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Just an Everyday Athlete: Stepping up to the yoga mat

June 9th 2014 / Grace Dent

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In a drive to take her workout regime to the next level, Grace Dent tries a spot of very British outdoor yoga

After six months of HIIT training - 6am squats and lunges in Hyde Park, muddy knees, walking like rodeo casualty from glut trauma etc - I found myself saying to my trainer Steve Mellor the other day "How do I take this to the next level?"

What I meant was, "For God's sake Steve, I hardly drink booze now, you've got me doing 'pigeon stretches' on damp grass at an hour of the day I used to walk home from clubs and I feel 'naughty' when I eat toast. Why does my body still store stomach fat as if it mistakes me for a giant polar bear that might not eat until spring?"

Obviously I hoped he might tell me about a rare powdered root I could sprinkle in my tea to melt it away. "You need to do more exercise sessions," he said. Spinning, to be precise. The thought gave me deepest woe. I have seen the sweating, grunting and motivational screeching to a David Guetta soundtrack that occurs in my gym. It's wholly uncivil. "How about yoga?" I said. I’ve always quite fancied being one of those wide-eyed, yogini types mooching about in rolled-down leggings which reveal protruding hip-bones.

Or at very least, I’d like to be able to do four Ashtanga ‘sun salutations’ in a row without becoming dizzy and despondant. I spotted an outdoors Vinyasa Flow group practicing in my local park on a Sunday morning. Outdoors yoga. On a Sunday morning. The old me could cheerfully throttle the new me for these levels of smugness. I’ve never practiced Vinyasa before, but I toddled along there blindly optimistic that ‘All yogas must be roughly the same, there’s gotta be a Warrior and Triangle pose in there somewhere.’

In actual fact, changing yoga genres was a little bit like taking to the dancefloor and doing the Macarena, while everyone else had started doing Whigfield’s Saturday Night. My prayer hands would be above my head, everyone else's at waist height. My bum in the air, when everyone else’s was flat. Shaming.

One great thing about yoga is everyone is usually so busy trying to sort out their own yogic joy/misery that no one really notices your daftness. Flow Yoya, to my beginner’s eye, seemed immediately much more, well, ‘flowing’ than what I’m used to. And much faster.

We whipped through planks, chaturangas then upward facing dogs in whip-fast time. Bang, bang, bang, then onto the next postion. Normally, I’m quite happy bumbling through my Power Yoga DVD at home which has lovely pauses and shots of an Ibizan sunset to behold between movements. No chance of skiving like that here.

My first outdoors session was typically British. Ten minutes into the class and the skies opened, leaving my yoga mat too slippy to work on. I moved onto the grass on bare feet. None more earth mother, but actually rather brilliant. I shall return. Sadly Steve still insists on this ‘spinning’ madness if I’m determined to truly become sleek. I’ve found a class. I thought ‘being a bit slimmer’ would be the end of my journey. Now it feels very much like the beginning.

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