It is hard to pinpoint exactly where and when the very first official centre for practicing yoga in London was established. However, whilst it doesn’t compare to the 5,000 odd years of yoga practice in India, in the past half-a-dozen decades yoga has, slowly but surely, made it’s way into the lives and hearts of the western world.
Yoga is big business now, especially in London and other large cities. It is rare these days though for even the smallest of towns and country villages to not have some form of yoga class.
Exact numbers of regular yoga-go-ers is still very uncertain, but with well over 10,000 registered teachers, teaching an estimated 2 or 3 classes per week, to a class with an estimated 15-20 students, gives some idea of the magnitude that yoga has become.
Desire for self-discovery
Prior to the 1960’s, yoga classes were most commonly provided by Local Authorities. With the free-spirit movement of the “swinging sixties came a newfound interest for self-discovery and the desire for an alternative lifestyle.
Similarly, in the 60’s, the release of books such as Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras and BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” further enticed a public interest in yoga practice, and yoga philosophy, as a way of life.
The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) was founded in 1965, then known as The Wheel of British Yoga. It remains the largest membership organisation for yoga until today. It is also the National Governing body as awarded in 1995 by, what was then, The Sports Council. In the early 1970’s BWY started offering courses for yoga teachers which continues to make huge contributions to the style in which 21st century yoga is taught and practiced in the UK.
The British School of Yoga (BSY), whilst not the largest, is in fact over 20 years older than BWY, first established in 1946. That’s almost 70 years ago!
Desire to de-stress
The nineties saw a rise of yoga in London to meet the growing demands of the public looking to keep healthy and active as well as de-stress with the also increasing pace of life.
The Life Centre in Notting Hill is one of the oldest studios in London, dedicated to yoga, Pilates and treatments. Classes are still held in the same beautiful converted chapel and house, over 22 years later.
Typically, the early yoga studios offered a small selection of traditional types of yoga such as Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, Yin yoga and Sivananda yoga. Classes were often ran from churches, community halls and similar establishments.
Desire for hot
In the early 1970’s the interest in Bikram yoga started to gain momentum in the United States, particularly in LA, where the founder Bikram Choudhury had, and continues to have, many studios.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Bikram Yoga found it’s way to London, introduced by Michele Pernetta, a student of Bikram Choundhury.
Michelle, who remains one of the UK’s most respected yoga teachers, owns a chain of yoga studios in London, Fierce Grace, which hosts some of the best yoga teachers to accompany her own 20+ years of experience.
21st century Yoga in London
Yoga in London has now risen to the point where there are thousands of yoga studios offering every type of traditional yoga, plus a whole range of yogas with a modern spin.
Hot Pod Yoga, basically hot yoga in an eco-friendly inflatable studio could be an interesting way to get your heat fix.
Or, for the party folk, getting your lumo lycra on for a Friday night Club Yoga with Kelly Brooks. Or a Voga class could be the perfect way to let your hair down after a hard week at work!
Alternatively, with a rush of blood to the head, get inverted, with Anti-Gravity Yoga!
Whichever type of yoga suits your style and requirements, you will be joining the other tens of thousands of yogis in London who have embraced yoga into their weekly and daily routines.