I’ve been a Yoga Manchester
student for 12 months yet Paul’s Thursday class in Withington was new territory for me. It’s held weekly at the Methodist Church on Wilmslow Road, this could not be in a more prevalent location yet I still drove past it three times as I waited for my Sat Nav to catch up, geography isn’t my strong suit!
There is a car park for the church just down the road on Edgerton Crescent. As I did absolutely no research before arriving I was unaware of this and parked across the street. I guess I make these errors so you don’t have too!
The Methodist Church is like no other I’ve practiced in, it’s really modern, and as you walk in you’re faced with office doors and notice boards in place of pews and alters. The entrance is actually an extension onto the original church so the pews and alters do still exist, phew!
The room for the yoga class is upstairs and it is so beautiful! I was the first to arrive so got to see the space in all its glory. Two huge windows either side of the room allow the rare Manchester sunlight to beam through. If it wasn’t for the original stained glass windows and 4ft cross this room could easily be mistaken for the latest trendy yoga studio. Paul lit incense and played calming music as I got myself ready for practice before the others arrived.
Paul said the class wouldn’t get too busy so I rolled out my mat at the front, another first for me as I generally practice at the back of a class (force of habit) and waited for the other students to arrive. Now I’m not sure if this was a one off or whether Paul’s and my ‘not very busy’ differ greatly, but a continuous stream of people began to flow through the door. I moved my mat three times so others could practice comfortably. This class is definitely popular with the locals, however that doesn’t mean lack of teacher attention; Paul easily makes his way around the room; adjusting people, asking if they’re okay, pushing those who want to go deeper and helping those that want a rest.
The array of yoga students differed greatly; from older women in jazzy yoga leggings to sporty university students in grey joggers and football shirts. I noticed a few level two class students as well, so although Paul’s class is level one that’s not to say the diehard Ashtangi’s will be left twiddling their thumbs! Far from it!
It’s a relaxed environment and it’s clear everyone has the same aim: to unwind, stretch, breathe, relax and learn something new.
It’s a full Primary series class with traditional terminology used to call the postures (Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, anyone?) Do not let this put you off if you’re new to Ashtanga, Paul gives full demonstrations at the front of class. As we moved our way through the sequence the heat began to rise and the sweat began to drip. This is a real workout but Paul continues to remind us to focus on our breath. He didn’t count the asanas (generally held for 5 breaths), which was new for me. Everyone’s five breath count is different and I find when I’m practicing alone my five breaths are someone else’s three. In Mysore classes you’re left to count your own breath so Paul’s class really helped me to understand how I should be breathing in my personal practice.
In this class you can push yourself as far as your body and mind want to go. One of the hardest things to learn (at least for me and my big ego) when starting your yoga journey, is to hold back in postures. You see the flexible folk around you contorting themselves into pretzel like positions and you want to do that too. It’s better to listen to your body and feel good than copy someone else and feel pain. You will get there eventually, and you’ll have learnt patience in the process. Win/win!
This is the perfect class if you’re looking for a new challenge; you’ll learn the asanas of the Ashtanga Primary Series and you’ll gain great foundations to develop your own practice in your own time. Just enjoy the journey!
Review by Sarah Later
I was 19 years old when I took my very first yoga class - not only because I wanted to be uber fit and bendy but because I was anxious and stressed about everything I could find to be anxious and stressed about. For a little over a year now I’ve been a student of Matt’s and each day I grow a little more obsessed with this practice. So, I obviously jumped at the chance to practice with every Yoga Manchester teacher and then write about my experiences with each. I hope one of these reviews ignites enough curiosity in you to try a class; maybe you’ll fall in love too.