THE BASICS: Secret Yoga Club have recently put a series of Sunday night yoga classes on. Being Secret Yoga Club, these aren’t just any old yoga classes. Oh, no. This was Jivamukti yoga… on a Sunday night in the Royal Academy of Arts with well known instructor Emma Henry with live musical accompaniment, followed by a gong bath (indeed!), and a 3 course vegan meal. PHEW! How very fancy! £50 per ticket for a 3 hour yogic experience.
THE BITCHES: Carly and honourary HB Eugene
THE CLASS: Two facts are true- I turned 30 recently, and I also live with the most wonderful, kind and lovely housemate in the entire world. About a month ago, he had presented me with three scraps of paper and I had chosen scrap “3” as my super secret surprise birthday gift. He had winked knowingly and a while later, I was told to keep a particular Sunday night free.
Like any girl would, I whined and pouted and demanded to know where we were going, but Monsieur Housemate remained tight-lipped and told me to shut up. On the particular Sunday in question, I managed to wangle it out of him that we were off to a pretty special Secret Yoga Club, and I bounced around my room while he smiled a little cheesy grin…. and then, when I continued to run around like an excited child, he eventually looked a bit perplexed at the mad woman he’d just agreed to share the evening with, and went and hid in the weights gym until it was secret yoga time.
As an extra special treat, we set off for Piccadilly on Housemate’s new vespa, me clinging onto the back and with two yoga mats rolling around somewhat insecurely on my back, him navigating roundabouts (which is pretty tricky for an American on a vespa…) and we made it to practically outside the Royal Academy when the little engine gave out. Two people it could handle- two people and two yoga mats? We were just too heavy for dear old Vesp.
We ditched the bike and made it with time to spare (unusual for us) into the formidable Royal Academy courtyard, ready to sign in and get settled, all the while frantically googling the RAC.
In we went, up the stairs and down with our things. The last time I was here was after a lunchtime on the bubbly with another of my favourite American people, to see a Picasso exhibition- it felt a as eerie as it did special to be in the gallery with just one little room filled with low lighting and a lot of stretching bodies.
We were incredibly lucky to get two spots at the front, right next to the musicians; Ben Hazelton and Jenny Bliss.They played an array of instruments as the class progressed, matching tempo and volume to the speed of movement.
We were right in front of Emma which was a bit nerve-racking. She welcomed the class and her soothing, melodic voice introduced the night and some thoughts for the day and the practice.
We went through a chant which I felt was a little long and hard to follow, but it was part of the theatre of the whole event, (and probably quite important, I’m just a spiritual luddite) and so I can see it likely served a purpose. I think however, it would have been just as complimentary to setting the mood of the experience by having Emma chant and us listen, rather than us join in.
Needless to say I stumbled over a few of the words and then decided to keep my mouth shut and enjoy the sounds.
Chanting ended and movement began. Salutations. Breathe. Air in time with stretching, bending and exhaling…. breathe some more. The tempo of the class picked up quickly. Challenging, powerful sequences synced with our breath almost made me start to feel like I was experiencing some kind of movement meditation. Repetitive, flowing and calming. I was really enjoying the class. And to make things better, every time we looked up to the ceiling, I was reminded of the amazing space we were practicing in, which was pretty special.
A couple of times, the instructions were quite fast and my housemate and I, as we were at the front, were using each other for reference if we missed an instruction. This led to both of us in one pose whilst the entire rest of the class was in another, looking at each other with indignant looks on our faces and silently blaming one another for making the other look like a fool. Each of these occasions saw us burst into stifled giggles seconds later, wholly inappropriate I know, but it made the class and practicing next to my wonderful housemate, all the more fun.
As we practiced, a group of helpers walked around and corrected our postures. This was strong, directional help- I was stretched and twisted quite firmly, which I was grateful of, because it enabled me to practice more confidently and get the most out of the class. At one point, one of the helpers Charlie came over to me, pulled on my fingertips and said one word: “STRONG” into my ear. It instantly made me focus and put 100% effort into my warrior two.
As for the music- although it was right next to us, it sounds odd to say, but the strings and percussion complimented the class so well, that at times you didn’t even realise it was playing, you just took the sound for granted as you moved with it. Huge achievement.
We ended the practice sweaty and smiling- time for a gong bath. Disclaimer: No water was involved in this bath. Instead, we were bathed in vibration (!) from Lola Ulalume. I was expecting one long smack of the gong and subsequent vibration- instead we lay still and relaxed to a varied, continuous sounds from the gong- I never realised a giant metal dish was capable of being “played”! This part of the class was relaxing and certainly an experience, and I only wish I was less of a spiritual troll because I am sure there were people in the room who were experiencing something quite special from the gong bath. For me- it was a nice touch at the end of a pretty awesome class in a breathtaking space.
Chill, chat and 3 course vegan dinner in the gallery next door, prepared by Sarah Cotterell. It was delightful. We chatted to other relaxed and happy yogis and had a peek through goodie bags full of treats. Wonderful pressie from a housemate I am lucky to have.
THE VERDICT: This class was one of only a few to be held, and so you will need to keep your eyes peeled for more in the future. It has a hefty price tag, and I was of course incredibly lucky to receive this as a gift. I feel like the price reflects the space, the theater of the event, and also the fact that it is an experience and not simply a yoga class. Would recommend this if you’re looking for something really special.
THE EXTRAS: Vespa verdict: we’d run out of oil. D’oh.