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Before I tried Budokon, I was a yoga novice. As a result, I was slightly nervous but looking forward to getting stuck in to what promised to be a dynamic (and hopefully fun) blend of yoga, meditation and martial arts.
When I arrived at the newly opened Evolve Wellness Centre in South Kensington, an unassuming building in a short cul de sac off the high street, I was struck by how small (yet neat and perfectly formed) the venue was. The reception staff were relaxed (but perhaps a little too laid back) as they greeted me. After being reminded that I was expected for a class, they invited me to place my shoes in a pigeon hole near a small waiting area, before I was directed through to the ladies changing rooms. Thankfully, I was wearing particularly snazzy socks, but be sure to put on a pristine pair!
The decor throughout was very smart, earthy and minimal- lots of dark stained wood paired with serene nature photography, frosted glass and clean, white walls. The changing rooms were fairly spacious; downward opening lockers and coat pegs are available for you to store your jackets and belongings and there is also a sink and a full length mirror for pre or post-class preening. Toilets are housed in a cloakroom a few steps away and showers are also available separately in a washroom off the same narrow corridor.
The studio in which the Budokon class was held was slightly on the compact side, but for a modest, intimate centre, this was to be expected. Situated just the other side of the ladies changing rooms, it was light and airy, if a little too small for our class of seven. Brand new yoga mats were provided and it was nice easy to see expert instructor Ryan running through stances at the front of the room (even if it wasn’t so easy for me as a beginner to keep up)! Unfortunately, once the class progressed to fluid ‘dancing’ exercises, the lack of space became a slight problem and I was conscious of both the walls and the limbs of my classmates frequently intruding into my ‘dancing dog’ and ‘crow’ moves.
The session itself was a testing workout. I quickly became aware that as a tennis player, my wrists aren’t used to being simultaneously stretched and subjected to the pressure of my full body weight, but no matter how tough things were to grasp, I gave them a go! More experienced yoga students or fans of weights may find the positions easier to pick up and hold, but the incorporation of animal-style movements (such as the ‘gorilla’) towards the end of the session, meant that despite working up a serious sweat, it still remained enjoyable for newbies like me.
The meditation section of the class was much needed before the session concluded, and it was nice to lay back and relax muscles that had been worked to their fullest. The contemplative mood was marred slightly by intrusions from the outside world (nearby drilling, alarms and footsteps proved distracting whilst Ryan recited inspirational yoga mantras and philosophies), but I still managed to join in breathing exercises which helped to focus my mind and lower my body temperature.
Overall, my first encounter with Budokon was an exhausting but fascinating experience. Although I would have preferred to have been in a class of 5 or 6 so that I felt less self-conscious and better able to focus on freeing up rather than restricting my movements, I enjoyed the variation that the discipline provides.
I was left feeling stretched, energised and very aware that I had just given my body a gruelling test, which certainly involved muscles that hadn’t been exercised for a good while. However, I would recommend that those new to yoga perhaps check out a more sedate Hatha or specialised beginners Budokon class at the centre so that they are more slowly introduced to the agility that the exercises demand.