After a year’s hiatus, I’m back on a mission to try different fitness experiences. Last year I loved my weekly fitness outings and tried loads of things I’d never normally get round too.
Since last year, the one thing I’ve kept up fairly regularly is yoga. It took me quite a long time to ‘get’ it, and I still feel like a total newbie, but it’s not so alien to me now. I used to feel like yogis were a different breed, but it’s not all hemp clothing and lentils! Last week I spent an evening playing darts (at Flight Club on Oxford Street – so good!) with the other London lululemon ambassadors, many of whom are yoga instructors, and it was a room full of positively glowing people! Yogis just have a totally chill vibe and it rubs off on your when you spend a bit of time around them – even if it’s just a class or two a week.
Everyone can do yoga. If you’re new to it or tempted to give it a go, there are a few things I think I would’ve found useful to know when I started:
1. The classification “yoga” is VERY broad. It’s a bit like “vegetables”; just because you like potatoes, it doesn’t mean you like kale. Try different types with an open mind and you’ll find your jam
2. Take your shoes off at the door. It’s basic stuff but I didn’t know this for my first couple of sessions – taking shoes into a yoga studio is a no-no
3. Take a towel. I find carrying a yoga mat under my armpit is a bit of a faff, but chuck a yoga towel in your bag to cover the mat in class. There’s nothing less zen than being facedown, wondering whose bare feet were there before you
4. Don’t try too hard! Yoga is about doing what’s right for you on the day. Literally no-one else in the room cares how flexible you are, just do you.
The type of yoga I thought I’d keep up (hardcore ashtanga) and the type I’ve actually kept up (slow paced yin) are poles apart. Yin yoga is floor based, holding poses for a long time – often 5 minutes plus. It’s relaxing but not easy and I always feel amazing by the end of a session. It takes patience, but the deep release is a great antidote to the high intensity/heavy training I do most of the time and taking the time to check in with my body can’t be bad. I normally do a class once a week and I’m pretty sure this has contributed to my body feeling its best, partly because it makes me aware of niggles or tightness before they become an issue.
For my first foray back into Hols Does Fitness, I went even more zen, with a restorative and yoga nidra class at Bhuti in Richmond.
What they say:
Where slowness is key and poses are held using props to allow precious time for the practitioner to savour the body opening, releasing and letting go. A highly calming and soothing yoga for mind and body, tapping into the layers within us that need this pace to unwind and pause. Class includes gentle somatic movement and simple myofascial release techniques to help with range of motion and tension. Blissful!
I’ve become a bit of a regular at Bhuti and every time I step in the door of the studio on Richmond Hill I feel a wave of relaxation swoosh through me. It’s a very calm space, with a small shop, cafe (vegan, natch) and an ultra chill lounge with day beds, pods suspended from the ceiling, whale music and herbal tea on tap.
I was early for the session and had a blissful half hour wrapped in a blanket with a book and cup of chamomile before class started (current read: Atomic Habits, definitely worth a nose if you’re interested in behaviour change).
The class itself was held in the main studio, which is a stunning mirror-walled room with a stained glass roof. Candles were lit all around and our instructor, Lucy, told us we’d need two bolsters, two blankets, blocks and an eye mask… all the gear… which we duly collected from a tidy stack in the corner.
We started class with some admin, making sure we had all our props neatly within reach and folding our blankets the correct way to provide optimum support… I Iiked it already!
Other than the very first pose, a standing fold (think rag doll), the entire 75 minute class was on the floor. We started just lying on our backs, focusing on breath and winding down. Once we were in the mellow groove, we went through a slow series of gentle twists and stretches, with guidance on thinking about particular parts of the body and checking in with the breath.
In between poses there was a bit of movement of props, but it was all very slow and serene.
After a few long poses we stacked up our props for something called queen pose. Essentially, this is an elevated rest position, with the back supported on a raised bolster and knees falling out in a butterfly shape, all while tucked under a soft blanket. Lucy said we were going to spend 15 minutes here… at first my chimp brain was like “15 minutes?!!” but it quickly quietened down and it really was a blissful state. I definitely didn’t fall asleep, but awareness of time and surroundings went a bit hazy and the time was up in the blink of an eye. From there we went into savasana, lying flat on the back, for the final restorative pose.
Nidra is supposed to emulate the state of consciousness between wake and sleep. In psychology this is called the hypnagogic state and many scientists, artists and musicians (Edison, Dali, Aristotle and Mick Jagger among them) claim to have found some of their best ideas come from this semi-slumber state. I can’t say I had any major creative enlightenment, but I did feel super tranquil by the end of class.
I drowsily got layered up and strolled out into the dark evening feeling like I was cocooned in summer clouds; my sleep that night was divine.
For me, this was simply a proper chill out and switch off. How often do you give yourself 75 minutes to just be quiet? The voice guidance meant that focus was on the body and breath rather than the to-do list. Doing this in a lovely studio is part of the experience, but you can get nidra guidance online if you wanted to light some candles, build a den and get your zen on at home.
Cost: drop in £18, packs and monthly memberships available
How to book: http://www.bhuti.co