Just when you thought yoga couldn't get any better, and along comes VOGA, a form of yoga that combines the breath-synchronised movement of yoga with the expressive moves of the dance class, fusing power and strength with attitude and flamboyance where slick alignment is key. And with an iconic 80s soundtrack to boot. That's right people! Now at Gymbox Old Street, we sent in Amy Strode to get her VOGA on.
Weaving my way down Bethnal Green Road on a cloudy December morning was arguably one of the least glamorous routes I could've taken to Gymbox's new Old Street gaff - but, little did I know, it would be a much different story once inside, as I embarked on my first VOGA experience.
As a cardio junkie with a marathon place under my belt, the winter months always seem a little daunting and I've recently tried mixing things up with a few yoga classes to ease the pain of aching muscles and chapped lips. Although these lower impact workouts are often needed, I've found that nothing gives me the real buzz or sense of accomplishment that a lengthy run or spin class does, and maintaining my focus during yoga sessions can often feel more like a chore. This is why I think VOGA may be my new best friend.
Brought to life by lean machine, Juliet Murrell (pictured below), VOGA cleverly combines the art of vogueing, made popular amongst the drag scene in 80s New York City, and brought into the mainstream in that Madonna video, with the focus and agility of traditional yoga poses and breathing techniques. Sound bizarre? It did to me at first, but the strangest thing was how well the two complimented each other.
The class follows the same sorts of rules as a yoga class but throws a few to the wind to allow for optimum fabulousness. After a brisk warm up with forward bends and nods towards sun salutations, the session incorporates age-old yoga favourites, with notable focus on lunges, squats, and moving between strong warrior poses throughout. However, that's the easy part- or so it seems- as, alongside these moves, the rest of your body is working to create a vogueing masterpiece, with Juliet demonstrating arm movements in time to a mix of 80s classics, from swan hands to finger points with head turns, first at normal pace, then at double time, to really work the shoulders and arms.
This might sound a bit much, especially if you are new to yoga or dance but, with the atmosphere of an old-school nightclub dance-off, you'd be surprised at how co-ordinated you become as you start to relax and have fun with it. I really enjoyed the fact that Juliet encourages you to bring your own style to the practise and embrace it, something which is very often lost in the formality of traditional yoga classes. What's more is that, with a good rhythm to follow, it is much easier to maintain rhythm in your breathing and, while focussing on upper body movement, the class allows you to explore postures in the legs much more deeply without realising it (that is, until the next day - I think I have found a new meaning to the phrase "feel the burn").
Ending the session with some floor work, even the cool down twists were done with attitude and prowess. The whole class was rounded up with some freestyle vogueing and, by this point, I had lost all inhibitions about the participants for the next class spying me through the studio door.
As I left the class to embark on the same old walk home, I couldn't help but feel like I was doing so with buns of steel, head held high and a spring in my step.
I would definitely recommend VOGA to those wanting to pull themselves out of a winter training slump or for anyone who wants to try something fresh and fun. As a serious(ish) runner and wannabe yogi, I am converted, but next time I think I'll ditch the faded yoga pants and crack out the neon purple lycra to unleash the real diva in me!
VOGA is at Gymbox Old Street every Thursday at 2.15 - book your place!