Being one of those ‘north London metropolitan elites’ that you hear so much about, it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve been known to practice yoga. Cycling to work for most of my adult life has played havoc on my back and my hamstrings, and the sheer amount of lactic acid that’s flowing through my system means at least one part of my battered old body is burning or sore at any one time. That’s why doing the odd downward dog now and again is actually beneficial for me – not that I bother most of the time, unfortunately. Far from being proof of my membership to club smug, my relationship with yoga is sporadic at best, and is tinged with a little embarrassment at what a cliché I am when I’m saluting the sun with a group of yummy mummies in Haringey. Plus, the attire is an awful tie dyed mess most of time.
So when I was contacted by a local yoga studio and invited to come to a class, I was pretty keen to see if I still had it. I hadn’t been to yoga in about three years and I simply don’t have the time or the discipline to practice at home. This would be my opportunity to get some well needed stretches in and really get the blood flowing for once, without the aid of booze.
It’s no exaggeration that Hilltop Studios will probably be the best views you’ll ever get in a yoga class, outside of a retreat. Based just off Muswell Hill Broadway, you can see to the Southbank on a good day, and luckily this particular Sunday morning was clear as a bell. The studio is a brand new glass walled room, which also doubles as a photography studio due to the excellent natural light. I’ve also never been to quite such an intimate class either. The size of the room means that eight ten people is a squeeze, which is great because it feels like the instructor is able to give you enough attention, whereas in larger classes you sometimes feel neglected – I imagine it’s what it feels like to go to private school.
Tom was the instructor for the class, and I asked him a few questions about the many benefits of yoga, particularly for guys:
What’s your background and what made you want to become a yoga instructor?
My background has always been in fitness, I’m a personal trainer and gymnastics coach. I was originally drawn to yoga through an injury, and used it as an outlet for me to exercise. I soon realised that yoga was much more than a physical practice, and allowed me to lead a more content and fulfilled life through mediation and controlling the breath. Having the ability to then share what I had learnt through yoga with others was what inspired me to be a teacher.
Can you briefly explain how the main types of yoga differ, and what benefits you can expect from each? (ashtanga/vinyasa flow/Iyengar etc.)
For me yoga is yoga – yes there are different styles that are more physically demanding than others, but we practice yoga to calm the mind and draw our attention to the breath. My advice for anyone trying out would be to go to as many different styles (and with as many teachers) as possible.
I was quite surprised that the make up of the class was predominantly men. Do you think more men are trying yoga? If so, why do you think that is?
It’s been a very female dominated practice and only in recent years have men been more willing to try yoga. I think the media has helped and inspired many men to start. There are also some good clothing brands out there, but generally the benefits of yoga are more well-known and men are now more open to going along to a class.
What should people look for in a yoga class?
They should look for a space that makes them fell calm, secure and relaxed.
What do you think makes a great yoga teacher?
One that you can connect with, without some form of connection it can make the practice difficult, especially if you are just starting out.
Check out Tom’s website here.
You can find Tom at Hilltop at the following days and times:
Monday 19:30 (Hatha)
Tuesday 20:00 (Yin)
Sunday 08:30 (Vinyasa Flow)
The hour class just flew by and Tom was very gentle with us, which was lucky because I’d overdone it a little bit on red wine the night before. Yes, I sweated profusely pretty much from start to finish but that’s normal for me. I consider an early morning yoga class a success if I only feel like being sick once or twice during a shoulder stand, so the fact I didn’t feel nauseous once was a minor miracle.
I’ll definitely be back for a class at Hilltop soon; brilliant vibe, great instructor and the views are just incredible. And if you’re a fellow creaky, middle aged dad like me and haven’t considered yoga before, get over yourself and book a class ASAP, your mind and body will thank you for it.