Last week, for the summer solstice, 11,000 New York yogis gathered in Times Square, unfurled their mats and practiced in one of the most bustling urban locations on the planet. While there’s nothing like that in London quite yet (it’s only a matter of time, surely) more and more studios and teachers are offering yoga on rooftops, outside or just in unusual locations.

IMG_20140628_180820Yotopia in Covent Garden has been running free outdoor yoga sessions on a Friday over the past few weeks in St Martin’s Courtyard next to their studio, and I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime Rocket class. Despite lugging a yoga mat to work (I was by far the least popular person on the Northern line at 8.15am) there were plenty of mats available in the courtyard, laid out to transform it into a yoga studio sans roof. St Martin’s Courtyard consists of upmarket shops, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and offices and while our yoga session caused a bit of interest, on the whole people continued eating, shopping and generally going about their daily lives. There were plenty of passersby with their phones out though, and it was quite novel to be able to find pictures of the class on Twitter and Instagram once I was back at my computer with a couple of hashtag searches (#yoga, #coventgarden and #stmartinscourtyard all did the trick nicely).

IMG_20140628_180508Rocket seems to be gathering more and more of a following, and I spotted a couple of familiar faces at the class, which was taught by Lolo Lam. I’d heard great things about her, as one of the awesome teachers spreading the Rocket love in London, and she didn’t disappoint. I’ve never heard anyone enthuse quite so strongly about using mula bandha…!

Screenshot 2014-06-28 18.17.13There’s something awesome about practicing outdoors, even if in the middle of London rather than somewhere with slightly less pollution. Rocket’s so challenging that it was hard not to keep your focus on the mat rather than getting distracted by things going around you. The only time I was really aware that I wasn’t in a usual yoga studio was when I found myself reading the lunchtime¬† menu on a board outside the next door Thai restaurant upside down while in downward dog. Still, ‘focus your gaze on the chicken satay starter’ makes a change from your feet or navel. I think every studio should have one.

Yotopia, 13 Mercer Street, WC2H 9QJ