Picture the scene: a boy and a girl arrive at the Eden Project. The boy is awkwardly holding the girl’s Pilates mat (they’re trying – and failing – to pass it off as a yoga mat) and the girl is suddenly realising what she’s let herself in for. They check out their surroundings to find yogis everywhere who all look like they know exactly what they’re doing with their proper yoga mats in their proper yoga bags that they’ve slung around their shoulders. Nerves set in and the boy says to the girl “I’ll pay you not to do this… name your price.”
It’s 22nd March, the Eden Project’s Wellbeing Day, which is part of their March Super Sunday series of events where the Cornish visitor attraction plays host to a variety of yoga schools. When I first saw the promotional email, I glanced over it and got very excited when I read:
“Discover yoga, pilates, meditation and other therapies for the body and mind, with Cornwall’s best teachers. Pre-bookable classes include sunrise yoga in the Med and Bikram high in the Rainforest, as well as free taster sessions to suit adults and children, across the Eden site.”
Bikram high in the Rainforest?! What an amazing opportunity that would be! I got on the phone to book my tickets straight away and I have to say, I was not disappointed.
Back to the story of the nervous couple at the entrance to the Eden Project. After fumbling our way through the tills – apparently our entry passes from last September are outdated and we’re told there’s one specific till that will accept them – we ask the girl who serves us what it’s going to be like, hoping she’ll settle our nerves. “It’s really hard,” she starts, but then smiles (probably as she has seen the colour drain from our faces) and says: “It’s not that bad. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
With that little confidence boost, we head down to the Rainforest Biome. As we come into the entrance between the two Biomes – Rainforest and Mediterranean – we see sweaty yogis pouring out of the Rainforest Biome. “How was it?” I nervously ask one of them. “Great, it was an amazing experience. I’ve done it before, though… It’s your first time? Good luck!”
As we enter the Rainforest Biome, I glance up to see the lookout point where we’re going to be doing yoga in about 15 minutes’ time. The first thing I notice is that it’s really high up, higher than I remember it being. The second thing is that we’ve not got long to get there, we’re not sure how to get there, and it seems miles away. So our warm-up prior to yoga consists of us quick marching through the Biome, gently but hurriedly nudging bewildered tourists out of the way. They must have thought we were mad.
As we approach the entrance to the lookout platform, we see a sign saying “Lookout platform closed” and a stern-looking Eden Project employee with a clipboard making sure that only those booked onto the platform can gain access. Our names ticked off the list, we head up yet another hill to be greeted by Dan, one of the owners of Breathe HQ in Truro and our instructor for the session. Dan was great; he talked us through what we should expect as beginners and stressed that if we ever felt like the yoga was too much, we should sit down and drink water (which was provided by the bucketload at no extra cost).
From the little hut area where we currently were, we headed up the metal steps to the lookout platform. This, for me, was more daunting than I was expecting. I was eager to get up there quickly as I was barefoot and the metal steps were grating on my feet. The problem was that several people were moving about on the stairs and platform. As the whole construction is suspended from the top of the Biome, it was swaying from side to side, making me feel dizzy. I also felt the necessity to look down as I didn’t want to lose my footing on the steps and trip – I’m pretty clumsy like that – and seeing the 50 metre drop certainly did not help my jitters!
Once on the platform, it was clear that many of the yogis were experienced and a couple had come from Breathe HQ itself. They were kitted out in shorts and t-shirts or even swimming costumes. It was at that moment that I wished I had looked into what to wear to hot yoga. I was in a T-shirt and exercise leggings, so I was clearly going to sweat. We picked out the two remaining mats which were all placed in circle formation around the lookout point. This meant we were all facing each other with Dan in the centre of the platform. We had been given towels and were instructed to put these on top of the mats provided (“you’re going to sweat… a lot… you’ll need the towel on top of your mat”). The yoga mats that we had brought along were to be placed underneath the ones provided. With our mats all set up, it was time to get started!
If you’ve ever done yoga before, you’ll know that some instructors like to have several sequences (or flows) that they get you to practice in the session. Hot yoga is a little different. The instructor goes through one pose at a time, with a modification if you’re experienced. This is repeated several times, then you move on to the next pose. So it’s a lot slower but much more intense than cold yoga. The instructor is also not moving with you, he’s telling you what to do and walking around to check you get it right. He tells us to look at the more experienced yogi if we’re not quite sure what to do, but it’s all quite straightforward (apart from when I’m trying to twist my right arm around my left while standing on one leg – left and right are so easy to confuse!).
We start with a long warm-up and many poses on our feet. I am impressed watching Dan and the surrounding yogi – they’re all so flexible! After a while the heat and humidity start to get to me and as instructed before we started, I sit down and take a drink. It wasn’t so much my head feeling faint, it was more my heart pumping at an extraordinarily fast rate and it was freaking me out. I get up and carry on and then take a few more breaks until we’re told to lie down on our mat for exercises on our stomachs. I find this section much easier to manage. Breathe HQ recently published a video (below) on YouTube so you can get a better idea of the exercises that we did (I’m the girl in the pink T-shirt in the first part of the video and as you can see I took full advantage of sitting down and drinking water).
Throughout the class we’re told to tune in to our surroundings, take a look around, listen to the waterfall… It all seems so surreal that we’re at the very top of the Eden Project’s Rainforest Biome doing hot yoga. I almost feel like pinching myself to take it all in. The relaxation section at the end of the class is amazing with all of the natural sounds and senses. I glance over to the digital thermometer that I had not noticed before: 34.7⁰C, wow!
After the class ends, Dan takes a moment to have a quick chat with everyone. He’s very enthusiastic and encouraging and emphasises that both me and my boyfriend have done really well; his passion for hot yoga is clear to see and you can tell he wants the people taking his class to get as much out of it as possible.
As we snake our way through the rainforest dome, my boyfriend and I find that we are both full of energy: we feel great. All of the niggles and injuries we have are gone (temporarily) and we both feel like a weight is lifted off our shoulders. It’s the best stress relief I’ve ever had. Once at the exit to the dome we spot the ice-cream seller, and although the weather is just mildly pleasant outside, we’re still a bit sweaty and red-faced. I opt for a scoop of coconut and baobab and my boyfriend goes for the coffee and Brazil nut. It certainly hit the spot and as we tuck in, none other than Dan himself walks past on a break between classes and says “Ice cream, good choice, guys!”
Good choice indeed. I loved hot yoga and can’t wait to do it again. If it ever comes back to the Eden Project, I’ll be there.
Hot yoga at the Eden Project cost us £12 plus the Eden Project entry fee.
Disclaimer: this review was not written in exchange for any freebies or the like.