Jiva Yoga with Zoe Sharp

THE BASICS: A dynamic and accessible yoga class in the most startlingly unexpected little oasis of calm, on Commercial Road.

THE BITCHES: Carly

THE CLASS: The lovely Zoe who runs these classes had contacted me through twitter and invited me to come and try out her Jiva Yoga class on a Monday night. I love a twitter invite and so off I trotted to find out what Jiva was about.

Bit of an aside here- I hadn’t dabbled in any sort of yoga other than Bikram until about June 2013, and so each “pure” yoga class I now attend is still very much a learning curve. I like to think that all of the yoga classes I now try outside of the Bikram sphere are a way of re-training myself from ingrained practice- there is such a huge amount of yoga I was missing out on by being a Bikram bunny!

I thought that Jiva would definitely fall into this category of being learning-curve yoga. In the description words on the website included “dynamic” and “playful” and so luckily I was feeling relatively calm about attending her class, despite never having tried Jiva before. I also did a little research prior, and discovered that Jivamukti is a form of vigorous Hatha yoga and so I felt (having survived some hot flow classes) that I’d just about succeed in not dying during this particular session!

Anyway- here I was. I had had exactly 45 minutes to get from office to studio on Commercial Road, and I was panicking. The tube had been its usual useless self…. I hadn’t had time to pick up any water or cash… I was going to be late. I was a sweaty mess by the time I arrived.

The studio itself is up four flights of stairs through a little door I thought couldn’t possibly be right. I thought I was walking into a block of flats! But upon reaching the 4th floor (breathless, obviously) and with seconds to spare before the class began, I peeked around the doorway and let out a surprised little noise.

Through this door was a gorgeous apartment style studio, with hardwood floors, stylish furnishings, beautiful lighting and lots of drapery, and (this is the part that made my heart palpate with excitement) a little tabby cat wondering around lapping up attention from the yogis on their mats! I honestly expected nothing quite as serene- it calmed me down instantly after aforementioned Commercial Road march.

After a nice friendly hello from Zoe, I slunk into a place at the back with a clean squishy yogamatters mat provided as part of the class. I just had time to give Chestnut the cat a quick stroke under the chin before he meandered off, and we were asked us to get into a seated position so she could start the class.

Before we threw ourselves into poses, Zoe took the time to remind us of the importance of honouring ourselves during today’s practice. Now I am not overly spiritual but I am increasingly understanding the opportunity yoga gives you to listen to your body and abilities, and also the way in which it is enhanced if you are mindful and “in the moment”.

I made a promise to myself there and then to stop thinking about how stressed I had been minutes earlier, and to heed Zoe’s words- to just honour little old me for the next hour. “Hello awkward and clumsy body of mine” I thought to myself “I am going to be kind to you for the next hour”. It felt nice to be in this frame of mind. And so we began.

The transition between movements was fast from the off- the dynamic description on the website was definitely correct. We must have moved through quite a hefty number of back stretches and sun salutations by the time the first ten minutes was up- as everyone was slightly breathless.

Zoe’s instructions were clear, concise and fast-paced, and the group moved (just about) in unison to keep the flowing movements up. She also reminded us of how each movement should be synching up with a breath “inhale updog…. and exhale downdog” was becoming my mantra by the time we had reached the ten minute mark.

Throughout the class, we went through several different sequences, each of them flowing. I think my favourite two were the standing splits (think standing collapsed umbrella in my case), and the bow pose sequences. This is because of the way in which we were talked us through each movement and also encouraged to hold a pose whilst struggling and/or hanging upside down. Zoe made things funny and light, and challenged us not to take practice too seriously.

One comment that made me giggle and nearly lose my balance during standing splits- we had just finished on the right side and beginning the sequence on the left side. I was starting to grimace. “The second leg is both better than the first leg, and also worse” said Zoe, matter-of-factly. “Better because you know that at least the first leg is over, and also you know how many movements until you get to finish… but also, it’s worse, precisely because you know how many movements you have to go through until you get to finish, ha!”

There you have it- the bittersweetness of the second leg of a yoga sequence, summed up in one hilarious sentence!

The bow pose sequence was similarly light-hearted, as we were encouraged to lean forward and kick our supported leg up until we fell forwards and out of the pose- a perfect example of how this was a class getting the balance right between fun and yoga practice. Everyone eventually fell out rather unceremoniously, and we applauded the last man down- great fun.

A feeling of fun continued throughout the class (in the Goddess pose- “this is also known as the horse pose. I certainly don’t feel like a Goddess, does anyone else?”) and it left me feeling uplifted and really happy by the time our final savasana pose came. I was slightly breathless, and enjoyed this final deep relaxation. It sounds cheesy to say but I could feel a good energy around me, and was also sweaty enough to justify the quantity of dinner I consumed when I arrived home after class.

THE VERDICT: My muscles ached until Thursday- particularly my upper body! I felt worked, sweaty and revitalised by this class, and the calmness of the atmosphere in the studio was almost tangible. I giggled a lot, strains of Florence & the Machine and TLC floated pleasantly through the class as we practiced, and I got to stroke a cheeky little cat. Life at Jiva yoga is good.

THE EXTRAS: Yogacats. Heh. Also see a real life photo of a chilled out Chestnut here!!

Cat yoga!

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