THE BASICS: A focused, ultimately incredibly relaxing drop in Hatha yoga class, in the upper hall at the Claremont Building, close to Angel Station (Wednesday nights)
THE BITCHES: Carly, Sarah, Karishma and Alexandra
THE CLASS: I was first introduced to Stretching the City when we invited them into our office in Farringdon to run an unconventional hen party for one of our colleagues. The lovely Paula ran the class, and despite the fact that half of the office took part in the class in their chinos and boaters, it was a great session. I had been impressed at the organisation, friendliness of the owner Sally, and the class itself was an absolute winner- something we had never done before and something we will definitely do again!
When Sally got in touch after the class and mentioned Stretching the City also ran classes close to Angel Station, several of us were really keen to sign up. We were absolutely delighted at how reasonably priced the classes were, and they were at just the right time after work (7pm in our case). And so the day job finished, and off we trotted for the 7pm class!
The class itself takes place upstairs in a sweet little arts and community hall called Claremont, which is a short walk down White Lion Street, in between the HSBC and the Pret (nice and clear on the website). It was super easy to find (it’s on the left as Upper Street lies behind you). It looked like a martial arts class of some kind was taking place in the lower hall…. Don’t do what we did and stand gormlessly watching the participants, wondering if this was where the yoga class was meant to be taking place- you need to go upstairs! There are signs so it is clear to find- I am blaming our idiocy on a long day at work.
You do however need to get changed in the loos, and so if you have time before the class you might fancy getting into your yoga pants at home, more for the sake of ease, really. The facilities are there anyway, so it depends whether your yoga clothes are suitable for public viewing, I guess!
Anyway, we found the upper hall, and it was a wonderful class size- 8 of us in total. You struggle to find class sizes like this in London anymore, so it was a really welcome surprise to attend a session where you would have almost guaranteed interaction and attention from the teacher when corrections were needed. Bags were left at the back of the room, and mats and blocks/straps were all provided. Incense was burning and a gentle soundtrack was playing in the background. Additionally, the class took place with all of us facing big light windows, which was beautiful as dusk set in. Lights were kept low, presumably to keep the atmosphere relaxed, but also to allow us to appreciate the natural light. All good!
Maren, Wednesday’s teacher, took time to explain the focus of the class, and set the tone for the hour- warm, open, relaxing and non-judgmental. I was a Happy HB indeed at this promising start- nothing breaks your spirit more than a competitive yoga class tinged with the stresses of the day (and you do find a lot of them in London!) Us yogis just want to relax!
And relax we did. This class focused on keeping our shoulders and pectorals engaged but not hunched, which was a welcome relief after sitting at a computer screen all day. By spending the hour really focusing on releasing this tension and replacing it with strength- and learning that the two are completely different sensations- it really made me realise how much tension I carry around in my shoulders, and to be far more aware of how to rectify it.
Breathing and flowing movements were interspersed with focused shoulder work, and our downward dogs were corrected as needed, thanks to the lovely size of the class. Sometimes Maren’s explanations needed her to pose in order to show us what she meant, but I felt this reinforced her words in a positive way.
I honestly forgot the entire day by the time the last ten minutes of the class flowed over me. I haven’t attended many pure yoga classes before, preferring the hot, fast, furious kind (hey, I am an angry stressed out Londoner, forgive me!) and so I was slightly apprehensive that I wouldn’t find this challenging enough, or like enough of a work out. I was wrong on both counts. I felt my muscles very acutely throughout the class, and the focus on stabilising and isolating them made for a strong, challenging session.
The relaxation experienced at the end of this class was totally different to that in hot, fast yoga- that feeling is the exhausted, pulsing, delicious kind. This relaxation was light, clear and completely still. It was so welcome after a day at work, and a good addition to an otherwise frantic daily work-out programme. And all HBs in attendance commented on how amazingly chilled out they felt as we all floated off home. (We also all had a good kind of shoulder ache the next day- I didn’t even know where my puny little shoulder muscles were until attending this class).
THE VERDICT: A sweet yoga studio, a lovely attendance size and a good class to teach you isolated focus on strength mixed in with Hatha…. and a sublime 10 minutes of being the most relaxed human on the planet!
THE EXTRAS: Chillango is just around the corner. You know it. I know it. NO! I mean, no offense to burrito yumminess but GO HOME, put on a onesie and EAT SOME SALAD!!! You’ll thank me for that.