Downward dog – sip of wine – Cobra – sip of wine – Warrior Two – sip of wine. This is a yoga class I could definitely see myself as a regular.
It was Friday after a long week at work – extra long – we’ve all had those weeks in 2020. Usually I’d be closing the laptop and picking up the remote to flick through Netflix to watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race or The Home Edit, but instead, I was pulling on my fave M&S leopard print leggings and grabbing my yoga mat. I can’t remember the last time I was excited about exerting physical energy – but Wine Down yoga is a form of exercise I’m 100% here for.
Yugen Yoga is set up on the top floor of The Warehouse, in Leek, with 12 socially distanced mats set our with disinfectant spray. Leafy house plants adorn the edges of the room, glowing golden with dimmed lights and macrame wall hangings – the perfect setting for a vino and a stretch.
Cathy Tideswell – our yoga instructor – began practicing after being diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder, and found escapism on the mat. In a bid to make yoga more accessible, she launched the Wine Down yoga class where beginners and seasoned yogi’s can have fun and relax.
Cathy said: “My main goal when teaching Yoga is to make it accessible for everyone. Yoga can be a little intimidating, and in this age of Instagram and thinking ‘do I need to look like that? ‘Do I need to bend lie that?’, it can be a whole load of anxieties about attending before you even sit on your mat.
“That, mixed with this current scary, anxiety-fueled time we are all living through, I wanted create a safe and silly space for everyone to enjoy. I teach a mix of Vinyasa style classes during the week, so Friday is that opportunity to have a socially distanced mingle from the mat, enjoy a different experience and have a giggle whilst attempting those tricky postures!
“Yoga isn’t about being perfect on the mat, it’s about being present. About making time for you, to let go. This is what Wine Down Yoga aims to be.”
At the beginning of the class, Cathy offered me a glass of red or white, and I gratefully received a glass of fruity white wine. It came in a white plastic wine cup, with a vinyl decal saying ‘bottoms up’ with a downward dog pose.
The class was at a slow and steady pace, which I found ideal. I’ve been to a few yoga classes now, and sometimes the speed and flow can be quite intimidating, but this was the perfect stretch, with time to think about each movement. My mum – who came with me – hasn’t really done much yoga before, and also kept up just fine. We flowed through some of my favourite poses for stretching the lower back, such as child’s pose, cat and cow, and cobra. Meanwhile, Cathy’s soothing voice guided us through the practice, reminding us to take a sip from our glass between each movement, or whilst holding a pose. And Cathy is right – there is a lot of pressure on new yogi’s to feel like they need to look a certain way in their poses – but a few swigs of liquid confidence, and you find yourself in the zone.
The wine glass was genuinely a valuable tool for the class, acting as a Drishti (focal point), which can help maintain balance and focus (until the glass is empty, you might wobble a bit then). The sips of alcohol made the class like no other I’ve taken. You feel the first few sips go to your head, releasing endorphins and allowing you to be carefree and empowered. You feel warm and fuzzy, both from the movement and the booze, which in turn allows your body to be more flexible, pushing slightly deeper into stretches.
There were some serious near-spills, but I managed to keep all liquid either in the cup or in my mouth – it was as much a brain training task thinking of how to hold the cup as it was a physical exercise. It was really nice to be able to let my hair down and share tipsy giggles with the other class members, forget about the stresses of 2020 for 45 minutes, and take the time to self-care without digital devices.
Cathy added: “Wine Down yoga is not a traditional sort of class, but a little reminder that Yoga doesn’t need to be so serious. Yoga is life. It’s about the time you connect with yourself, connect with others, laughter, kindness (and it’s amazing how well you hold those postures when your drink is your Drishti!)”
The class did see a few trickier poses, just challenging enough to break a sweat, before heading back to the mat in a resting position for some breathing. Then – my favourite part of any yoga class: savasana. I unfolded the blanket I’d bought from home and lay flat on my mat with my palms up to the ceiling. Practicing mindfulness, you can feel the alcohol fizzing in your blood as it pumps around your body as you inhale and exhale deeply.
When I got home from the class, I drew a hot bubble bath with my Tiger and Co candles and soaked away the week. It absolutely felt like the perfect way to kickstart a week off work.