I was a self-confessed yogaphobe. Exercise to me involves weights and resistance, sprints and lots of sweat. Recently I’ve been working out almost every day; I’m also the most inflexible person I know (touch my toes? I can barely reach my ankles!), and these two factors got me thinking that actually maybe I should be doing something to improve my bendiness, and stretch out as a form of rehab after all the high intensity and impact workouts I was doing…
I went to my friend Jeff, a totally-inflexible-but-keen-as-mustard yogi, for advice on how to go about getting into yoga. He sent me essay-length emails with advice like
– “Ensure you pick a studio that’s not smelly – very important when everyone around you (and you) will be sweating like pigs”
– “You don’t want too much of that ‘you-are-now-one-with-earth’ hippy nonsense – makes me want to regurgitate yesterday’s lunch”
– “Watch out for the Bikram instructors – they can be aggressive and you know I don’t like being told what to do“.
Finding a suitable studio was going to be a doddle, clearly!!
I enrolled myself into a hot yoga class at Triyoga, with a beginner-friendly instructor and enviable location on the top floor of Soho’s Kingly Court (previously known to me only as Soho’s food court – who knew it offered exercise too?!). I had unwittingly chosen well, it turned out…
The Triyoga space is large, with a reception and retail area (filled with lots of lovely yogawear), a health food café (the gluten- and sugar-free banana bread is divine), small but modern changing rooms, and a single large studio. The studio is high-ceilinged, with sky lights and white walls – an unfussy space, stocked with mats (free to use and squeaky clean) and all the props for a class – balls, blocks, straps, blankets, bean bags.
The hot classes use far infrared heat to facilitate safe, deep stretching and detoxifying sweat. The heat is noticeable as soon as you enter the studio (around 36 degrees Celsius), but is not uncomfortable – perhaps because the far infrared waves heat the body (rather than the air), making the body feel hot and producing a detoxifying sweat at a more tolerable intensity than other hot yoga classes. You should leave feeling refreshed with a healthy glow.
Our instructor was Cheryl, a petite blonde dressed in lululemon who was thankfully very straightforward. There was none of the ommm-ing or spiritual jargon that I’d been worried about, just a workout that flowed from standing to floor, working and stretching every muscle in the body with deep stretches and strong holds, requiring core strength and excellent balance (though there were people wobbling all over the place, and no one judged!).
The heat was intense, though not oppressive, and combined with the muscle-quivering difficulty of Warrior, Tree and Dog shapes that I was making, the sweat was unreal – slippery ankles and sweaty palms certainly made some of the poses even more challenging! Even at the end of the class, there wasn’t a whiff of sweat or stale air – Triyoga really has got the bright and breezy thing nailed.
The class finished with a moment of calm laying on our mats, at which point I could easily have nodded off. But with a simple ‘Namaste‘ our hour was up – and I had actually really enjoyed myself. Sweaty mats were dumped in a huge laundry basket for a much needed wash, and the studio emptied.
I left walking tall, floating along in a dehydrated and flushed state of serenity. And even when I returned home to find myself locked out, the new yogi Nina remained calm and collected…. ish!
Triyoga Soho is a fantastically located space (there are other studios in Chelsea, Primrose Hill and Camden) offering yoga for all levels. With a focus on health and wellness, it’s welcoming to all levels from virgin to devout yogi, with a wide range of classes (including pilates, barre and power yoga) and instructors. I can highly recommend Cheryl as an instructor for the Hot Yoga Open class – one class with her and I’m planning to incorporate yoga into my weekly workout routine from now on. Although not the relaxing rehab session I had quite envisaged (I was stiff the following day!), the stretching and strength routine felt really good, and I was certainly closer to touching my toes by the end!
My top tips for hot yoga-virgins:
– Arrive well hydrated but bear in mind that your body can only absorb about 1 litre of water per hour, so don’t drink so much that you’re going to be bursting for the loo throughout the class! Drink lots after the class too (coconut water or cold-pressed juices are a good idea – check out The Juice Well or Roots & Bulbs)
– Remove all make up before the class. You will look like a panda if you don’t follow this instruction. Rinse off body lotion and perfume too.
– Bring towels – a small sweat towel for the class, and one for showering after.
– Dress appropriately. Avoid cotton and instead go for something synthetic and athletic to wick away the sweat – shorts and a sports bra for girls, shorts and vest for guys, barefoot. A bikini is not OK.
2nd Floor, Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW