For my third post on mindfulness in London, I thought it was time to do some yoga, so I visited The Life Centre in Islington to take a Sunday night class with Sarah Scharf.

There’s something very soothing about a Sunday night yoga class: by that time you’ve had a good 48 hours to meet with friends and family, catch up on lost sleep, get some exercise and outdoor time, and generally release any tension from the week. This makes the energy of the class completely different from a mid-week practice: Sunday night is an opportunity to really tune into your body and explore the deeper elements of yoga.

What I really loved about this class was the structure: a grounding vinyasa sequence followed by a still, restorative practice: this framework allows the student to work on strength, balance, alignment and deep relaxation all in one class.

The first hour was a slow, mindful flowing practice, with real attention to detail on key elements such as lower back posture and proper alignment in downward-facing dog pose. We also did some gentle detoxifying twists: a beautiful way to wind down before a restorative practice.

The restorative part of the class comprised just two poses, held for more than ten minutes each. The first was a gorgeous supine pose with legs slightly elevated on two bolsters, a slight internal rotation of the thighs to help release tension in the lower back, head and neck supported by a particular ‘wrapping and tucking’ set up with a blanket, another blanket covering the body up to the neck, arms in a downward-facing V and an eye pillow to help relax the face. This pose felt quite different from a typical ‘savasana’. Sarah writes in detail about the benefits of restorative yoga here, and one of the key elements of this style is to let go of any muscular work and feel fully supported by an array of bolsters, blankets, etc.

I was having such a relaxing time in this pose that I didn’t take the option of progressing to a second, prone pose, which involved lying on top of a couple of bolsters. I found the first pose to be an excellent place to practice mindfulness, and didn’t want to leave!

Sarah closed the class with a short reading from a book called ‘Comfortable with Uncertainty’ by a Buddhist nun called Pema Chodron. The reading describes how the distance between our expectation and reality can be an opportunity for growth, rather than a place of disappointment or fear. It’s a great reading. Here’s an extract:

“There’s a discrepancy between our inspiration and the situation as it presents itself. It’s the rub between those two things – the squeeze between reality and vision – that causes us to grow up, to wake up to be 100% decent, alive, and compassionate. 

The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path and in particular on this journey of awakening the heart.” 

Pema Chodron