The Secret Yoga Club, a nomadic pop up event combining yoga classes with great food and unique locations, has been taking place all over London over the last year. We headed down to the latest Secret Yoga Club at The Nave, to find inner peace in the depths of North London.
As a yoga novice, and typical Londoner in my leaning towards cynicism at any given opportunity, I arrived at the class with a feeling of trepidation. On entering the venue, a church outbuilding just a short walk away from Highbury & Islington Station, trepidation turned to intrigue. The main room of the venue had been lit softly with lowered spotlights and tea light candles, big red drapes hung from the roof, and about 40 people were sat facing the painted alter at the front of the room. For a second I had the worrying feeling that I’d entered some sort of cult. We arrived a little late, but managed to grab a couple of spare mats (these go fast, so bring your own or ring in advance to reserve!), sat down and waited for the class to begin.
The class, taught by senior Jivamukti teacher Celine Fraefel, started with a little intro into what Yoga could mean to us, the aim of the lesson being to feel ‘in the moment’, not thinking about work or what was going on elsewhere. Celine then took us through a series of ‘asanas’ (or yoga positions to you or me). For a lot of the class, I had no idea what Celine was saying, relying instead on copying the (very bendy) person in front of me, and feeling pretty smug when Celine asked us to do the Downward Dog, (I knew that one). At several points throughout the class a man, who, due to our late arrival we hadn’t been introduced to, came over and started bending me in some rather compromising positions. As a Londoner who is trained in the art of avoiding eye contact, or any social interaction with other people on the tube or street, my first reaction was so shout ‘STRANGER DANGER’, but hey, this was yoga, and ‘in the moment’ I just didn’t want to fall over, so being held in position came as welcome support. We later learned that this guy was in fact Celine’s assistant, not an opportunistic passer-by… no arrests were made.
As the class went on, my original cynicism began to fade, and I really started to let go and get involved. The yoga class itself lasted for about an hour, with the pace speeding up as the class went on (Downward dog, jump feed forward, Anjaneyasana, jump right foot back, Warrior Pose, Sukhasana, Virasana), at one point, whilst in an on-all-fours back bend, I actually felt like I was getting the hang of it. Celine gave each position different levels of difficulty; we could stay in the basic position, or push it further with her suggestions. This made the class great for both beginners like me, and experienced yoga-goers like, seemingly, the entire rest of the class.
We then had 20 minutes of Savasana, or ‘corpse pose’. This involved lying on our backs, eyes closed, with our palms to the ceiling whilst being immersed in a ‘gong bath’, played by Faze Al. The smell of incense filled the room, and the aforementioned assistant did the rounds of the class giving everyone a little head massage…although I did have my eyes closed for the entire time, so this added extra may have just been reserved for me. During the wind-down I felt completely relaxed, a bit spaced out and entirely concentrated on the sounds of the gong and smells of incense mixed with the aroma of coconut wafting in from the kitchen, rather than my things to do list for the next day.
After the class, we all pulled out tables and chairs to create a communal dining table, enjoying a feast courtesy of Sarah Cotterall at The Little Cooking Pot. Whilst chowing down on the delicious Tandoori roasted broccoli with minty raita, creamy cinnamon & coconut dhal, fresh sesame flatbread and orange blossom sesame cake, I noticed that this huge table of people, most of whom had never met, were all talking to each other. Sat the same distance apart on the tube, this scene would have been completely different, with everyone reading their own metro, or plugged into their phone.
I thought about what Celine had said at the beginning of the class, which at the time I had raised an eyebrow at as hippy-speak, about being ‘in the moment’, and enjoying the people and settings around you. For the first time in a long time my phone was switched off and not within arm’s reach, I had no idea what work emails or facebook notifications had come in and it felt surprisingly good. No one in the room had a phone on the table, and, following the yoga session and Savasana, the atmosphere was calm and chilled out. As I got on the bus home, watching everyone else silently engrossed in their phones, iPads, iPods and kindles, I felt like I really had been let in on a secret…
Find out more about The Secret Yoga Club at http://www.secretyogaclub.co.uk/
The next Secret Yoga Club will be on 4th December at The Nave, taught by Nick Cervonaro and Pashenka Gribben. Food will be provided by Nina Parker of Nina Ice Cream and Cake, with a gong bath performed by Faze Al. Class starts at 7pm. Tickets are £35, including the meal.
Buy tickets here
1 St Paul’s Road