The Atrium – Portland Building. 7 PM on Thursday.
Yoga – it’s for hippies, middle age women and people at Centre Parcs, right? Well perhaps not. In the past thirty years it has enjoyed an explosion of popularity and there’s been a lot of emphasis given to the mental and physical health benefits that regular training can provide. With that in mind, and despite being one of the most inflexible individuals on the planet, I decided to give Yoga a try.
The class itself consisted of one irritatingly attractive guy (the tosser), a dozen girls and the teacher of the session, Jess. She was unbelievably pleasant and did a lot to create a laid back atmosphere, an important factor when you consider that much of the time is spent with your arse sticking in the air. She struck me as someone who’s lived an interesting life – I can totally picture her running a hippy commune in the 1960s and protesting the Vietnam War with free love and consumption of hallucinogens.
She taught us a mixture of yoga along with a smattering of kung fu and tai chi, so there wasn’t much space to be bored. To start with I was more concerned with a) the overwhelming feeling that I was doing everything wrong and b) the fact that my neither my trackies nor my T-shirt fit me at all (I really need new clothes). But as we continued I gave less of a crap and began to really enjoy the experience. Although I still feel bad for the girl behind me – she can probably tell you more about my lower back than I can.
Many of the positions were difficult to maintain, but they weren’t massively painful. I got a real sense that I was giving my muscles a workout, but it never felt like a gruelling ordeal that had to be endured. Most of the moves she showed us came with more advanced equivalents if we wanted to push it a little harder, meaning there was room for every level of skill.
This is not yoga.
The music really added to the experience. I was expecting spaced out recordings of river water or a CD of whales doing it (that’s a thing, right?) but she played some really good stuff: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel amongst a few others. I even enjoyed the cheesier tracks, but to be fair, everyone loves ABBA deep down inside – don’t deny it, of course you do.
After over an hour of yoga-ing the pace was slowed down and we stretched out on our mats for some meditation. To begin with I lay there mulling over how dumb it felt, but her softly spoken requests for us to let our worries float away eventually won me over and I spent the next twenty minutes on the edge of nodding off. The only thing that actually kept me awake was my guilt that I’d dragged my photographer friend along to sit and watch a room full of people lying on the floor (sorry Evelyn).
I finished the session feeling thoroughly exercised, chilled out and in a far better mood than I was when I turned up. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time in the gym, you should seriously consider giving yoga a go. It’s a brilliant accompaniment to traditional strength exercises and has the added bonus of relaxing the living hell out of you – I slept like a baby that night, although I did spend the morning after hobbling about like an arthritic old man.
Sure you might not be particularly bendy, but yoga isn’t just about pulling your bodies into uncomfortable shapes. It’s healthy, fun and you get to the listen to ABBA – what’s not to love?
Try out a free yoga taster session on 5th March (Oxfam International Women’s Day) in the Portland Atrium, 12:30-3:00pm.