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Covent Garden Journal Review

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Yotopia was reviewed by Clare Finney from Covent Garden Journal, who attended one of our popular classes. Read her write-up below.

Clare Finney, scarred by being told to “relax her kidneys” during her only previous brush with yoga, attends a Hot Myo Fit Yoga class at Yotopia, and discovers a form of exercise she never knew existed.

When people ask me why I am such a big fan of running in Regent’s Park, I tend to list the following three things. Firstly it is a blast of, if not fresh, then at least outdoor air, with grass and trees to break the urban scene. Secondly, it’s active and makes you feel you’ve had a proper work out. And finally—it is solo. People might see me, but not long enough to notice my red face and manky hair. When I run, I’m accountable to no one but me. And while this explains why I love running, it also accounts for why the thought of yoga—a relaxing sport you do indoors, in classes—has never much appealed.

In fact, up until about 3 hours ago, it actively repelled me. Yoga, for all that it is beloved by beautiful people, has always struck me as the antithesis of what sport should be. My only memory of it is of attending a class on holiday with my mother, and being told quite seriously to “take a deep breath and relax your kidneys”. “But I don’t know where my kidneys are!” mum whispered to me. After leaving the class in hysterics, we vowed never to subscribe to any ‘sport’ that entailed lying down and breathing deeply. Then Yotopia arrived promising to “provide a modern and down- to-earth method of improving fitness through yoga” and, cajoled into reviewing it, I find myself on a mat exhaling once again.

Fortunately it seems this time might be a little different—not least because the class I’ve signed up to promises far more than a stretch and a snooze. Entitled Hot Myo Fit Yoga, it describes itself as incorporating spiral rotations and pulsing movements throughout flowing sequences. According to centre manager Katie Courts, Yotopia is the first centre to offer this unique take. “Fascia is part of the body’s connective webbing, wrapping the muscles and bones, and containing much of the body structure,” she says. “For generations they have not been interested in it, but in the last 10 years they’re beginning to realise it’s key to how we work.” For those who care for technical detail, what Yotopia has done is take this research and apply it to yoga. For those who don’t, she says, “it’s just a nice work out that feels really good.” My particular class took place on a cold day in one of Yoptopia’s specially heated studio rooms—an aspect that at first struck me as quite pleasant. Yet as the class proceeded I began to think again.

“Inhale. Pull your left knee up to your chest push your right heel straight toward the ceiling,” came Caroline’s calm, authoritative voice. “Exhale. Inhale. Repeat on the other side, then pull both knees to your chest and rock forward into a sitting position and extend your arm. Inhale and pulse. Exhale. Inhale and repeat on the other side.”

Written out like this I am aware it doesn’t sound very exhausting—but perform these actions repeatedly, at speed, to the continuous chime of Thai music, and you’ll soon see what I mean. Standing up, the temperature goes from high, to nigh on unbearable. You can almost see the steam rising off the people in the room. Stretching my arms above my head (“feel the tension leave your spine!”) I wonder how everyone else can be coping with heat that is making me, a normally cold-blooded girl, feel faint.

After class I find my answer: everyone struggles with the heat, including those who have been doing this for years. “After my first time I vowed never to return,” one lady tells me, “but then the next day I felt so good— clean, and refreshed and wholesome—that I went back again and again.” In the process she has become both more flexible and much stronger. “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but your body will change.” Back in the studio, however, my only thoughts are of how unbearably hot it is, and how, only 10 minutes in, I am starting to feel pain.

To my relief neither of these feelings last beyond the first half hour, which is roughly how long it takes to adjust to the exercise’s rhythms. After that, the only real problem is following Caroline when she says “raise your left arm around your head and push down on your right foot, feeling your spine rotate.” Again, this comes with practice, and—in my case—knowing your right from your left. “You’ll get there in the end,” Caroline says, correcting me again. Yet while I have to say I’m not convinced, there is something wonderfully reassuring about Caroline’s steady voice and the firm but sensitive way she manipulates your limbs. If I’m going to master Myo Fit Hot Yoga, I think, I’m in the best place.

Like most teachers at the centre, Caroline is qualified in all manner of different disciplines, from Ashtanga Yoga through to meditation. Each teacher comes with their own background and style which they’ve since tailored to ‘myofit’ and intriguingly Caroline’s is in Fine Art and Dance. Yet while her main occupation has been teaching performers, it is her knack for novices that most stands out. “Her style is just really soothing, and it works,” explains another classmate, a former yoga bunny who gave it up completely when she had kids. In the past few months she’s been learning again with Caroline, and her flexibility has increased enormously. Now, she’s followed Caroline to Yotopia and is trying it hot.

Perhaps it’s me, but I can’t help but notice how healthy the class looks, and not just because they’ve gone quite pink. For my own part, my face is puce coloured and I’m not so much glowing as exploding. Yet from the others there comes a sense of wellness that is difficult to place. It could be that they are actually dressed in nice yoga clothes rather than mud-spattered lycra. It could be because they are almost disconcertingly welcoming and nice. However, as I look around the studio at the contorted shapes and faces the most likely source seems to me to be yoga itself.