Archives for posts with tag: London

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Things have taken an exciting turn in my yoga life as last week I officially started my 200 hour yoga teacher training course with The Yoga People. I’m really excited to take the next step towards building a career in yoga, even if it’s sometimes overwhelming and scary! I’m going to be blogging over at Om Exchange during the course, charting the ups and downs and how much I’m learning, and you can read the first week’s installment on there now.

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A couple of days before my course I went to a Visions and Goals session at Lululemon in Marylebone. It’s the kind of event I’d have previously shied away from (I can get very British about these things) but it seemed like too much of a coincidence that it fell just before I was starting on something potentially life changing. So I un-stiffed my upper lip and went along to what turned out to be a really inspiring and worthwhile event, with a group of us setting out plans for where we’d ideally like to be in one, five and 10 years time. Lululemon run the events across all their stores so keep an eye out for them as they’re well worth going to!

Finally, I’ve also started writing for True Yoga Collective, and you can read my post on Creating a Home Retreat on the site now, with lots more to follow!

 

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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!

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www.equinox.com/clubs/london/kensington

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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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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

 

imageBy far the most iconic recent addition to the London skyline is The Shard. (I spent the night before it opened two years ago sitting with friends outside a pub in Southwark telling everyone there was going to be an amazing light show to launch the building. By 10.30pm someone had the sense to Google its launch date and discover that we were in fact 24 hours early….) Standing as the tallest building in Europe, The Shard already attracts tourists, and gourmands to its exclusive restaurants, but it’s going to start seeing a lot more people in lycra and bare feet as  it’s started to offer the highest yoga classes in London.

2014-06-03 08.30.25Yogasphere has launched classes on Saturday mornings at The View from The Shard, which is twice as high as any other viewing platform in London (put that in your pipe and smoke it Canary Wharf). After jumping in two lifts, yogis disembark at the 68th floor to be met by Mandy and Leo, Yogasphere’s teachers.

imageThe 40mile view is unquestionably stunning, even on the grey miserable day that I attended, and Leo and Mandy have transformed the space into a studio, with their mat at the front on a slight angle, and two groups of yogis facing towards them on two of the View’s four sides. The class was open to all levels, and was pitched perfectly to make sure you didn’t fall out of a balance while gazing out at the Tower of London across the river (yes, that might have happened to me…)

IMG_20140603_140058At £40, it’s not the cheapest of classes but when you take into account that it costs £25 just to visit The View, it’s worth every penny. If you’re a yogi visiting London, or just have a Londoner’s love of your city, I can’t imagine why you would miss the opportunity to try this.

The View from the Shard, Joiner Street, London, SE1 9QU

 

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As a rule, Oxford Street wouldn’t be my first choice of location to be spending a bank holiday Monday. But this week, I skipped the traditional bank hols lie-in and jumped on the 137 bus to Selfridges for a chance to practice yoga in London’s best department store.

Selfridges is currently hosting The Beauty Project, ‘a six week programme of pioneering talks, interactive debates and immersive beauty experiences’, which includes talks from eminent journalists, models and beauty industry insiders about how we see and experience beauty in the modern world. It’s a comprehensive project and the whole store is celebrating it, with a giant Hello Beautiful sign on the store’s famous facade, and signs and branding inside. The initiative is being run in association with Dove and, while I’m not always a fan of their real beauty campaigns (this brilliant send-up video sums it up for me), there are some hugely important issues being raised about how women, and girls, see themselves and each other.

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Anyway, as part of The Beauty Project, the always awesome Secret Yoga Club are hosting a few classes throughout the six week  period and I went along to their inaugural class on Monday morning in Selfridge’s Salon (if you know your London department stores, it’s the space that hosts the Christmas decorations shop later in the year). The Salon is a striking pink and black space with various stagings, cushions, seating and props for it to host the different events.

Harriet Bone from SYC took the class accompanied by live music from Jason KaliDas, who I’m pretty certain also played at The Yoga People class I attended a few months ago. It was a lovely luxurious two hour jivamukti inspired class which was reasonably challenging for an open class but ended with a blissful Savasana and massage. What was brilliant to see was the range of people the class attracted, from experienced yogis to newbies and girls in their late teens to middle aged men.

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You knew you were practicing in one of the world’s chicest stores when one lady turned up for class in towering strappy heels and a silk jumpsuit and just kicked off her heels and got on the mat. One yogi’s gorgeous (and enormously well behaved) young son sat quietly at the back of the room for the whole class, either playing silently on an iPad or just watching the class.

After the Royal Opera House and Selfridges, I’m getting the hang of practicing in some iconic London buildings. Luckily I hope to have a couple more up my sleeve…

Yoga at The Beauty Project, Selfridges, Classes £15