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Yoga in London

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Yoga in London: things to know before you go

Do you struggle to tell your warrior one from your locust? Petrified of those pretzel-like poses? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know before you try out yoga classes in London.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a cultural phenomenon among sporty types, but long before it became a trendy go-to fitness pursuit the world over, it was a spiritual discipline, originating in India more than 5,000 years ago. In its many forms, yoga consists of a series of movements, known as postures, which are designed to improve strength, flexibility and breathing. From downward dog to the warrior, there are a wide number of poses and stretches designed to work your body and relax your mind in equal measures.

Yoga is incredibly popular across the world today and has been adopted and adapted in various ways. Wherever you want to try yoga in London, you’re likely to find a class, whether you’re looking to sweat it all out with bikram in Battersea or try something more gentle at a hatha class in Hackney.

What are the differences between yoga and Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates have many similarities. Both are low impact forms of exercise that work to lengthen muscles and strengthen the body. The main difference is yoga focuses more on improving flexibility, stability and relaxing the mind, while Pilates emphasises correcting posture and strengthening the core.

The movements performed in yoga tend to be more static, mat-based and more upright, while in Pilates, poses are more often on the ground and can incorporate the use of apparatus to achieve a flow of movements.

What makes a good yoga class?

It's important to know what makes up a good yoga class in east, north, west and central London before you commit to your new hobby. Here are a few of the factors that make for a good yoga class:

  • A clear focus. Each class should have a clear direction, so you understand the aim of what you’re working towards
  • Keeping the class engaged. A good yoga teacher, or yogi, should keep you and other students engaged, especially to help you get through those tricky poses.
  • An attentive teacher. The teacher should connect with you and every other individual in the class. You need to be confident in attempting each move, ask for help when you need it and feel comfortable they’ll recognise if you’re stretching too far.
  • The right atmosphere. Good lighting, sounds and temperature can all create a relaxing setting. The mood makes all the difference to a good class – if it doesn't feel right, you'll struggle to loosen up and feel the full benefit.

What types of yoga are there?

There isn’t just one variety of yoga, many different types are practised across London, from aerial to Ashtanga Yoga. These are four popular styles.

  • Bikram Yoga: If you've heard of hot yoga, then it's likely to be Bikram. Get ready to sweat as you twice run through a sequence of 26 poses in an intensely hot room.
  • Iyengar Yoga: Slow and calm, poses are held for a long time with an Iyengar Yoga class. Props are used to make it easier to complete postures, so it can be a good choice for those with injuries. The focus here is on breathing, with detailed and precise movements.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: This is a challenging form of yoga for advanced enthusiasts. A physically demanding sequence of postures synchronise with your breathing. Students memorise the sequence and practise without being led by the teacher.
  • Yin Yoga: Ideal for beginners, yin is a slow-paced exercise with seated postures held for up to two minutes. Yin Yoga works on improving flexibility – a meditative approach that helps you find that elusive inner peace.