A new kind of yoga? – The DeRose method arrives in London

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Posted by May B on Thursday 5th of July 2012

I gave up yoga a few years back when a shoulder injury made the downward facing dog and the salute to the sun an excruciating rather than an enlightening experience. But I had been a great fan – particularly working with a yogi master called Jack England whilst on a floating wooden pontoon over a lake in Florida many, many years ago. These days I struggle to summon up the occasional enthusiasm for some Zumba or a gym workout and stick mostly to the less energetic Pilates (which is good for those core tummy muscles).

So I was more than a little interested in having a go at this ancient holistic and naturalistic – rather than religious or mystical – yoga approach. DeRose, a French guy who now lives in Brazil, started studying yoga 50 years ago. He classified the various exercises into a series of groups to create a method “for professional and athletic excellence”. Apparently, the approach is adopted and practised in 250 places around the world such as Paris, New York, Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon, Buenos Aires and Rio.

Recognising that my age and injuries might prevent me from properly experiencing the method I took along my super slim and supple 17 year old Goddaughter and we chatted on our way to South Kensington tube station. After 10 minutes’ walk down the Old Brompton Road, we turned into Dove Mews to enter a calm, modern reception area where a young man welcomed us and asked us to fill out some of the standard health waiver forms. Then we popped our shoes into a cupboard, listened carefully to the instructions about sanitiser for hands and feet and went to change into our loose clothes as instructed.

We waited in the tastefully decorated (neutrals throughout) downstairs reception area, listening to a water feature burbling away and admiring some of the signs on the walls which said things like “Life is good”, “Home” and “Forever”. We declined the offer of water and drinks as we had bought our own bottles with us.

While we waited, aware of the people in reception above us through those opaque glass tiles, we watched practitioners (artists?) on the large flat screen TV doing the choreographed and performance version of the method. They were very bendy and at times it came close to the sort of acrobatic act you might see in something like Cirque Du Soleil. I was hoping very much that we wouldn’t be expected to do anything comparable in our beginners’ class. We waited a little nervously.

Finally, our instructor emerged from the previous class and was all smiles and softly accented welcomes and reassurances. She really was very lovely – and not one of those tall, stick thin, bendy looking people that can be a bit intimidating.
We entered the rubber floored studio and I was a little alarmed that there were Indian type goddess statues and a few “om” type drawings on the walls. Not many mind. She explained that some of the instructions were given in Sanskrit but that she would be speaking in English for our class. Phew!

And we started with some simple breathing exercises – through the nose – which, once you got past the embarrassment of snorting like a horse after a vigorous gallop were actually quite invigorating. Then we went into some stretches – a fair few I recognised from other yoga and Pilates classes. I am happy to report there was no downward facing dogs. And unlike some forms of yoga the key appeared to be in holding certain poses (I recognised the tree, the mermaid, the archer and one or two of the spine stretches) for a reasonable amount of time.

My young companion – who had never attended a class before – did extremely well at the strength moves whereas I did better at the flexibility moves (there’s still life in the old girl yet!). The instructor was really supportive and encouraging and provided hands on help to achieve the poses or to push us to our (comfortable) limits where we were doing well.

Whilst there are classes – of differing levels (apparently there are eight modules you progress through) in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening (and at weekends), there are also a range of other – more philosophical and cultural events – that are part of the programme once you sign up for on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. I think I’d like to know a bit more about all that before committing if I lived or worked locally and was seriously considering membership.

The hour flew by and before we knew it we were doing the typical end relaxation exercise lying on our backs in a subtly darkened studio. I felt very relaxed but worried a little about my companion – knowing that the first time I experienced this sort of guided relaxation exercise I felt acutely embarrassed. Anyway, with the session over we asked a few questions about the method, got changed and emerged into the warm evening air.

As we walked back to the station I definitely felt lighter and more relaxed – the stresses of my uncharacteristically fraught day released. I also felt a tiny bit shaky – a sure sign that those muscles had been worked and that I am likely to be very aware of some of those muscle groups tomorrow. My young companion said she had found it better than she had imagined it would be and had quite enjoyed it.

Further information is at http://www.derosemethod.co.uk/ - it’s billed as the “finest yoga studio in London” but I’m afraid that I have no comparison. However, the place was literally an oasis of calm and the people were normal but exceptionally kind and approachable.


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