With yoga becoming increasingly popular over the past decade - there are believed to be between 300,000 to 460,000 yogis currently practising in the UK alone - the ancient spiritual practice is not only expanding but evolving to meet the needs and demands of the modern world.
One woman with her asanas firmly on the pulse of the UK's yoga scene is Michele Pernetta, the long-limbed, dry-humoured yoga guru who first brought Bikram yoga to London in 1994.
If anyone knows what's hot and what's not, it's Michele. So when I heard that she was launching Fierce Grace, her very own hot yoga brand, I spat out my coconut water, rolled up my yoga mat and headed down.
Designed to balance the male and female forces within the body, Fierce Grace meets strength with flexibility to promote health, emotional harmony and mental clarity.
A combination of classical Hatha, Bikram and Ashtanga yoga, Michele has designed the system (of which there are five types of class - see below for a breakdown) based on feedback and observations over years of teaching from her four London-based studios.
The classes are conducted in a hot room (approximately 38 degrees) to allow optimum results in the minimum amount of time.
While I love the intensity of Bikram yoga (90 minutes, 26 postures, each repeated twice), I do enjoy elements of other types of yoga. So a fusion of various teaching methods feels right up my street.
But, when I first enter my first Fierce Grace class, I'm nervous.
It's been a while since my last streak of Bikram yoga classes, which, although enjoyable and effective, came with a strict no-talking-no-leaving-the-room-no-drinking-until-told-to policy.
But, I soon realise the mood is lighter in the Primrose Hill studio. And - dare I say? - fun.
As Michele later tells me, her studios have never echoed the strict environment of some more recent Bikram studios.
"Certain Bikram yoga instructors have pushed teaching to edge of what allowed to do," she explains. "I think it comes down to insecurity. Bikram himself will allow students you to drink, even though ideally you're not supposed to drink until after class."
According to Michele, the teacher shouldn't be in charge. "My teaching philosophy is equality - the teacher is the servant not master."
With Michele's well-known dry sense of humour, no nonsense attitude and love of music, the Fierce Grace series is instantly more appealing to the masses.
"I've always hated that uptight balloon-pant pseudo-spiritual yoga," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle, laughing. "Spirituality in yoga is about being open, humorous and loving - not an uptight arsehole."
The ethos behind Michele's new brand of yoga practise may be the reason so many men attend - this is unusual for yoga, which is so often seen as a women's sport.
Michele counts at least 40% men in each class and sometimes, she says, there are more men than women.
"Fierce Grace appeals to men for many reasons," Michele says. "In my experience they want a challenging yoga class that is achievement-based: that means more direct teaching, more strength work, less meditation and no fluff."
Accessibility for all is precisely what sets Fierce Grace apart from other yoga classes, Michelle stresses that everyone can benefit from classes - whether injured, pregnant, new to yoga or an experienced yogi looking for a challenge.
See beneath slideshow for Fierce Grace classes...
Fierce Grace yoga offers a five-class system, which are designed to meet the needs of everyone - from beginners to experienced yogis looking to hone their practise.
Core (75 minutes)
Master the building blocks of a great practice. Suitable for beginners and advanced students alike, this is an instructional, deep class with lots of hands-on corrections designed to teach you how to use your body, resolve postural issues and injuries.
An intense warm up prepares you for long, deep stretches to create lasting changes and open you on every level. Realign, resolve and release.
Classic (80 minutes)
Our version of the traditional Bikram class with more alignment, hip opening, and upper body and core strengthening. There are 39 poses; 4 traditional Bikram poses have been removed (such as Rabbit Posture) and have been replaced by 18 postures (including Pigeon Posture).
A user-friendly general level class; arms, abs and bum toners are combined with deep hip, shoulder, spine and leg stretches to build cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and realign the musculoskeletal system. Based on 20 years experience, the additions to the well known Bikram system allow the student some freedom to explore, to move into some pose variations and have some fun. Suitable for all levels. Be prepared to work hard and sweat.
FierceGrace (80-90 minutes)
Our user-friendly general level class. This class combines the central poses of Bikram, Hatha and Ashtanga with core
strengthening, ‘super slow’ wisdom, body sculpting, breathing techniques and deep relaxation.
With deep twists, groan inducing abdominal strengthening, hip openers, plus floor stretches to relax body and mind, this class develops your sense of adventure, experimentation and personal discovery. Performed to relaxing music to help you get out of your mind, it is eighty minutes with optional 10 minutes relaxation/meditation. Suitable for all levels.
Fierce - aka The Beast (1hr 45 mins)
Our advanced class. Designed to take you to the next level in strength, flexibility, balance, patience and sense of humour.
For the new generation of advanced yogis, this class is guaranteed to take your yoga practice to new heights with arm balancing poses, deep hip opening, inversions, lotus, shoulder opening, deep backbends and deeper meditation.
Taught in an encouraging, non-judgmental atmosphere, the general level practitioner is encouraged to work at their own pace while they are learning the correct stages of entry to these poses and the advanced practitioner is encouraged to explore new horizons under expert guidance. “Fierce” makes us superhuman with its wide alphabet of physical, emotional and spiritual expression.
The Fix (50 mins)
Half the Classic class this is a supercharged 50 minutes to get you fitter faster.
This 50 minute class whips you into shape faster than you can say Namaste. For the motivated person on a tight schedule, it is an effective no-frills yoga fitness class combining cardiovascular sweat inducing poses, strength, flexibility, body sculpting, and stress release through breath and relaxation.
Do it in your lunch hour, or on your way home from work and your energy levels will soar. Thirty minutes standing, 20 minutes floor work.
The four Fierce Grace studios are Fierce Grace North, City, West and Primrose Hill, all in London. See fiercegrace.com for more info.
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