Week 21: Deep Core at Fierce Grace

After last week’s amazing boxing hiit sesh at BXR, I fancied trying something a little slower paced this week; enter Fierce Grace.

What a name – perfectly encapsulating a fusion of strength, discipline and serenity with a sprinkle of playfulness. Their logo is an outstanding piece of design too.

Fierce Grace has 6 hot studios across London, the first opening in the 90s, when their founder brought Bikram to the capital. Fierce Grace is a fusion of different yoga styles, offering 5 classes, all in a hot studio, and all centred around their key principles of strengthening the core and arms, improving spine alignment and opening the hips.

This is not strict yoga with rules & chanting, they say “you don’t have to become a new person just because you’ve walked into a yoga studio – we’ll work with what you’ve got”.

I booked in for a Deep Core class – a 75 minute entry-level class promising “the deepest stretch out there”.

What They Say:

We wanted to create yoga studios which felt non-corporate and that didn’t make people feel uncomfortable or out of place, but feel as if they had come home.

The Fierce Grace system draws on classical yoga systems, such as Bikram yoga and Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga and Classical hatha sequences, but with the sequencing and modifications based on the needs of students.

From the Fierce Grace manifesto: “Yoga is about being happy, being who you are now, even if that doesn’t look perfect… it’s about being nicer to the homeless person, to your bank manager, to your mum… get off your bum… buddhas, incessant chants and mudras won’t get you there. We will not om you.” Check out the full thing here

My Experience:

One of the things I’m loving about my weekly new fitness discovery is going to parts of London I don’t know… emerging from a tube station I’ve never been to before and seeing what the surrounding area has in store. It reminds me of the Faraway Tree, one my favourite series of books as a child, about a magical tree whose branches reached up into different worlds… the children in the stories never knew which world they would emerge in at the top! This week: Chalk Farm. What a delightful spot! I got there early and had a stroll around the leafy streets and a cuppa in a bustling cafe. Some of the houses around here are ridic.

The Fierce Grace Studio is easy to spot – located in an old railway ticket office right by the wide pedestrian railway crossing. It’s small, light and quirky, and felt homely from the moment I stepped foot in the door.

I told the receptionist I was a newbie and was greeted with a cheery “ah! You must be Holly!”. She asked if I’d done yoga before, set me at ease explaining I could stop and lie down any time I wanted, and showed me around the studio. I forgot to bring a mat and towel, but you can hire them there.

The studio itself has frosted windows at either end, a huge mirror down one wall and dainty chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Old features have been retained and it’s easy to picture the room as a busy ticket office back in the day! This is hot yoga, and it was certainly hot… but not unbearably so.

The studio quickly filled up with about 30 people – mostly girls and a smattering of guys. Our instructor came and spoke to me – reiterating what the receptionist had said, and making me feel comfortable that I didn’t have to try to force myself into positions that weren’t happening! She had a mic so you could clearly hear her throughout without her having to raise her voice, and there was calming music playing in the background.

Yoga always gets me thinking about body shape. As ever at yoga, I felt like a staffie amongst whippets! Lots of long lean girls with very bendy limbs and not a lot of muscle. Pretty much everyone was in a bra, but there wasn’t any self-consciousness, no-one cares about a roll of back fat in this environment, it was refreshing.

We started off with a plank and downdog hold… just a few minutes in and I had sweat dripping from my nose and trickling down my neck – I was thrilled I’d chosen the easy class! The transitions between each movement were clearly explained and our instructor gave individual guidance on alignment and scaled options throughout – seamlessly directing both individuals and the group. There was plenty of opportunity to get deep into each pose, but we didn’t spend so long that it ever got uncomfortable. As we moved through the series, I realised that I’m actually starting to know the names of a few of these yoga poses – yay! Pigeon – yup, Frog – know that one, the Cat, Dragon and Cobra… bring em!

For a lot of this class I had to grab a strap and looked round in awe as the rest of the class contorted themselves into positions that are simply never going to happen for me. At one point, the girl in front of me was sitting with her leg tucked behind her neck as I awkwardly winched my ankle a couple of inches off the floor… but it didn’t matter. Every single pose was scalable, and I got an incredible stretch for me.

The poses were mostly seated or lying down and we worked through hip and shoulder openers, core control, spine flexibility and hamstring stretches. There were short opportunities to grab a sip of water, but – while slow and steady – we didn’t ever really stop.

As we came to the end, I was surprised 75 minutes had gone by so quickly. We had a quick seated meditation and then lay down for a few minutes to finish. This was one of my favourite parts! Our instructor suggested we gave ourselves a cranial and neck massage while lying there… why have I never done this before?! It was blissful.

I had a quick cold blast in the mosaic-tiled showers and came out into the drizzly night feeling like I was floating on air. I was in such a zen state, I kinda felt like I’d been walloped round the head, and the rest of the evening was a blissful blur. Needless to say, I slept like a baby!

I would definitely go back to this class again. Speaking to the instructor afterwards, she said some people find it too slow (I didn’t at all!) and it sounds as if the other classes are no joke! For seasoned yogis, they do a Fly class, focusing on arm balance and inversions, as well as the signature Fierce Grace and Beast classes for the advanced

In Summary:

The homely studio is quirky and lovingly designed. This is a really friendly, modern approach to yoga, in an environment that’s inviting for all levels. As a novice I got a lot from this class, but you could see seasoned yogis were getting a lot from it too. The instruction was excellent and I can’t imagine anyone coming away from here without feeling at least a little better than when they walked in.

If you don’t like sweating or humidity… this is probably not for you (we’re talking wring your clothes out sweaty), but if you’re happy to go with the flow and get a great stretch on, you will love it!

Where: Fierce Grace, NW1 8BE

Cost: £13-17 single drop in (depending on length of class), packs available and monthly membership at £98.

How to book: www.fiercegrace.com

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