Alexi Duggins is at your mercy: send him to a new weird London experience every week and he’ll do it. This week: aerial yoga…
Aerial yoga apparently makes dreams come true. Only in my wildest fantasies had participating in the Olympics rings event seemed possible. Yet ten minutes after squishing my bum into a mini hammock in a small Whitechapel basement, I’m contorting my body like a gymnast. Albeit one whose only hope of a six-pack involves a permanent marker. And who has a tendency to squeal. And whose sweat glands leak like a faulty sprinkler. But, that aside, EXACTLY like an Olympic gymnast.
Not that you need to be a gymnast to do aerial yoga. In New York, it’s as much of a prerequisite for the city’s chichi boho types as hand-knitted yoghurt. But in London, Richard Holroyd’s soothing, candle-lit studio is one of the only independent venues that takes the ancient Indian discipline, adds a sling and stirrups, then lets you do it without your feet touching the ground. Virgin Active has got in on the act in the last few weeks. But does it have intimate, candle-lit classes where the instructor doesn’t mind you titting about like you’re on a child’s swing? Nuh-uh.
‘The thing I like about this kind of yoga is that you can play about,’ offers Richard. ‘It’s not like, “Do this! Do that!” It’s more of a laugh.’ Behind me, an excitable chappie in a New Kids On The Block T-shirt tries out new positions with the giddiness of a child dreaming up make-believe scenarios. ‘Ooh, I could do this!’ he squeals as he suspends himself horizontally. ‘Or this!’ he giggles, clambering all the way up to the ceiling. In front of him a beefcake lies on his back and uses the handholds to do horizontal pull-ups. In the corner, a delicate backbend is being performed by a willowy, beautiful woman in skintight leggings. Well, it wouldn’t be a yoga class without at least one distractingly hot woman.
‘Yeah, it’s 80 per cent women,’ Richard explains. ‘Although my classes have varied. When I started, I got all these trance clubbers who just wanted to hang upside down and spin around for an hour. I felt like I’d had ten cups of coffee by the end of the session.’
Then, Richard suggests we perform ‘the hanging headstand’. This, it turns out, means ‘hanging upside down like a napping vampire’. We lie on our back, hook our feet into the highest setof stirrups and recline until the hammock forms a nappy and our head hangs a couple of feet above the floor. It’s strangely peaceful, which is impressive given that so much blood has rushed to my face it looks like it’s been carved from luncheon meat.
For the finale, Richard has us stretch the sling out so that we can lie flat on our back, then he tucks a little pillow under our head. ‘Very soothing, isn’t it?’ he smiles. Then weirdly, he murmurs something indecipherably quiet that summons a flock of airborne lambs to gambol gaily around the rafters. Oh, okay: maybe I fell asleep. As I said: exactly like an Olympic gymnast.
Suggest next week’s task at @alexiduggins.