With summer basically already here and holiday season also well underway, Sarah and I decided it was time to stop using the blog as an excuse to drink and eat constantly and see what the area had to offer in terms of stripping off a little excess 'wobble'! We both try our best to hit the gym regularly but had realised we weren't really flying the local flag in our exercise choices. So, as part of our new local 'sweat and tone' SW6southwestsix initiative, we were pretty smug when we stumbled across Manuka, on the New Kings Road.
Those of you who have already discovered your inner yogis might recognise Manuka as the brand that has been selling yoga and pilates gear in John Lewis (and many other retailers) for the past few years, and their products have developed a healthy following. Sarah and I were fairly oblivious to all this (I'm a bit more Primarni than Peter Jones) but we were drawn to the shop for it's simple but comfortable designs. Everything looked easy to wear and flattering and the fabrics were soft to the touch. I also love anything with an eye catching layout, and the mannequin in the window doing gymnastics in a suspended hula hoop certainly got my attention!
Manuka's flagship store at 275 New Kings Road also offers yoga and meditation classes (timetable at the bottom of this post) and so we decided it was time to discover a little local inner Zen and signed up for an hour's class. Like I say, I do try to exercise regularly but I must preface this post by saying that I have always been hideously inflexible - even my Grandmother can touch her toes, but I seem to have stretch and physical range of an ailing elephant. Hence, I've always found yoga it's own slow, aching, special kind of torture and only remotely considered it after reading in the Daily Mail (don't judge!) that Gisele Bunchden does it daily!
However, I can honestly say that whilst I still ached and strained throughout the class, this time I really enjoyed it. Manuka's studio is small, softly lit and intimate - Sarah and I's class only had one other participant. All the products, from the mats to the seating blocks (actually plush thickly stuffed cushions) and stretchy bands felt pretty upmarket and the relaxing playlist hit all the right notes. Colby, our teacher for the class (you can follow her on Twitter at @kineticlondon), was hugely upbeat and enthusiastic about all the benefits of yoga, and she was constantly on her feet correcting our postures and encouraging us to stretch that little bit further. She was really involved, totally down to earth, oozed personality and made the class really fun. It all meant that I got so much more out of it than I have when I've tried yoga before and I definitely found myself stretching more - even during those painful 'hip opener' exercises! Previously I have found yoga classes all too serious (and perhaps a little preachy on the whole accompanying philosophy thing) but Colby was great on explaining the physiological benefits, which do all make sense - I even found myself Ohhmming without feeling too silly!
Anyway, we left feeling really relaxed, a little longer, a little leaner and totally refreshed - we even skipped the planned recovery glass of wine in the White Horse (very virtuous), and picked up a few Manuka products to get our little yoga bunny on back at home. I thought the yoga towel (a thinner textured yoga mat) was really cute (great colours too, with good grip) and the wooden massage roller and eco hand massage balls came home with me too. A percentage of profits from everything in the Manuka eco range go to help plant clean bio-fuel producing Jatropha trees in Mozambique (and Manuka currently has a sale on!) so all these gains were totally guilt free!
Whilst the classes at Manuka certainly aren't bargain basement, I think paying a little extra for the smaller class size, the extra attention, and the beautiful, relaxing surroundings is definitely worthwhile. Yoga is all about relaxing, getting the postures right and coming out feeling stretched yet totally content, so I think all those things really count to getting the most from the experience - at least, it really made a difference for me. I'll definitely be going again - Gisele Bunchden watch your back!