, student and in-law of T. Krishnamacharya. It was made popular by virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin, Iyengar’s patron and long-time friend, who first invited him to teach in Europe.
Iyengar’s yoga focuses on minute details of anatomical alignment – he was badly injured due to intense postures and had to figure out how to practice safely. A lot of props such as belts, blocks, wall ropes and chairs are used. The method can seem dry and meticulous, but it helps build an understanding of the body and strong mental concentration.
His teaching has infused every yoga class that takes note of body alignment. Because of that, there are not many studios that specializes in Iyengar yoga.
Also called "Bikram Yoga" until that franchise went bust after an ugly sexual assault case. It is a fixed sequence of 26 postures practiced in a room set to 100-104F (38-40C). No, it does not burn fat, nor does it detox. You will certainly sweat a lot, but the temperature mainly prepares your muscles for deep stretches. Heating is expensive for most small studios, and so Bikram is only offered at big commercial studios. PURE, Y+ Yoga Center, and Vita Yoga all have classes in heated rooms. My Soul Yoga & Pilates has some good Bikram teachers.
The word itself means "eight limbs". The idea is that you practice all eight pillars of yoga (including aspects of social conduct, breathing, posture, and meditation) necessary for samadhi, a state of non-duality. Yeah, it's a little involved.
The posture practice focuses heavily on coordinating with breathing, so sometimes it’s also Ashtanga Vinyasa ("flow," remember?). In total there are six posture series of increasing difficulty but most practitioners choose to stay at Primary Series and focus on the other seven elements of Ashtanga.
Ashtanga requires dedication and discipline. The goal for posture practice in Ashtanga is doing self-practice — a "Mysore" – every morning, except for Sundays and full or new moons. Yeah, it's a little… esoteric. A teacher will be in the room during a Mysore practice, but only to assist. It’s perfectly ok to not know a thing – a competent teacher will slowly lead you through the basics and guide you towards self-practice.
Although big chain studios like Y+ and PURE offer Mysore program and Ashtanga classes, you should probably go to a place that focuses on it.
Here are a few reputable studios in Shanghai where the teachers are life-long Ashtanga practitioners:
If you want to stick with a certain lineage, say, Ashtanga, then it’s better to go to a place with the same dedication. Most teachers in Shanghai try to master many different types of lineages so they can offer more classes and stay nimble on the hot, hot yoga-teaching market, but that won’t help you much if you're looking for a deep dive.