We are a city in love with yoga; we’ve positively coiled our limbs around it in a warm embrace. And with so many fantastic teachers from near and far having laid down their mats in our fair city in recent times, we now have a veritable pick-and-mix of classes at our feet. As a firm devotee of the discipline myself, I decided to traverse the city to find out just a little bit more about some of the different types of yoga available to us across the city, and where we can join in with them…
How many times as an adult do you get to high-five someone with your foot? Or wriggle along the floor using only your butt cheeks? If you’ve ever felt that you wanted to run away to the circus, then this is this is the yoga equivalent. Known as ‘the yoga of trust’, acro involves lots of interaction. You’ll soon be comfortable in a whole room of people you don’t know and, before you know it, in the air, balancing on their feet. You’re going to get sweaty and push your boundaries. It’s practised in threes – with a base, a flyer and a spotter – and you all have to work together to get to positions you simply couldn’t achieve by yourself. We’re lucky to have Ash (of Flying Monkey Yoga) and her crazy-fun approach to acro yoga here in Bristol.
Yin is the calm, cooling, feminine side to the yin-yang balance. A yin yoga class is a chance to look inwards while holding asanas for longer periods of time. Yogis often find themselves turning to yin as a way of slowing down and restoring their bodies from a more fast-paced form of yoga, such as vinyasa. It’s a way of respecting your body. Local teacher Eleanor Coates’ classes are poetic in tone; each has a theme and, as you focus on each asana and breathe into your body, she reads, giving students a chance for contemplation. As a restorative yoga practice, no pose is too strong or too subtle; it’s, as Eleanor says, “playing with your edges”. Perfect for a Sunday evening wind-down.
The opposite to yin is Broga® Yoga. Even the name sounds more masculine; more yang. Broga® was originally developed by ex-footballer and body builder Matt Millar to offer a form of yoga that would be more accessible to men. Though that doesn’t mean it’s not for women. As a fitness-based yoga class, it’s an intense, strong workout that should appeal to those used to hitting the gym. Ashley Miller teaches Broga® at BCY and stresses that it may be strength training, but it’s still yoga – you are still barefoot on your mat, connecting breath and body.
The poses are recognisable yoga poses, but where in your usual yoga class there are numerous rest points, here: “There is no rest, and sometimes there are reps.” If you go to the gym regularly and are looking for an introduction to yoga, Broga® is definitely your bag. There are no Sanskrit names to remember, instructions are clear and you’ll learn the poses you find in iyengar and vinyasa flow, and get ripped while you’re doing it. Essentially a hard class with a soft approach to yoga.
If you sit at a desk all the day, you might fancy uncurling your spine of a lunchtime. Scaravelli is another slower approach, and will focus your attention on straightening out that computer hunch, based on the teachings from Vanda Scaravelli (author of Awakening the Spine). When I first discovered Kate Fox’s Scaravelli class, it was the first time I’d actually spent time in any one pose; the first time I’d slowed my practice down and learned just how to ‘feel’ each asana instead of worrying what it looked like. Kate’s compassionate class helps break old habits and cultivate new ones, and, while she does hold evening classes, there’s a lovely one at Breathe Bristol that you can squeeze into your lunch hour.
Yoga for the spirit
Yoga is a spiritual practice, originally brought to the West by gurus of the East, and it has a way of getting under your skin if you let it. Yoga Prema was one of the first classes I attended in Bristol which really made me think beyond the physical movements, and Lila Conway’s teaching has a depth and richness that extends far beyond your weekly hour and a half. She’s one of the most humble, yet deeply spiritual yoga teachers I have ever encountered.
Having spent a number of years fully immersed in the yogic way of life in ashrams in Thailand, India and Canada, Lila brings to Bristol a firm and authentic grounding in Sivananda with iyengar and hatha. Lila’s teaching is intuitive and inspires trust and curiosity. For those looking to learn about yoga in its fullest form, complete with breathing exercises such as kapal bhakti and chanting, this is a good place to start.