Taking up the role as digital writer for Women’s Running magazine, I never imagined that four weeks in I would be taking off Madonna, ‘voguing’ my way around an underground studio in East London to ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. But believe it or not, this happened.
In fact, it happened last night. After being invited to try out Juliet Murrell’s revolutionary new fitness fusion, VOGA, I hopped on a tube to Old Street to see what all the hype was about.
A fusion of yoga and (yes you guessed it) ‘voguing’, Voga offers a more cardio-intensive take on yoga with a strong twist of expressive dance, inspired by 80’s ‘voguing’. I hoped that after a quick glimpse of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ on Youtube before leaving the house I couldn’t go far wrong…
Turning up to the class on Kingsland Road I had no idea what to expect. The class was broken down into various stages, starting with a series of arm poses involving flamboyant hand movements, resembling a series of poses in a fashion editorial. I later learned from Juliet that the flamboyant poses were key to ‘voguing’ as an 80’s dance phenomenon, as documented in Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning, which reveals ball-walkers posing in glamorous position as though on the cover of Vogue. I must admit I couldn’t have looked less like a Vogue cover model. Firstly, I turned up in an old running top and my oldest, tattiest pairs of leggings (which I must admit I felt a little embarrassed about as some of the girls looked so glamorous) and secondly, having the coordination of Bambi on ice, the whole posing thing was a complete nightmare for me. Who’d have thought you could get your arms in such a twist?
A little unconvinced, I went on with the class and thankfully, it all started to come together. The poses began to work their way into a yoga sequence, which began to feel more and more natural. The poses evolved into strengthening exercises, bought together in an upbeat dance sequence. Where the strengthening exercises involved in Yoga are generally not performed particularly elegantly (often involving a room full of flushed women (or men) awkwardly trying to dislocate their legs into all sorts of positions), Voga is composed and elegant (or at least claims to be). In fact, I was concentrating so hard on pulling my best Madonna pose, I forgot all about the pain of my shaking core.
My favourite part of the performance element was striking out the poses to an upbeat tune. Though, I’m a little reluctant to believe that the class burns up to 2500 calories, the class definitely works up more of a sweat than a standard yoga class and provided a nice mix of cardio and stretching – both beneficial for runners. In that sense, if you fancy mixing up your cardio and enjoy dancing, I would definitely recommend adding an hour’s class into your training plan once every one to two weeks to mix up your cardio training.
More importantly, I would say Voga is one of the funniest and most effective ways to help you to stretch out your leg muscles, which many of us (me included) too often neglect. The most intensive stretches came at the end of the class as the poses became more intense and came to focus on the lower half of the body. I have to say this was my favourite part of the class, as it really helped me to stretch out an extremely tight set of quads and calves after a strenuous 10K run the afternoon before. The stretches we completed on the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors (however posed and ‘glam’) were hard work. My attempt at the pose which I later learned to be coined the ‘Virabhadrasana pose’ was painful yet therapeutic, helping to stretch out the quads and really helped to open up the groin and hips, which I would never normally do as part of my stretching routine.
After the class I spoke to Juliet about the benefits of Voga – particularly for runners.
“For runners, yoga is great for correcting muscle imbalances, helping to restore balance and symmetry to the body, whilst also helping to improve flexibility. Yoga really stretches those leg muscles that are tight from running, enhancing motion in the joints and reducing stiffness. Voga is bursting with stretching and strengthening sequences – which is great for stetching and strengthening the quads and calves but also helps to loosen tense muscles in the upper half of the body. Stretching and opening up the shoulders from the neck down through the various poses is great for alleviating tension.
“For busy, working people always on the move, Voga is great. Where Yoga can take you into a whole new head space – Voga is different. It’s mental centering yet upbeat enough to flow from and into your work without being disorienting.”
If you fancy mixing up your training with light cardio and intensive stretching you’ll enjoy Voga. If you love Madonna, own a leotard and like the light the idea of mixing up warrior poses with vogueing arms – you’ll absolutely love it!