This time last year I got into a great habit of going to yoga most days. I never became any good, but loved the stretching, strength, balance and calming effect. As life got busier through 2018, my regular classes took a back seat, but I still get to a yin session once a week and always leave feeling on cloud nine.
One important thing I learnt from yoga last year was the joyous realisation that it really doesn’t matter how good you are; you do what feels right for your body on the day and no-one else in the room cares how elegant (or not!) you look. One thing is for sure: there is no end point with yoga so there’s no point in rushing to get there. However much yoga you do, there’s always more to learn and it takes many, many hours over months and years to even get past beginner stage. I am still a complete novice and I’m just fine with that.
Quite often in yoga classes, you’ll be given an option to do a more advanced version at certain points. It’ll go something like this: “if you have headstands in your practise you can do that now; otherwise stay where you are”. I always take the easy option and it’s invariably challenging enough, but seeing headstanders around the room I’ve often wondered when they first decide to give it a go. Chroma Yoga has come up with a brilliant schedule of regular workshops for people who want to get better at poses which come up time and time again in class. For this week’s new find I went to a headstand class.
What they say:
Our Orange classes are about learning the techniques you need to achieve a yoga practise which works for your body. These classes are taught in a casual workshop style and the teacher will take you on an in depth tutorial about how to reach poses which regularly appear in our other classes.
Each week we focus on topics such as back bending, forward folding, balancing poses or flexibility: BEND, FOLD, BALANCE and FLEX.
Whatever your level, you’ll always leave an Orange class having learnt something new.
Chroma Yoga in Shoreditch is a gem of a yoga studio. If I lived nearer I’d be there all the time.
Its USP is light and sound therapy; creating an immersive, multi-sensory experience while you practise. The one-room studio is stark white with a billowing ceiling. Each class has a different theme and the room is bathed in an intense colour selected to enhance the experience to match the session. Sound is key too, with an other-worldly sounsdscape playing throughout, designed to chill you the hell out (it’s highly effective). The room is warm but not stifling, just enough to make you feel supple, and a mist of aromatherapy oil tops things off.
As soon as you walk in the door here you feel as if you’ve entered a little portal away from the bustle of the surrounding streets. It’s like time stops still in this haven of calm.
The 90-minute Orange class is designed for people who want to understand some of the intermediate poses better, and I’d gone for a Fold class; I’m not naturally very foldy and getting any practical tips to improve my flexibility would be a good thing. The focus for this month’s Fold class was the headstand. I’d never tried one before but thought I’d be fine – I can do handstand push ups after all; how hard could it be?! Hmmm…
At the start of class our teacher, Dijana, explained that we’d go through progressions to the headstand and that – unlike in a normal class – we could stop and ask questions at any point. We’d have lots of opportunities to go upside down and would intersperse the headstand work with vinyasa flows to keep things moving, finishing with a bit of yin.
We started off with some myofasical release through the feet using a lacrosse ball – hurts so good! If you don’t own a lacrosse ball, get on amazon right this moment and order one. I carry one around everywhere I go and use it whenever I feel a niggle or bit of tightness – feet, glutes, hammies, lats… all those hard to reach places. It’s a dream piece of kit for just a few quid; you won’t regret it.
After that we did a couple of flows, getting used to being upside down in good old down dog, before progressing onto some headstand progressions. First of all we learnt where to position our arms and head and used the wall for support to get the feeling of being upside down and where the weight should be distributed through the head and shoulders. Next, we were taught to pike up into the position freestanding but with the wall behind for support. Dijana’s instruction was super clear, followed simple progressions and suitable for every level. She explained everything really well and made sure we felt confident and safe. For those of (ahem) with inflexible hamstrings she gave us great progressions using blocks, and the more advanced people were given great tips too. I was definitely one of the worst in the room and couldn’t get elegantly up into the pose at all. That was fine though; I got some great tips to progress and you can be sure I’ll practice these at home and be cranking out headstands in no time. There’s only so long you can spend upside-down and after each progression we’d sit in lovely child’s pose, interspersed with flows to keep things moving and to stop the shoulders from burning out.
Towards the end of the 90 minute class we spent some time in some utterly divine yin poses, including a wall supported frog – one of my all time faves.
One of the things I’ve found time and time again when I try different classes is that it’s all down to the coach. If you find a coach who’s passionate, knowledgeable, experienced, inspiring, encouraging and who manages to explain things well … you’re onto a winner! Dijana is all that and more. She’s clearly very good at yoga, but also climbs rocks, talks straight, explains things brilliantly, has the right amount of empathy and makes her classes enjoyable and useful without losing the spirit of how you should come from any yoga practise; full of gratitude and good vibes. Go to one of her classes if you can.
Chroma Yoga is fast becoming my favourite yoga studio. It’s small and quirky and wonderful. This class was simply brilliant; just the right balance of instruction, practise and flow. I left feeling full of smiles and keen to get upside-down again soon. Headstands are definitely being added to my ‘things to conquer in 2019’ list. Watch this space.
Where: Chroma Yoga, EC2A 3PD
Cost: workshops £17
How to book: http://www.chromayoga.co.uk