• Alexandra Filia

Can Yoga Alone Give You The Body of Your Dreams?

I am a self-confessed gym bunny. Well, no so much of a bunny anymore but more of a fully grown rabbit to keep with the analogy. Nevertheless, my point is that I exercise, a lot, like, every day! Body Pump, Body Combat, Total toning, Body Conditioning, I do it all and often.

As I got older, two things started happening to my body that I had not noticed before. Firstly, I became stiffer, more rigid and less flexible. I found this puzzling as I am “that” girl that could not only touch her toes, but actually, palms down fully touch the ground while wishing that she could go further. I could do the splits and sit in full lotus position without effort, but now, I could sort of do a weird half lotus on one side and no sign of the splits. My body was ageing, despite the gym.

The second thing that became clear was that I was not progressing. I found my classes relatively easy, and my body was not changing. I was not becoming stronger or more sculpted. I did change my classes around to give my body a new challenge, but any improvement was invisible to the naked eye.

Admittedly, I was not a yoga virgin, but it had never been my exercise of choice for several reasons. Primarily, I did not think that it did much for your general conditioning as it not aerobic. I had tried a few classes, and except for Hot Yoga, I had not broken a sweat, and for me sweating is a mandatory sign of a good workout. The other reason was the connection to spirituality which I did not get or care much for. All these self-professed yogis with their westernised lycra appropriating another culture and humming words they do not understand, I found mildly annoying.

Back to my static state of body conditioning, a few weeks ago, I happened to walk by “The Lodge Space” on Salter Road in Rotherhithe and I saw a sign promising 2 weeks of unlimited classes for £20. With nothing to lose and with so many people swearing about the benefits of regular yoga practice, I signed up.

To give yoga a fair assessment, I signed up for two classes per day -some days three classes- raging from the classic Vinyasa to the incredibly hard, “martial arty” Budokon, to Nidra and Yin (the sleepy yogas) as well as many others. For the avoidance of any misunderstanding, in this article, I am not judging any aspect of yoga that is not purely physical. This is my account of what happened after two weeks of doing yoga while bringing all my thoughts with me in the studio, secretly keeping my eyes open and planning my shopping list during savasana.

But first things first. The Lodge Space is an incredibly beautiful environment. Serene and beautifully designed, it has a studio that overlooks Southwark park. On the massive trees in front of the panoramic picture window families of squirrels observe the yogis, and I found it to be a real shame that the yogis miss the show because they insist on keeping their eyes firmly shut. The Lodge has two more studios with less impressive views, but still very nicely done and with top of the line equipment. The yogis are meticulous at disinfecting the mats after each session, and everything smells nice and fresh. I am obviously not an expert in yoga, so I do not know the general demeanour of yoga teachers, but the ones that I encountered at The Lodge space were supportive, friendly and incredibly kind.

During my two weeks, I also made full use of the café. With an open fireplace and industrial furniture, it is not only stylish but also extremely inviting and comfortable. There is a zen garden, but it was too cold when I visited to sit out there. To fully evaluate my experience, I made a schedule where I would arrive at the Lodge with my laptop and spend all day at the café doing my work which I interspersed with classes throughout the day.

The experience was overall incredibly gratifying and productive. After a class of yoga and with a green smoothie in one hand and a peppermint tea in the other, I found that I could concentrate intently on my work despite the constant buzz of the busy café. The Lodge Space is always busy. They offer a full complement of therapies and massages in addition to a variety of events, sound baths, baby and toddler classes as well as specialised workshops. Hats off to the owner for creating a space that is also financially viable without giving you the impression that it is a greedy, money-grabbing operation.

The food at the café was unremarkable, and so were the non-yoga classes (at least for a gym bunny such as myself), but if The Lodge Space is going to be your only “go-to” gym, it is good that they are offering a few different options.

Now for the results which are nothing short of astonishing. In two weeks, my body changed. Postures that I found pretty much impossible came within my reach. I could flex, push and bend in ways that progressed daily. I became lighter on my feet, and felt muscles that I did not know I had. My balance improved significantly, and I found that I was looking forward to discovering what kind of forward leap the next class would bring. Another exciting development was that the persistent bloat in my stomach and midriff all but melted away. On this note, I should point out that the regular yogis in my classes had incredible bodies, much better than the regulars in my gym classes.

Considering my future exercise options, I asked all of the yoga teachers for their opinion as to whether yoga alone would be enough exercise. The consensus was that at least one or two sessions of weight training and also aerobic activity, would be an excellent addition to a yoga training programme, and I agree. As much as my results were short of miraculous in two weeks of training, my heart rate barely shifted the entire time. Also, as the teachers explained, yoga is a super “push” exercise, but for a balanced body, you also need the “pull” workout of weight training.

So here you have it. Yoga is great! Whether you go the full shebang of body and mind or just body as I did, you are likely to see results that you cannot get from going to the gym alone. I am a fan!

Following my experience at the Lodge Space, I did a bit of research and found out that London has hundreds of boutique studios offering a variety of esoteric forms of exercise in addition to all types of yoga. Most of these studios have a two-week intro offer for new members. In the coming months, I will try them all and report on the results. Watch this space!

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