Keeping strong with Fierce Grace Yoga
There’s no doubt that adventuring, extreme sports and leading a very active lifestyle can wreak havoc on your body.
Knee damage, lower back pain, overly tight hamstrings that limit your flexibility.
Many people suffering from sports-related injuries will have been advised by their doctor to try something like yoga or pilates to help them heal from injury.
“People come to yoga to fix the bits of their bodies they’ve wrecked,” agrees Michele Pernetta, founder of the Fierce Grace yoga system and the woman who brought hot yoga to the UK, opening the country’s first Bikram studio in 1999.
I’ve come to Yoga Lounge, a hot yoga studio in Boscombe, Bournemouth, to listen to Michele give a workshop on the secrets of alignment and to try a Fierce Grace class for the first time.
There are about 30 people in the large room. Not many are the skinny pretzel bendy types that you see on social media. There are men as well as women, all ages, shapes and sizes, and all rapt as Michele runs us through how to do something as simple as standing up straight (in a pose called tadasana, or mountain pose, with your feet slightly apart and your hands by your sides.)
“Roll your thighs in, calves out. Lift your public bone up to tuck your ribs in. Lift your arms. Now rotate your arms so that your shoulder blades comes together. Keep your shoulders there but rotate your arms back again. So it’s upper arms out, lower arms in.”
It is surprisingly hard work, but knowing how to align your body properly – all the time, not just while in a yoga class – will help build muscle around the joints so that the joints become stable, Michele says. And yoga poses help to counteract the natural loss of balance that comes as we age.
“You only get a certain amount of movement and some people use up their allocation when they’re young,” Michele says. “Every decade over your 40s you lose the ability to balance by eight seconds.”
After running through good alignment in various postures, and having us all try it, Michele leads us in a 90-minute Fierce Grace class. The Fierce Grace branding is different from the norm – there’s a bearded biker chap in leather jacket and jeans on the home page, not a lithe blonde in an extreme back bend.
“Come off Instagram. Come off Facebook. I know a lot of those flexible people in those poses and their backs are fucked,” Michele says. “That’s not what it’s about.”
I’ve been practising yoga for 15 years but I’ve never tried hot yoga before – to be honest, the idea of working out in a room heated to 37C freaked me out. But I love it. Yes, I get so slick with sweat that when I try an arm balance (kakasana, or crow pose) my knees slide straight off my upper arms. It’s a different high at the end of class from my usual blissed-out vibe – this is more euphoric, like an endorphin rush after a run. Plus, if it helps to keep me active and adventuring for longer, that can only be a good thing.
Fierce Grace has studios in London, New York and Rome. www.fiercegrace.com
Yoga Lounge offers more than 20 classes a week, including the Fierce Grace system www.yoga-lounge.co.uk