South London fitness: The Shala, West Norwood

The Mysore studio at The Shala

The Mysore studio at The Shala

In the past year or so West Norwood’s had a little mini fitness boom, with the Better Leisure Centre opening last year, and The Shala arriving in 2013 from its original home in Clapham.

To be honest it’s probably a bit flippant to put The Shala just under a fitness category, as yoga and Pilates is a lot more than that. The centre offers these two classes covering a broad area of levels, from kids to ‘Mysore’ self practise (more on that in a bit) and pregnancy.

I’ve been practising yoga and took myself down there months ago to try their beginner 4 week course, comprising of one 1-hour session a week. If you’re new to yoga, I’d go for this option. The practise is completely broken down – we spent the first session simply going through the Sun Salutation pose – so it’s a lot less daunting then going straight into a regular class.

I’ll happily admit I thought yoga wouldn’t challenge me. I’m relatively fit but soon enough understood that this is a completely different challenge to the body to the likes of spinning and running. It was a little embarrassing at how inflexible I was. However, as you’d expect, while you’re encouraged to push yourself, it’s an incredibly laid-back atmosphere with none of that competitive element you’d normally get from ‘keeping fit’.

Unlike ‘hot’ yoga, The Shala practises Ashtanga in rooms heated to around 25C, so for some (aka me) it’s a far more comfortable experience.

There are a number of teachers here, and they all have their own style. I attended Ian’s introduction course who was very patient and constructive, making sure I got the poses right, and now go to Gingi’s (the founder) weekend classes on a semi-regular basis who quite frankly, is the most chilled out, amiable person I’ve ever come across (well, you wouldn’t want a ragey yoga teacher, would you).

As well as ‘taught’ classes The Shala run ‘Mysore self-practise’, where you’re encouraged to lead yourself through the poses. It might seem like the more advanced option but it’s welcome to all levels if you “have adequate knowledge of the standing sequence”.

Apologies for the lack of photos – I’m sure it’s bad etiquette to take pics in this sort of environment so there’s just one of the main studio before the rest of the class turned up. To see it in all it’s glory check out their brand new website here.

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