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Thanks to this blog I’m getting quite used to turning up in my leggings to places that definitely don’t look like yoga studios because I’ve heard there’s a pop up class going on. But entering iconic restaurant Coq d’Argent, surrounded by lawyers and bankers hosting breakfast meetings was possibly the most under-dressed I’ve ever felt!

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Not that I was in the wrong place – I was joining Serene Social for their final rooftop yoga class of the summer, held on the restaurant’s gorgeous roof garden on an unseasonably warm late September morning. Serene Social is a very cool yoga community for women with outposts in New York and LA and the new London chapter run by American ex-pat and yoga teacher Leslie Saglio. Throughout the summer they’ve run classes with breakfast on the rooftop and have more yoga and health events planned in the city to mirror those that have been established in the States.

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Coq d’Argent is located near Bank, in the heart of the City of London so it’s unsurprising that it attracts well heeled business types to sample its famous French cuisine. Luckily the rooftop is situated a little separate from the restaurant so there wasn’t too much of a cross over between those of us in lycra and those in suits! It’s a stunning space, for eating or exercising, and has incredible views out over many of London’s landmarks.

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Leslie lead us through a perfect flow to warm us up and get us moving first thing in the morning under the Autumn sunshine (aided by some heaters!) and I ended the hour long class feeling suitably serene. Post class we were treated to breakfast from Coq d’Argent, teas and a goody bag from Neals Yard and delicious juices from Purifyne while we learned more from Leslie about Serene Social and their upcoming plans for more amazing events. At the start of the last warm weekend of the year, it was a perfect way to bid farewell to the London summer.

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Find out more about Serene Social at Serenesocial.com

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My friend Chloe is one of those people who is constantly on the move, travelling and teaching yoga around the world. So when she put on her Facebook that she was going to be briefly in London to teach a workshop I thought I’d better take my opportunity to see her, and when I realised that it was to be at uber swanky Kensington gym Equinox, I was even more excited.

I met Chloe a couple of years ago when she was hosting a yoga retreat with Loveyogabum, the company she co-founded, in Tuscany and really liked her fearless but kind teaching style. I hadn’t done a workshop for a while and it’s such a good opportunity to get to dedicate a couple of hours to breaking down some poses and try some new things. Although Chloe said that when in India she teaches for an average of three hours, this workshop was a more manageable two hours long.image

Equinox, where the workshop was held, is a fabulously glossy gym in Kensington located in the same building as the famous Kensington Roof Gardens (in fact last time I’d been in the entrance foyer I was on a friend’s hen do rather than in my yoga leggings!). While it’s a very chic gym, it was also really friendly with the woman on reception showing me personally to the changing rooms and making sure I had everything I needed. As well as rows of shiny high-tech machines, a mixed class studio and chill out lounge, Equinox has its own dedicated yoga studio. If you’re going to do yoga at somewhere that isn’t solely a yoga centre, it’s definitely preferable to go somewhere that has a separate room for barefoot exercise rather than sharing a space with sweaty trainer  wearers! Equinox’s studio is a gorgeous space with big windows looking out across West London roofs, floor to ceiling mirrors and barres along the wall, should your inner ballerina want to come out.2014-09-20 16.41.58

Chloe’s teaching is rooted in the Iyengar style so we all took bricks and straps for the class and we were lead through a series of flows and heart openers as we began working into deeper and deeper backbends. The joy of a workshop is having the time to explore new ways of practicing asanas and we worked in small groups of two or three to use straps and each others bodies to bend into salabhasana and bow poses, eventually working up to practicing dropping back from standing into wheel pose.

I’d never done a drop back before. It’s always been something that I’d seen practiced in classes with a teacher’s assistance but never thought I could actually attempt myself. But Chloe had us in pairs, helping each other out, and almost the entire class gave it a go! I partnered up with the lovely Vicky, Equinox’s PR and marketing manager and fellow drop back newby. One of us stood with our feet apart, hands in prayer, while the other stood facing them supporting their waist. The first person stretched their arms over the head and backwards towards the mat, while the other helped lower them into wheel. After taking a couple of breaths in the pose, the assist-er helped lever them back up to standing. It was tough and daunting (particularly when trying to prise the other person back up from wheel without dropping them on their head!) but hitting my first drop back was super exhilarating.10689922_614379832013017_8823267628980116738_n

The two hour workshop flew by and was rounded off with some yummy complementary Rebel Kitchen drinks in Equinox’s chill out lounge area which I would quite happily move into if I were a member. Catching up with Chloe and getting to explore one of London’s best fitness venues was an awesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I haven’t quite nailed another drop back as yet but hopefully it’s just a matter of time!

loveyogabum.com/

www.equinox.com/clubs/london/kensington

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I’ve recently discovered the gorgeous yoga and pilates clothes produced by Manuka – a London based luxury fitness brand which has a great selection of active and leisurewear. In fact, you could easily wear some of their products for chilling out or going to and from a yoga class, not just for the sweating itself!

They’ve got a cracking sale on at the moment, so I treated myself to a vest top and a long sleeve t-shirt which I’m planning on living in during my upcoming teacher training studies as it’s the comfiest thing ever and perfect for inbetween practices. (Just look how excited I am by it in the top pic!)2014-09-07 14.25.36

The vest top is made of luxurious brushed cotton (Manuka prides itself on its eco-friendliness and sustainability), which feels lovely against the skin, and has an in-built bra and great thick straps (no fiddling around with piddly spaghetti straps that always seem to slip down during class) which cross over the back. As it’s cotton rather than a sports fabric, I wouldn’t wear this to a hot class, but I tried it in a vinyasa flow a few days ago and found that the brushed cotton was really breathable and didn’t leave me feeling the top was heavy once I’d sweated a bit. It’s the perfect combination of having enough scaffolding and shape to it that you don’t feel unsupported, but is still very soft and comfortable.IMG_20140910_071549

And here’s another of the longer sleeved t-shirt. It’s got an Om on it! It’s so comfortable and is a flattering cut as it has two layers to it so, although it’s clingy, it’s very streamlined.IMG_20140910_071149

In fact I loved testing out Manuka’s clothes that I think they inspired me to nail my brand new party trick in this quick video (crow to headstand). Now they just need to help me work on getting out of it without the wobble!

Manukalife.com

Serpentine

Oh Lululemon, you don’t half know how to throw a party! After announcing their London arrival with a bang back in March by hosting an epic yoga class at the Royal Opera House, last week the Canadian fitness clothing brand hosted a summer event at The Serpentine Gallery in Kensington.

Every summer The Serpentine, which is in that beautiful part of London where Hyde Park becomes Kensington Gardens, commissions a renowned architect to design a pavilion – a temporary structure which stands outside the gallery from June to October. Not being the biggest of art lovers, I’ve tended to associate the Serpentine with the glossy party that’s thrown to open the pavilion each year, where photos of A-list attendees feature in places like Tatler, ES magazine or Mailonline. So when I received an invite to attend the Lululemon event I was intrigued to see how they’d host a yoga event in another unusual space.

 

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As with the Royal Opera House event, it was first-come-first-mat, and the threat of turning up to find that you’d missed a spot loomed somewhat. Luckily, some of my lovely Yogahaven friends had got there nice and early and we were able to get pretty close to the front of the queue. The long wait for the event to start was filled by games of Heads Up (my new favourite app!) and trying to peer into the pavilion to get a preview of what was in store.

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After an hour or so, and with an enormous queue behind us, the Lululemon and Serpentine staff opened the gallery doors and handed us a Lululemon goody bag with our essentials for the class – a bottle of water and small towel – before we left our belongings in lockers and headed out to the garden towards the pavilion. This year’s pavilion is an egg-shaped structure resting on large stones and the area around it was covered in brightly coloured Lululemon mats, making the whole space look like some kind of wonderful yoga playground.

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Lululemon’s awesome mid-class pic

Once all 300 (yes 300!) of us had taken our mats, we were introduced to the amazing Celest Pereira who was leading the class, and our accompanying music. This being a Lululemon event they had gone all out on the music, so we did our practice to the sounds of a live harpist, who was resplendent in a ballgown while the rest of us were in lycra!

The event was on the same day that yoga guru BKS Iyengar passed away and Celest started the class with a touching tribute to him and lit a candle in his memory before leading us in a warming (it had started to get chilly!) and dynamic flow. Despite the fact that we were all packed tightly together, Celest lead such a positive class that we all found ourselves doing tricky asanas that we might have not realised we could achieve! I overcame my doing-headstands-in-class-fear (fine at home impossible in a studio) to such an extent that I found myself coming up from crow into one. Hurrah! New party trick!

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Me with team Yogahaven!

After a brilliant hour long class, we showed our appreciation to Celest and the harpist and the Lululemon team told us that they’d love us all to join them for some prosecco in the pavilion itself. It was such a treat to be able to socialise with my yogi gang in such an amazing space while the prosecco flowed and we danced to an incredible live band.

A couple of hours later I got home to my flat with my gifted Lululemon mat under my arm and had to explain to my boyfriend why I was returning with another one (we’re outnumbered 2 people to 5 mats in a one bed flat)! Thank you Lululemon for yet another amazing event. If this is the company’s vision for London, then I can’t wait for more!image

 

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Although it’s still August, there’s definitely starting to be a bit of a chill in the air and a reminder that Autumn’s not too far away. In fact, as I write this, I have all the windows in my flat closed for the first time since about May and have had to dig out a hoody – brrr! So I’m desperately trying to make the most of the last couple of weeks of Summer when the weather decides to play ball. Thankfully, it did last Saturday for the True Yoga Collective launch event as the outdoor rooftop class would have been a slightly different prospect in the rain!

As it was the sun was shining so I headed back to the roof of Netil House, where I’d been just a couple of weeks ago for the Hotpod Yoga party. True Yoga Collective’s  event was held on a different part of the roof, which I’d completely missed the last time I’d been there and was set up as a beautiful outdoor studio. I met my yogi friend Jess, who had been on the Italian retreat with me, and after checking that we were on the list, we were given our True Yoga Collective wristbands (LOVE a yoga event that feels like an exclusive festival!)

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True Yoga Collective is a new online magazine, community and events company run by a team of yoga teachers to promote the search for truth in yoga. The guys behind it gave a really lovely welcome to everyone and an explanation of what the collective is all about before taking it in turns to teach the class along with a small army of adjusters. I thought having three teachers might make the class feel disjointed, but it was cleverly split so that we had one voice for the flowing standing asanas, followed by another teacher for the seated sequence and a final yogi to lead us through a savasana and meditation.

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After the class we were treated to delicious lactose free cupcakes, and some smoothies and juices while the yogis mingled and talked about exciting upcoming projects, after which I ate my cupcake incredibly indelicately while wandering through Hackney (icing everywhere!).

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The Yoga Collective launched its online magazine the following day, so it’s up and running and well worth a look.

 

Photo courtesy of Vince Starr - http://www.vincentstarr.com/home/

Photo courtesy of Vince Starr

I’ve written my first blog post for Om Exchange, a brilliant resource for yogis with a database full of classes, events and retreats. I’m thrilled that the site’s founder Indra has asked me to be a contributor and am looking forward to working with her on some more exciting things! My first article was reviewing the really fun yoga flashmob last week on Clapham Common, hosted by Yogahaven. Check it out here – http://omexchange.com/yogahaven-flashmob-on-clapham-common/

 

imageThe London yoga scene is growing at a swift rate (thank god, or I’d run out of things to write about!) but there are some yogi entrepreneurs (yogipreneurs?) who come up with an idea that makes you say ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Hotpod Yoga fits firmly into that catergory. Founded by Matt and Nick (who trained with Yogahaven), the company teaches hot yoga in inflatable pods which are put away at the end of each class. They have a number of locations across London, where they teach hot yoga without having to build new studios every time they go to a new area!

It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing ‘pop-up’ about Hotpod beyond the literal inflating of the pods – the pods are kept at each location so they teach classes regularly in the same place, but are able to transform any large enough space into a hot yoga studio. They also do corporate classes, so if you work in a cool enough company you could be doing hot yoga in the boardroom of a lunchtime.

image(3)But Hotpod has decided to take the plunge and build their first permanent pod and earlier this week I hopped on the overground East to Hackney to attend the launch party. The pod is perched on top of a huge roof terrace in Netil House, which is a centre for creative East London types who can hire desk, studio and event space and get everything from hot tub use to free coffees. It’s a very cool space and worth a visit to the rooftop even if you’re there for a beer rather than yoga.

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The pod itself looks like a shiny futuristic space craft with its glass walls that look out over the London skyline. I love the idea of going to and from the hot studio straight outside and I bet it’ll be particularly awesome in the Autumn / Winter with the sharper temperatures and sunrises and sunsets during the classes.

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We were so lucky that the party coincided with a gorgeous summer evening, allowing us to drink Pimms and Prosecco (my kind of yoga party) on the roof while watching the sunset over Canary Wharf and The City. My friend Felicity, who teaches for Hotpod, was there for the evening and due back to teach the 7am class the next day – dedication! It’s a really unusual and inventive hot yoga space. I’m almost trying to think of my own creative start-up so that I can move into Netil House with my laptop and take as many classes as possible!

Hotpod Yoga, Netil House, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL