THE BASICS: This is yoga like nothing I’ve tried before. 75 minutes of snuggly, gentle poses, held for a long time (at least 5 mins per pose) in a softly lit but airy Embody Wellness studio, 3 minute walk from Vauxhall tube. Relax and restore yoga uses a lot of props including bean bag bolsters and blankets to cocoon you as you rest, setting your mind free from the stresses of the week. If, for you, Friday nights are for escaping from the week and indulging in some quiet, reflective time, then this is the class is a must. £14 for 75 min class, or £12 for 60 mins. Deals available.
THE BITCHES: Carly
THE CLASS: I’d taken several of Paula’s classes previously, and so when she invited me to try Relax and Restore at Embody, I was happy to pop along and give something new a go. Typically I’m a huge fan of hot, dynamic flow yoga, and so to try something like this that was very slow, with prolonged moments of complete stillness, was going to be interesting! I do however, much prefer a gentle class to ease myself into the weekend on a Friday night, shying away from bars and booze. And after an indulgent few weeks, this was much needed!
Embody Wellness is a very short walk from Vauxhall tube station, nestled in the St. George’s Wharf complex. Its floor to ceiling windows on either side mean you get a great view of yogis doing their warriors as you approach the studio from the street (you don’t notice people on the street when you’re in the studio). Bruce, the studio’s owner gave me a friendly, humble welcome, and showed me around. Lockers need a £1 coin (which is returned), and there are private changing booths.
I’d turned up with my usual 3 bags, 2 coats and a bike helmet, and juggled with my worldly possessions before emerging into like a yogic butterfly (!) into the reception area to wait for Relax and Restore to begin. Up the stairs I went and into the studio- Paula gave a lovely hello and guided us to collect our apparatus for the class in that wonderfully peaceful yet authoritative voice of hers. We’d need mats, bolsters, foam blocks and blankets. I padded across the studio with my arms full of soft goodies, and we settled around the edges of the room, facing in.
We started with some very gentle breathing and stretching, and I felt my breath soften and my heart-rate slow down, as that week’s spreadsheets and to do list floated out of my addled brain. The studio was softly lit and we were encouraged to close our eyes or at least soften out gaze. Tension in my shoulders released. I felt very present and in the room. It was a nice feeling!
Next, we went through a series of poses that took some setting up, but we stayed in each for at least 5 minutes. My favourite was child’s pose (which is essentially knees on the floor, leaning forward, chest and head on the floor, and arms stretched out in front of you)… except we modified it slightly and instead lay our torsos along a big bean-bag filled bolster. So, we were essentially on our knees, hugging a big squishy bean bag, and resting our head on it. For five whole minutes. It was delightful.
My mind wondered from time to time which is very normal. It was good practice to stay still for such a length of time (5 minutes really does feel like a long time to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING), and to remind yourself to keep bringing your thoughts back to stillness and just listening to your breathing, being in that room and in that moment. No, Mr. day job, kindly bugger off out of the brain. This is not time for you. This is breathing time.
As we approached the final quarter of the class, we found ourselves lying on bolsters bending backwards, with fleecy blankets over us and little beanbag eyepads over our eyes. It felt like a sleepover! When Paula told us to gently stir from this pose, I was inclined to refuse and just settle down for the night. My rational mind got the better of me (just) and I re-surfaced, but it was perfectly acceptable to listen to Paula’s instructions about the next pose whilst sitting snuggled in your fleece blanket!
The final pose, savasana (lying very still pose), was 10 minutes of complete and utter peace. I didn’t feel like I was falling asleep, instead I felt aware of my body and my place in the room, and my mind was just really still. It was a feeling that, in a city especially, you don’t get very often. It was almost a little strange to experience just because it happens so seldom, but after a long few weeks it was very much appreciated.
We were roused with a little cymbal chime, and Paula ended the class gently. I floated out of the studio feeling relaxed but energised, and perhaps unwisely headed home on a Boris bike! But- not even the traffic and noise and heavy old bike could have stressed me out on that cycle home. I sailed along Embankment, happy and free.
THE VERDICT: If Thursday’s are the new Fridays, then I hereby proclaim Friday’s the new Sundays. Your weekend will feel so much longer if you take the time once in a while you end the week indulging in a little “me” time, and I felt like Relax and Restore offered exactly this. Snuggly props, Soothing instruction from Paula and encouragement to take some time out.
THE EXTRAS: There was a pregnant lady in this class and her bump was quite prominent; she really enjoyed the class and said she’d benefited from it. If you are a mumma-to-be or if you know one, then this class comes recommended from lady-with-bump!