Let's twist again . . .
PUBLISHED: 13:31 25 February 2014 | UPDATED: 13:31 25 February 2014
Jilly Hurley discovers the benefits of Hot Yoga at the Self Centre in Bury St Edmunds
Near freezing outside, almost tropical inside – the Self-Centre’s Hot Yoga studio is immediately welcoming. So too is Carole Baker, the owner, teacher and inspiration for the place. Set up as a social enterprise, and complete with superfood café and holistic therapies, the Self-Centre is an unpretentious oasis committed to all things health and wellbeing.
Hot Yoga was founded in India by Bikram Chowdry. The practice synthesises 26 postures from the traditional Hatha yoga that are to be executed in temperatures of up to 40°C. Since Bikram’s first foundation over 40 years ago, however, hot yoga has been taken up across the world and developed in diverse ways.
Carole’s unique interpretation of hot yoga is an eclectic mix of styles, taking inspiration from both Hatha and Ashtanga. “I wouldn’t like to be restricted by a set number of postures,” Carole explains. “I like to teach a variety of sequences that work within the hot yoga principles of breathing exercises, standing, balancing, twists, back bends and hip-opening postures. This creates a more interesting and challenging practice for my students.”
Urban music animates the room, without dominating it, candles and soft lamps lend a similarly rich but mellow ambience. The atmosphere is finely balanced, between upbeat and calming, energising and restful. These contradictory elements are reflected in the yoga itself. On the one hand, the postures are relaxing, meditative and even spiritual. On the other, they are intense, aerobic and physically challenging.
Tonight’s class is all about twists. This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but the dynamic contortions are in fact Carole’s answer to getting rid of the excesses of the party season, giving the body a really good detox.
According to the ancient yoga sages, we should imagine our organs are like sponges full of liquid. Twists squeeze the organs, then flush them with fresh oxygenated blood. It is a natural and powerful way to detoxify organs and glands, to stimulate the digestion and to boost the health of the entire body. In practice, twists add intensity to an already challenging work-out. Did I mention the extreme heat? Despite this intensity, or perhaps because of it, the class feels like a very supportive and friendly place to be. Carole seems to know almost everybody by name, and indeed – which I come to see is a greater intimacy – she seems to know what almost every individual body in the room can do, and needs to do.
After more than hour of exercising in temperatures tipping 36°C, the doors and windows are thrown open. A welcome breeze floods the room, and a gentle, relaxation session follows, allowing the body to absorb the benefits of the practice. The class is then dismissed back into the winter evening. I am exhausted, but also thoroughly invigorated and re-energised. It is bitterly cold outside, but I feel warm – from the inside.