PMYoga, Islington

THE BASICS: Sunday morning yoga on Upper Street with Pete, the peaceful yogi of PMYoga. Classes are run in the hall next to St Mary’s Church, and are £10 a session, which is darn good value for a central London yoga sesh.

THE BITCHES: Carly and Freya

THE CLASS: 12.30pm is the perfect time for a Sunday yoga class. Late enough to have a lie in, but early enough to feel smug that you’re up, healthy and hangoverless. I trotted off to Upper Street in Islington for a class with Peter, with this smug, happy Sunday morning spring in my step.

I was met by Pete on the street in his little PMYoga bobble hat, which was too cute for words. We’d met previously at his Blue Cow Yoga class, and he’d invited me along to his independent class.

He showed me into the studio which is just to the left of St. Mary’s church. We went through the doors and into a ground-floor space with floor to ceiling windows, facing gardens. Fellow HB Freya was already there with her Sunday morning yoga glow- I felt really happy to be able to sit, say hello to my friend, align my body and calm my mind, ready for the class; all the while being able to watch people enjoying a gentle stroll through the church garden by in front of us.

The class was flow, but accessible for all levels. We began with a flowing warm-up of salutations, and I admit I was pretty whacked by the time this had finished- Freya who was trying to get back onto the yoga wagon after a few months off gave me a face that said “er, ok that’s me done” and I returned it with a face that said “yep, I hear ya”. We went into child’s pose, caught our breath, and lamented our levels of fitness.

Pete kept the atmosphere nice and relaxed- making jokes and challenging us to try certain moves with playfulness and in a pressure-off way. He gave us several alternatives for a number of poses, to accommodate for the different levels in the class- Freya and I managed to do most of the medium-level moves, which I was pretty pleased with.

One of the things I had particularly liked about Pete’s style when he’d taught Nicola and I at Blue Cow Yoga was the fact that he was softly spoken and keeps the whole practice light-hearted. This is what yoga should be about. A practice makes me feel best about myself if it encourages me to embrace my abilities and go with the flow, which is exactly how I felt during this class.

Pete’s gentle, laid-back style came across even more in his independent class than it did at Blue Cow. He demonstrated a handstand and how to elegantly propel ourselves up into handstand from down dog. It was all about having faith in your balance- which after several attempts I realised I did not.

I landed with an unladylike THUD every time I tried to push my legs from down-dog to gentle-skip-into-handstand, I’d say about half of us were thudding down in a similar manner. Pete was encouraging and gave good, positive feedback about how we might achieve those handstands eventually. He reiterated the fact that you have to start somewhere- I have been practicing at home since. They will be conquered!

The class continued and we were introduced to a shoulder twist that I haven’t tried previously; they were almost painful if you didn’t get them right. Our arms were wrapped right around us as we lay on our sides. As we wiggled into the pose with Pete’s instruction, there were groans and the odd “OW!” around the class, but once I’d managed to get it right, it was an incredibly deep stretch and unlike any other shoulder twist I have managed to wrap myself into previously.

I did almost get stuck when we had to un-twist ourselves out of this pose, and this wasn’t the only time I thought my body had finally given up on me and I was going to be stuck in a pose for the rest of my life. When we tucked one leg up and left the other stretched behind us in pigeon pose, leaning right forward for what must have been a couple of minutes, I was certain this was the last yoga pose I would ever manage…. I felt like the tin man in need of some oil when trying to unravel from this pose, and Freya was sniggering at her own tin-man predicament as the pose came to an end.

The final pose that sticks out in my mind came as we neared the end of the class and slowed the flow down, to work on some balancing poses. The bear pose works your core as well as balance. Imagine sitting on your tailbone, with legs outstretched and arms holding the feet. So we were balancing on our bottom/lower back.

I had the balance of a weeble-wobble, and slowly rolled backwards until I was lying on my back with my legs in the air. This wasn’t quite the point.  A few others suffered a similar fate, but Pete worked this into the pose and told us to have fun with it- rolling backwards and back up into the balance, imagining we were happy little bears.

It was then that he gave us a very serious look and said “you can be any bear you want, EXCEPT a koala. Because Koalas aren’t bears. They’re marsupials, aren’t they?”

That was it for Freya and I, we both rolled backwards, unable to control our laughter. This may go down as the best quote in yoga history. A genuinely hilarious class.

THE VERDICT: This is a fun, pressure-off class, gentle in personality but engaging in pace. The pace was fast and flowing without being so advanced that I couldn’t keep up. Pete made each pose or flow series accessible across all levels of the class, and I really appreciated that. I never felt like I couldn’t keep up, more like I was being coached to improve my practice by (every so often) trying something that felt alien to my body. Pete was gracious and the whole class chirped with laughter as we all endured our own determined practice. He really is a very peaceful yogi to learn from, and Sunday morning an ideal time to attend this class!

THE EXTRAS: Now then, if anyone has a hot line to old Santa, please can you let him know I am very keen to spend January 2014 in Goa on the retreat Pete is running. Let him know I will leave TWO mince pies out for him if he can deliver the goods.

(The last time I met a koala was in Australia in 2012. He was pretty cute)


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