I discovered Yogateau a few years ago while researching inspiring yoga blogs around the web. Then I was lucky enough to meet up with the creative brain behind Yogateau, Martine Trelaun, during my stay in Paris in late 2014. I wanted to find out more about her story of living between the US and Paris and then deciding to move to the French capital and share an insider’s knowledge of yoga in Paris through Yogateau.
First, tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into yoga and came to live in Paris?
I have been in Paris since 2013 when I moved here from Brooklyn, New York. I am French and American, and spent my childhood switching between life in San Francisco, California where I was born, and wherever my parents decided to spend their teaching sabbaticals: Bordeaux, Nice, Paris and the tiny Pyrénées village where my father was born. As a kid, these moves were sometimes destabilizing, but as long as I could draw or do ballet, I felt grounded and satisfied. These two pursuits sustained me all the way through university (I danced professionally to support my art studies) and when I finally graduated with a graphic design degree, I realized that in addition to finding a job, I would need to find some kind of practice that fulfilled me the way that dance did—mind and body—but didn’t wreak havoc on my joints.
I tried yoga and liked it, but never had time to go to class more than once a month because my workload was so overwhelming. After a few years of 60-hour weeks, I finally hit a wall. I felt creatively empty and burnt out so, taking a page from my parents’ playbook, I decided to chuck everything and move to Paris. It was here that I was able to recharge my batteries, and part of that involved a daily Mysore practice with Caroline Boulinguez at Samasthiti Studio.
More than the yoga itself, what I think I responded to was the light in the space, the familiarity of the poses, time measured by breath instead of a clock, the smell of the wood floors, the feeling of participating in a group while still being utterly focused on my own effort.
From that point on, yoga became a key component to a happy life for me. After Paris, I moved to Los Angeles (trading Ashtanga for Anusara,) then to New Haven (lots of Forrest Yoga,) Seattle (a mix,) New York City (where I did one of my teacher trainings) before moving back to Paris.
Do you have a self practice or do you attend a studio regularly (or both)?
Both. I go to class about 2-3 times per week, and manage a home practice once or twice a week. I am a freelance graphic designer and work at home, so it’s vital for my mental health to get away from my desk and be around people for an hour or so.
How did you come to start up your Blog Yogateau and how long has it been running now?
I launched Yogateau in 2011 because my American friends were constantly asking me for advice about where to do yoga in Paris and I was tired of writing the same email over and over again! Through the years I had gathered quite a list of recommendations for teachers, studios, healthy restaurants etc that I realized that if all of my tips lived on a website, everyone—not just my friends—could access the information.
Can you tell me a bit about the yoga scene in Paris?
Compared with New York or Los Angeles, the yoga scene in Paris is young and going through a growth spurt. Popular studios are opening second locations in other neighborhoods, yoga retailers like Lululemon are planting their flags, Yoga Journal just launched a French edition, French yogis are saturating Instagram with selfies…
The scene is also reassuringly French: cold-press juices are exceptionally delicious, homegrown yoga clothing and accessories have a unique point of view, post-yoga café conversation can turn downright philosophical.
Does your average French person (difficult I know because what is an ‘average’ person?) ‘get’ yoga yet?
Yoga has existed in France since the 1930s, but more as a health and wellness modality like Tai Chi or “Gym Douce,” practices which target an older audience. As yoga has become trendier, the average French person is beginning to realize that it might be more than just chanting or stretching in Sanskrit.
Is yoga popular among Parisiens?
Yoga is definitely popular among Parisiens. I see men and women in lycra almost every day. This was not the case as little as 10 years ago. When I needed a yoga mat in Paris back then, I had to literally stop a yogi in the street to find out where she’d bought hers. Now they’re available in supermarkets.
What style of yoga is the most popular?
The two most popular styles of yoga in Paris are Ashtanga and Bikram.
What are some of your favourite studios to practice in and why?
There are so many places with amazing owners, great teachers and dedicated students. I love the light at Paris Yoga Shala which reminds me of some of my favorite ballet studios. I like Big Apple Yoga as well because it has a New York vibe that feels like home to me. I also can’t resist Yoga Village near Opéra. There’s something about the way the space is laid out that just feels right. My all time favorite place to do yoga, though, is at the American Church when Guerilla Yogi does their 2-hour Community Class on Saturdays.
Do many studios organise weekend retreats in the countryside?
Retreats are usually organized by teachers rather than studios, and they take place all over France and Corsica. Parisians get very cranky about the gray skies and the cold in Winter so they are always scheming to go somewhere sunny or at the very least, somewhere with a fireplace.
What are some favourite destinations in France for a yoga retreat?
Favourite destinations can be divided into three categories: those near a body of water (Biarritz, Côte d’Azur,) those near mountains (Cévennes, Alps,) and those in regions known for a particular gastronomical specialty or wine (which pretty much means every region!)
When I was there I went to an amazing class organised by a meetup group called ‘Affordable Yoga in Paris’ at the Salles Saint-Roche near the Tuileries. This class was packed and seems like it’s growing. Is this a reaction to high prices for yoga classes in regular studios?
It is absolutely a reaction to the high prices of classes in Paris. One of the first organisations to offer low-cost yoga was Yoga Solidaire whose classes run between 10-14 euros, and are held in different locations around the city. They donate a portion of the proceeds to charity which is cool. And your Affordable Yoga in Paris has become so popular, they’ve added a second location! Everyone agrees that cost shouldn’t be a barrier, so teachers and studio owners are coming up with options to make the practice more accessible. Even more fitness- and community-oriented groups like Conquer Your Day are creating affordable opportunities to unroll your mat.
How has your experience been running Yogateau? Do you meet a lot of yogis who appreciate the information and insights you provide?
My experience has been fantastic! When I launched the site four years ago, I had no idea if anyone would even pay attention but I kept working on it because it made me happy. It was fun for me to be able to create a directory of studios, share what I was discovering online and in person, design different features and take photos, interview different players on the scene, and talk about all of the other yoga-related things that I am interested in like music, philosophy, food, travel, art, design, books or fashion. Yogateau has always been about building community and dissolving the walls between different lineages in order to bring people together. At the end of the day, we are talking about yoga which, to me, is essentially a practice of connection. Whenever I meet yogis who know about the site, they are very supportive and enthusiastic. It’s immensely gratifying.
Do you live in Paris or will be travelling there soon? Be sure to check out Yogateau!