Imagine a confused elephant attempting to wrap his trunk around one of his back legs. That’s me doing yoga. Quite frankly, I have the flexibility of a board. You’ll never catch me performing a graceful swan-esque pose on Instagram because I simply don’t have the skill.
So when Virgin Active invited me to try Calm by Candlelight, a new type of class suitable for all abilities and aimed at those who lead a stressful lifestyle, I was intrigued. Created by the gym chain’s global yoga ambassador Patrick Beach, the part-physical, part-mental workout is intended to help people “switch off” with a focus on ‘restoration and rejuvenation’.
The promise of walking away ‘feeling so much better physically and mentally’ was irresistible as my health was all over the place. Some days I had energy and would operate at 65 per cent, other times I’d be in bed by 8pm utterly wiped out with intermittent stabbing pains all over my body. So, I only agreed to give the hour-long class a whirl under the premise that I could sneak out if things got too much.
It was a bitterly cold and rainy January evening as I made my way to the swanky Virgin Active gym on The Strand, London before taking up my position in a room full of lithe beautiful, twenty-something yogis. To say I felt out of place was an understatement but it didn’t matter. The room was dark. (Obviously Helen, it’s a Calm By Candlelight class)
“I collapsed in a heap and sent my block flying into one of the ladies next to me”
I inhaled deeply – not because we were told to, that would come later – but because beautiful silver lanterns had been dotted around the wooden floor and the space was so pretty. I then spied a BLANKET among the blocks, bolsters and straps that had been placed alongside my mat. Things looked promising.
Patrick explained that we’d be using the props to help us maintain a series of postures that would concentrate on stretching and recovery. Against the soundtrack of his calming American lilt, we tuned into our bodies and became fully aware of our breathing before slowly easing our way into a number of poses. One, a deep hip opener named Pigeon, caused me to collapse in a heap and sent my block flying into one of the ladies next to me. Not the best start.
“Within five minutes someone in the front was snoring”
We were supposed to be melting into each position – the ultimate aim was to unwind. And yet, I found it difficult to maintain the move for the recommended five minutes while everybody else seemed to be managing effortlessly. Was I too inflexible? Was my body simply not well enough? Neither, it would seem. Patrick came over and tweaked my alignment. Immediately, I felt more comfortable and felt the benefit of the stretch. At the end of the class, we were instructed to lie down underneath the blanket and think pleasant thoughts. Within five minutes someone in the front row was SNORING. I felt mildly envious.
This class definitely calmed me down. I awoke muscles I never knew existed, didn’t stress my body in the process and also felt as though my posture had greatly improved. Although I initially panicked about being unable to properly maintain some of the poses, I was fine when Patrick corrected me. Before I became unwell, I’d play tennis, hit the gym and run a few times a week and occasionally do a Vinyasa Yoga class, an altogether faster and somewhat sweaty affair. Calm by Candlelight is entirely different. Adrenaline junkies might find this class too slow but the clue is in the title. The icing on the cake was snuggling under a blanket at the end of the session and letting my mind wander to a care-free place. I left feeling utterly blissed out…until I had to take the tube.
Calm by Candlelight classes are available at selected Virgin Active clubs throughout the UK