I have to stress that I am not an expert in Yoga and I am reviewing this session from the perspective of a complete novice.I have dabbled in Yoga in the past, mainly Yoga DVD’s, although this was my first face to face yoga class.
Why did I chose Yoga at the Shard? I didn’t! Back in February, my partner Leigh kindly purchased the session for me (possibly after seeing me grunting along while struggling to complete any of the postures on a Geri Halliwell Yoga DVD). Now that I have some additional time away from work, it seemed like an opportune moment to find out more and a perfect time to work on my wellbeing through gentle exercise.
It’s well documented that regular exercise is one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal against mental illness. Partaking in exercise helps to remove unwanted toxins from the body by speeding up the internal lymphatic system, whilst enabling the brain to produce endorphins which can create a euphoric feeling within the body which has been compared to natural morphine. To me this makes sense.
However when the mind is unwell, having a healthy but simplistic relationship with exercise can be difficult. When we think of sport, it’s easy for us to conjure images of athletes pushing their bodies to the brink whilst competing against a field of likeminded competitors. I have frequently found difficulty in striking the balance between regular health creating exercise and exercising too much, pushing my body too far and ultimately detracting from my body’s physical and mental wellbeing. How do I partake in exercise without becoming competitive and making myself unwell? Could yoga be the answer to this dilemma?
In brief, this is a standard Yoga class taking place in the shard. There are a number of options available from Yogasphere which range from early morning session taking place at the summit of the tower, to evening sessions on the 24th floor (about half way). Our class was MindBody Yoga which takes place on the 24th floor.
I had concerns ahead of the class (although these were relating to yoga itself and not this specific class). I had a fear of being surrounded by skinny, flexible yogis who survive on a diet of tofu and mung beans. I’m not a flexible yogi. I can see my toes but I’m a long way from being able to touch them. I wanted to feel better about myself and I was concerned that the wrong crowd could make this experience an embarrassing one.
My concerns for the class were unfounded. Throughout the session, the instructor provided variations on the standard yoga positions. This allowed beginners (such as myself) to follow the class whilst also catering for those who are more advanced in their practice. My limited flexibility meant I was only able to complete the more limited poses and (most importantly) this was ok. Although the session was fairly demanding, I left the session with the last impression of yoga being a gentle and loving activity. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are, it’s about progression and improvement within yourself. For my first class, attending the session and being able to complete most of the poses (albeit in a rudimentary fashion) was the only victory that was required.
I finished the session with a lot of energy and a feeling of release. The thoughts and feelings that had been plaguing me at the beginning of the class weren’t gone, but they weren’t bothering me anymore, like they had become smaller. There was a distance between myself and the thoughts that hadn’t been there previously.
Being on the 24th floor of the Shard was a novel addition to the class. The panoramic views over the city helped to give additional perspective and a sense of physically rising above the more trivial matters in life. The views were particularly useful when attempting to balance. Picking a point on the London skyline has more appeal that of using upon a more mundane object. There was some additional time after the session for observing and taking photographs although I’m not sure whether this is available with every session.
With the sessions taking place in a glass room on the 24th floor of a skyscraper, this class is certainly not for the faint hearted (and the Saturday morning class at the top of the shard – even more so) however I didn’t feel as thought I was particularly high above the ground – although I am not afraid of heights so please keep this in mind.
I came away from yoga session with a feeling that perhaps it is time to rethink my approach to exercise. I still feel that aggressive and competitive exercise can be corrosive, however I am beginning to see how making space for a more gentle form of exercise could be beneficial to me in the longer term.
I’m not googling to find my next yoga class in London. There are lots of options. Any tips?