Lord knows there's enough types of yoga to suit every man, woman and beast in London. Broga, Womb Yoga (yes, that's a real thing) and Doga, for our canine friends, have been keeping the capital's stressed out inhabitants in a state of Zen. But now there's the chance to take up Voga. The new addition to the reworked-yoga slot mixes voguing, aka model-like poses, combined with traditional yoga positions - not vodka and yoga as I'd first thought.
Inspired by Vogue magazine, voguing is linear, angular and rigid body movements. The dance originated in the gay Ballroom scene in NYC in the 1980s and Madonna made it famous with her 1990 single and video, 'Vogue'.
Voga was born in London in November 2013. It is the brainchild of Juliet Murrell, a film and set designer turned yoga-convert who identified a niche for a more expressive, energetic style of the traditional Indian discipline.
As someone who rapped along to the Madonna hit in my teens, I love the idea of striking a pose or two and coming out feeling like an eighties pop goddess. At the airy studio in Hackney, we each pick up a green mat and roll it out on the light wooden floor.
Renata, the instructor, is easily identifiable in with her gaudy Lycra leggings. There are about 15 of us sat on the mats. The group is predominantly female though a handful of guys are dotted around and there is a range of abilities from first-timers like moi, to weekly devotees.
In the shortest introduction in the history of introductions Renata demonstrates an arm-rolling movement that is somewhere between a ballet-move and an elaborate bow. Then, the 80s beat is flicked on and it begins. Position number one: the 'child' - that's feet tucked under bum, face to the ground, arms stretched out in front - if the yoga-variation craze has somehow passed you by.
I've dabbled with yoga in the past though I have the flexibility of an arthritic stick insect, which thwarts progress. I feel each vertebrae pop and undo as I attempt touching my toes as we flow from one position into the next. The arm poses build strength and after several minutes of repetition, my biceps are burning. The pace then changes and we get into the groove with some different arm moves. Renata keeps shouting "to the beat, to the beat," either to encourage us to feel the music, or to remind us how out of time we are as we try to move our arms 'front, up, front, back, front, out'.
There aren't as many 80s floor-fillers as I'd expected. Sure, we had Janet Jackson's 'What have you done for me lately', but one woman is notably absent from the soundtrack. Dearest Madge. Every time a song changes I hope to hear an intro from The Immaculate Collection. But she never arrives. My performance feels more akin to The Who than Madonna as I swing my arm around like a windmill in one of the arm routines. A few moves later and it's like I'm impersonating Shamou at SeaWorld, waving his flipper to the crowd, when we "flick our wrist with attitude" in the 'triangle' position.
Murrell says: "Voguing gave its mostly marginalised participants a sense of empowerment and confidence through striking dramatic and expressive poses. [Voga is] guaranteed to make you feel amazing." I have to disagree and at the end of the hour-long class, my body is confused. I have stretched. I have lunged. I have worked my arms hard. I have mustered a slight rouged face but definitely no sweat. But what has it achieved? There is an element of yoga and an element of dance and posing. But the two elements haven't formed something empowering and energising, but rather a feeble attempt at both. Though there is emphasis on breathing, the thumping music and the dance routine undercut the mindfulness and sense of calm that traditional yoga normally ensues.
The fact Madonna never shows up is also bummer. Instead, the final moments of the class are spent 'voguing' to Bill Withers' 'Lovely Day' - which it never quite becomes. It's not surprising voga hasn't been attempted before. Perhaps vodka is the missing ingredient after all.
Where: Monday: Finsbury Town Hall, Angel 8.00pm; Tuesday: Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, Bethnal Green 7.30pm; London Fields Yoga Arthaus, Hackney Central 1.00pm.
Booking:vogalondon.co.uk or 07774802837
Cost: £10 online, £12 on the daySuggest a correction