Yoga Studio Spotlight: YogaŞala

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Yoga Studio Spotlight: YogaŞala

In this month’s studio spotlight we share YogaŞala‘a story, Turkey’s first yoga studio!

YogaŞala now operates three locations with over 160 weekly sessions and 100 instructors offering classes ranging from Ashtanga, Kundalini and Restorative Yoga to Face Yoga. Each studio, personally designed by Eleonora, the studio owner, features unique elements creating a warm atmosphere.

The future of YogaŞala is envisioned to grow organically, staying true to its mission of providing a nurturing and supportive yoga community.

How did you find yoga and what was your path from student to teacher?

I [Eleonora Bahar] moved to Istanbul about 14 years ago.  Although I was briefly introduced to yoga prior to my move, it was only when I moved to Istanbul that yoga became my regular practice. The yoga space became my home in a new city. I started attending yoga sessions regularly, I got to know the community and I was inspired by the Instructors and about the philosophy of the practice.  A regular practice enabled me to adapt to a new city and create a routine that was truly my own.  It was also crucial in helping me find inner peace during difficult times.  For about a decade I was a loyal member of YogaŞala. In 2019 I heard that the studio, which was my home in Istanbul, may shut its doors.  I decided to veer off my career path and take over the operation of the business from the owners at the time.  I was motivated to turn my passion for yoga into my new career path.  As a student of the studio for a decade I was able to see the positive aspects of the studio as well as some elements that needed an update.

I have been running YogaŞala for the last 4 years, each and every day I am continuously inspired by my role to promote yoga and mindful living in a vibrant and cosmopolitan city such as Istanbul.

What’s your approach/philosophy to your teaching?

Although I hold a Yoga Alliance Accredited 200 Hour Teacher Training Certification I have decided not to teach yoga at YogaŞala.  I enjoy managing the studio and opening the space to others.  By not getting involved in the teaching personally I strive to oversee the program in an unbiased manner.

How was YogaŞala founded and what inspired you?

YogaŞala was founded in 2001 and it was Istanbul's and Türkiye's first studio.  It started with only 2 instructors and 4 sessions per day.  Today, YogaŞala still operates at that same original location in the neighborhood of Nisantasi.  We now also have 2 more locations in other central parts of the city, Etiler and Bagdat Street.  We have over 100 instructors and we offer 160 sessions each week across these 3 locations. In addition to the sessions we provide in our studios we also have many corporate partnerships with hotels and other businesses.  Our Instructors teach yoga off-site vis a vie these partnerships. 

Tell us a bit about the local community and the energy the studios bring to the community.

Our Yoga community is very diverse; we try to present a variety of yoga styles that would be suitable to different age groups.  Some of our members come to the studio for a more physical practice, while others chose more meditative sessions.  We try to offer this wide selection as we believe that yoga can mean different things to different people.  Also we encourage our members to choose the yoga practice that is right for them on that given day.  Some days this may be a restorative yin session, while on another day an advanced Vinyasa flow practice may be just right! 

There are three beautiful YogaŞala studios around Istanbul, what did you have in mind and how has the designing of each place been?

I designed each of them with lots of love, I never used an architect, I chose each element because I felt like it was part of the story i wanted to share.  Some of the art came from my travels, other pieces were custom made. All three studios have unique yoga related pieces such as Giant Buddha sculptures, Gongs from Bali, intricate Krishna and Ganesh sculptures from India. These unique pieces contribute to the energy of the studios making these spaces a true escape from the chaos of the city right outside its doors. 

What is the goal or mission for YogaŞala?

YogaŞala means Yoga Home in Sanskrit.  As our name suggests, our studio was founded with the objective to create a warm home-like environment where people can come together and share their practice of yoga.  It is a space where we can escape the chaos of metropolitan city life and focus on our body, breath and spirit. In essence we come to YogaŞala to find the home within ourselves.

Can you tell us a bit more about the special teachings offered at YogaŞala?

Throughout the year we offer a variety of workshops by our local teachers and we also have the honor of hosting great international teachers from various yoga linages such as Ashtanga, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Hatha etc. Some of the teachers that have come though our studio doors in recent years are: Adam Keen, Dylan Bernstein, Gulnaz Dashti, Laruga Glaser, Michael Saunders, Yogeswari, and many more.

We also offer various Teacher Training programs accredited by Yoga Alliance, some specialize in Yin while other are Hatha based.  Through these programs we are able to instill the knowledge of yoga to a new generation of teachers.  After completing the TT programs, the new graduates have a chance to work with a mentor of their choice in a comprehensive Mentorship program which is aligned with their personal goals on their yoga path.

Why did you choose Manduka equipment to outfit the studio's with?

I have been using my own Manduka PRO™ yoga mat for the last 10 years, it still looks like new although it has seen 1000's of practices over the years!  When it was time to choose the right mats for the studio Manduka was the only brand I wanted to work with.  I trust its quality wholeheartedly. With thousands of members practicing on the studio mats in the last 4 years, our studio mats still look great, with no signs of wear and tear, which should have been inevitable at this point!  

Any learnings to pass along to new studio founders?

A studio is like a child in some respects, you need to really love it, you need to be ready to give it your all.  It will grow organically and become its own entity. However, as it finds its way it will need your guidance and undivided attention. 

What does the future hold for the studio?

As with my personal yoga practice, I try to stay in the present moment. Of course, I envision YogaŞala evolving, maybe growing.  But ultimately I believe in the organic evolution that has taken me to where I am today.  Today my focus is on brand new YogaŞala application that we have just released. This project has been on my mind since I have taken over the operation of the studio and now it is becoming a reality. Although still there is much to be done to develop it fully, I am truly excited by the progress! With each passing day I am grateful to have this opportunity to manage YogaŞala and call it my "work".

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    Learn more about YogaŞala in Istanbul, Turkey

    Find their three studio locations at and give them a follow on Instagram @yogasalaistanbul.

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