Yoga can be awkward.
I’ve never been much of a fan of yoga. I’ve taken several different formats and variations and only discovered one that I’ve ever really liked, which was a Bikram Yoga class held just outside of downtown Orlando.
In an effort to join the active trends of this city, today I suited up in my spandex and tried Urban Flow Yoga.
Some of the Les Mills team members are regulars at this yoga studio, and they invited me to tag along today for a two-hour intermediate-level Bhakti Flow class.
Located in the center of town, I made it to the studio with a quick trip on the MUNI train and a short walk.
After entering the studio’s street-side doors and climbing a very steep stairwell, I arrived in a welcoming environment, where incense filled the room and friendly faces greeted students. From the outset, I knew I was in a serious yoga studio.
This particular class was absolutely not for beginners, and although I hadn’t been to this studio before, I’ve done enough yoga to be past the beginner phase. My own self-assessment determined I was up for the challenge.
The class was held in an urban loft outfitted with candles, disco balls, greenery and artwork on the concrete walls. My group and I set our mats up nearly inches from each other in the back of the room, knowing that it would be a full house. Full house indeed. Toward the end of the class I counted 12-13 rows of at least 12-13 students filling the room. I’ve never experienced such a large yoga class at one time. During the pre-class time known as “fellowship” it seemed like people just kept arriving, and all of a sudden there wasn’t even a single space left in the large room.
The class was taught by Rusty Wells, who is an energetic and jubilant fellow who walked around with two assistants, providing direction, offering small physical adjustments and running commentary set to music. Here is a description of Rusty’s teaching style from his website:
His classes are an experiential explosion of music, sweat, stillness, and energy that will open your heart and leave you overflowing with bliss.
This was not your average yoga class.
The music was very much contemporary at times, with traditional yoga chants and background sounds at the beginning and end. To give you an idea of how contemporary the setting was, at one point in my downward-facing dog position Justin Timberlake boomed through the speakers.
Rusty danced a bit, and every once in a while you would feel a slight caress across your body from him or one of his assistants, who were offering you a place to consider adjusting on your body. This could definitely be awkward to some. So if you don’t like to be touched, you can place a chip on your mat alerting the assistants that you prefer to keep your sweat to yourself.
I actually liked the touching, because it helped me identify the part of my body that could be released so I could get deeper into the poses.
The class was setup in vinyasa style, and we moved from pose to pose, with hardly a breath in between. Some poses were quite challenging, and there were plenty of opportunities to work the triceps in several variations of push-ups. While this class is not the cardio attack that I prefer to do on Saturday mornings, it was certainly hard work, combined with a ton of sweating.
As a group fitness teacher who spends a lot of time doing resistance training, my body always appreciates two hours of stretching, lengthening and breathing.
The room was not as stifling hot as during Bikram Yoga, where the room is set at a standard 105 degrees. However, at nearly 90 degrees and with more than 150 people posing just inches from each other – it was hot enough to promote extra perspiration. Apparently hot yoga is known to boost the functioning of the immune system, so hopefully today’s session will help to kick my holiday-travel cold.
After two hours, I felt like I had worked hard. I felt like I had done something good for my body. And, I felt like I took in a true city-yoga experience.
Rusty Well’s Bhaki Flow= nice little urban Saturday morning.