Saturday, 15 August 2009

Let's get physical!

In lieu of the warm summery temperatures which bypass the UK annually, Londoners have to find alternative, non-climate related ways of getting hot and sweaty. Working like Dolly Parton (from "9 to 5", people!) Londoners lead rather sedentary lives. We sit on the bus and tube (if we're lucky enough to get a seat), we sit in front of our computers or in meetings, we perch on those ridiculous high stools in bars and then spend the following day sitting on our sofas recovering. With creeping obesity stats, us city dwellers must embrace a bit of exercise. You would imagine the lack of open space might hamper this fitness drive, yet Londoners are surprisingly resourceful, turning even their morning commute into a full-length work-out.

Whilst most of us opt to doze on public transport on our way into work, London's roads are full of the nauseatingly keen, helmeted astride racing bikes or sprinting along the pavements, shouldering aerodynamic backpacks. They gather in lycra-clad clouds at every red light, pointlessly jogging on the spot or balancing against a lamp-post, then hurtle off into the distance at the first hint of a green light. They are so consumed with their battle against the heavy traffic, you wouldn't have a clue this was supposed to be an enjoyable pastime. Whilst the youth of the city merrily kick footballs around parks and scale climbing frames with cheery grins, London's serious, older runners and cyclists are grim-faced warriors and bus-cursing martyrs.

Then there are the gym goers. Can there be any form of personal humiliation more vile or more widespread than going to the gym? Forced to sweat in front of others in an over air-conditioned, mirror-lined space, constantly being judged for not knowing how to use an ergometer correctly? Crippling yourself lifting weights which in real life one would never normally be expected to raise without a forklift truck? No thanks. Many people seem to spend their lunch-breaks at the gym, returning to grace their fellow colleagues with their red faces and slightly damp clothes; making us feel guilty we've just been out for lunch and slightly repulsed by their moist appearance.

So in the spirit of exercise/torture regimes, and wary of the old caveat that one must suffer to be beautiful, I have embraced my own ferocious fitness fad; Bikram yoga (also known as hot yoga or, more dramatically "fire yoga"). I have never been much of a runner (mostly off-put by the looks of shear misery of the faces of other runners), and I will only consider riding a bike in this city when I truly feel I have nothing else to live for - it's like signing one's own death certificate. I also slightly resent those who feel the need to sweat on our streets; is it not more appropriate to do a sweaty, beetroot impression far from the madding crowd?

Hence I have signed up to this craze of doing 90 minutes of yoga within what is essentially a sauna, however it is at least a sauna with closed doors. The keen-to-be-bendy, and those brave enough to swallow Bikram's expensive session prices, take up their yoga mats and are talked through 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, whilst sweating as if they are hiking through a tropical rainforest. Through a series of bends and stretches the body is realigned, sending rushes of fresh, oxygenated blood to every cell. And once you get over the initial dizziness and occasional nausea of exercising in this bizarre dripping studio, you do feel immensely good! Once those 90 minutes of pain and pressing legs straight, or into the floor, is over one emerges back out into the real world, glowing and exhausted, and ready to challenge the first speeding cyclist who cuts you up on the way home.

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