It’s always a good feeling to be part of a great team, so I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to Brighton’s Unity Yoga stand at the Om Yoga Show this year.
Apart from being a yoga-obsessive and a big fan of Unity Yoga, I actually attended primary school just down the hill from the venue, Alexandra Palace, and I hadn’t been to an event at the top of the hill since the Sinclair C5* launch…in 1985!
For me, yoga definitely has its spiritual side, and skipping from the free shuttle bus up to the impressive gates of Ally Pally (as we called it at school), I was really excited to be spending a day working in the impressive building I’d been able to see from my old playground. It felt like I was coming full-circle from the kid I’d once been to the parent and yoga teacher I am today.
As I stepped into The Great Hall I was met with the sight of dozens of stalls peddling yoga-related products to legging-clad women and men in jogging bottoms. I noticed a series of penned exercise areas set around the perimeter of the hall for visitors who wanted to join a class (for some sessions there was an additional charge). These spaces were sponsored by companies such as Pukka and Tea India (tea was a big thing at the event – there were lots of smaller outlets there too), equipment brands like Yoga United, Yoga Studio and Yoga Matters, as well as schools of yoga such as Raja and Sahaja Yoga. There was even a Rainbow Yoga area set aside for kids – a great idea!
In the Tea India area I passed rows of people seated for a meditation practice, each wearing eye masks to keep out the distractions. I’m not sure how restful it could have been being barked at through a radio mike, but the students seemed happy enough.
Training yoga teachers is big money these days (it’s just a shame being a yoga teacher is considerably less of an earner!), and as well as the wonderful Unity Yoga in Brighton that I was helping to promote, there were a good few schools from Iyengar to British Wheel Of Yoga and beyond also canvassing visitors.
Yoga holidays are becoming increasingly popular as people look to escape the pressures of modern life, and as well as an impressive amount of stands advertising yoga retreats there was even one selling an actual bricks and mortar retreat – a very beautiful chateau in the South of France, complete with its own spring-fed swimming lake! I know what’s first on my Christmas list this year…
At the Om Yoga Magazine stand yogis were earnestly throwing shapes in front of a white screen in the hope of winning the magazine’s ‘Search For a Cover Star 2018’. Despite being a natural show-off myself, I thought it might have been more interesting for the magazine to seek out some of the more modest show attendants, who very Britishly may not have shouted the loudest – if at all.
I met some truly inspirational people working at the stalls, many whom, extremely experienced in yoga, worked with yoga in deserving areas of care or education. For example, as the mother of a (high-functioning) autistic child with ADHD, I was drawn to the Yotism booth – a yoga teacher-training school with the tagline ‘Inspiring Harmony In Autism’ – as well as that of Rainbow Yoga Kids Studio, which offered classes for children and their parents or grandparents (‘the family that yogas together’, etc).
The LA-founded but international team behind the Yoga Gives Back scheme would also make a commendable cover story. They raise money through yoga classes in the west to enable “small loans to women in India who are otherwise excluded from the conventional banking and financial systems. In the last ten years, YGB has grown to fund over 1100 mothers and children with micro loan programs and education funds with a minimum of five-year commitment to each person.” Special mention for UK-based aid goes to Yogacycle, where yogis can donate disused or damaged yoga mats for distribution to homeless shelters, refugee camps and animal shelters**.
The remaining stalls comprised insurance brokers, jewellery and accessory companies, skincare manufacturers offering items such as organic and ayurvedic face creams or hand soaps and big name brands like Riverford, Abel & Cole, Planet Organic and Biona trading speciality foodstuffs. Smaller booths selling liquid refreshments like smart drinks, vitamin drinks and juices vied for attention with a delightful array of cottage industries offering edible treats – raw, vegan chocolate being the standout trend of 2017 (perhaps it should have been called the NOm Show this year, nom-nom!).
Of course there were also a great many yoga clothing companies evident at the Om Show, with the most wonderfully bright and colourful Athleisure**** wear shops hawking their wares alongside the calmer muted greys, whites and beige sweats and shirts of organic cottons and ethical cashmere. It was refreshing to see a great many clothes on offer for the male yogis amongst us, with show sponsor Yogangster making its presence felt with cool urban togs, as well as Yoga Bloke featuring esoteric designs printed on hoodies and sweatpants.
Overall, I noticed that people seemed more interested in yoga retreats than teacher-training schemes, and a few people mentioned that last weekend’s Show felt quieter than that of the previous year.
On a personal level it was wonder meeting so many passionate yogis in one place. I was really pleased to bump into the lovely Ellen at the Independent Yoga Network, one of the UK Yoga governing bodies under which my training diploma at Unity Yoga Brighton was accredited.
Another standout meeting was with Tilly (AKA Louise) and her tirelessly enthusiastic helper at the Buttafly stall. The Buttafly is a foam wedge available in three heights that can be used as an alternative to a yoga block, bolster or meditation cushion to correct posture and support better alignment of the spine. Suffice to say, as someone who still finds Dandasana difficult after 20 years of practice (due to additional fused vertebrae in the spine than just the usual 5 in the sacrum), I was sold! I’ll pen a more detailed write-up on the Buttafly once I receive my review sample.
Apart from an entire collection of Buttaflies, a whole new yoga wardrobe (or few!) a yoga retreat (or few!), and a lifetime’s supply of raw chocolate, also on my wishlist from the Om Show was local (to me) Sussex yoga treat company Bhava Box. Following on from the popularity of beauty boxes such as Birchbox and Look Fantastic, Bhava Box offers monthly subscriptions of goodies such as organic skincare, deluxe samples, healthy snacks, essential oils and teas (of course!) all boxed up and sprinkled with lavender oil to be delivered straight to your door. Santa, if you’re listening this comes a close second to the retreat for sale in France!
* Nothing to do with the Om Show but I couldn’t resist this little reminder:
** Courtesy of Spectrum Magazine BWY:
*** The ‘Kiss My Asana’ T-shirt was funny and reminded me of another ‘80s fad: the ‘My Mum went to … and all she brought me was this Lousy T-Shirt’ souvenir. I didn’t buy this particular top for teaching my classes. Should I have?!
****yes, Athleisure fashion’s an acceptable descriptive term, and has actually been around as long as I have, first recorded as being used in a trainer advert in 1976. Reaching prominence in the last couple of years, according to Business Insider the trend is already on the wane, as discussed in their piece ‘Athleisure Is Dying’.