VeraFlow Instructor, Davide

Find Your Flow

30th September 2016

Self-confessed exercise refusenik Lisa Botwright finds herself trialling a new and intriguingly named exercise class, VeraFlow...

For someone whose idea of exercise is walking briskly to the car or flexing my arm muscles as I lift a glass of wine to my mouth, the idea of reviewing an exercise class made me feel at best amused, and at worst downright nervous. “Yes, I’d love to!” I fibbed to my Editor.

I try and make time to exercise, and it always makes me feel better when I manage it. You know, less sluggish, more smug. The universal problem is that with work and family commitments, I can never find the time. (Funny how I always make time for Games of Thrones though, and for sitting in the garden with that glass of wine.)

I think it’s because I’ve never found a class that I really enjoy; where the motivation to attend outweighs my body’s disinclination to get hot and bothered and tired. And also, while it takes hard work to get fit, how easy it is to become unfit.

However, I’ve been invited along to the Northwood Club and the class I’m trying out is called VeraFlow. Intriguing name, huh? And I’ll tell you more; but let me first set the scene with some background about the club. It’s owned by Darwin Wellness, who’ve come up with a pretty good, mid-priced concept – along the lines of a country club, and definitely more plush than your average gym. As well as a huge range of exercise equipment to keep the keenest gym-bunny happy, there are loads of classes, an indoor swimming pool, and a trendy, urban-styled lounge/bar, that opens onto a large terrace. The bar is so nice, in fact, that I’m tempted to sink into one of the big squashy brown sofas (think Friends’ Central Perk meets swanky boutique hotel), buy a nice freshly pressed juice, and just stay here. (“Yes, the class was, umm, great,” I could fib once more.)

But no, I’m a professional. I can do this. I heave my creaking joints out of their place of rest, and walk down the narrow corridor into a large studio. Oh no, there are mirrors, I think, with a jolt of horror; and then just as quickly, forget about them, as people start chatting to me (Are you new?/Yes, we take our trainers off and do the class in our bare feet/No, we don’t need our mats until later etc). I’m genuinely struck by how smiley and welcoming everyone is, having attended so many ‘cliquey’ gym classes in the past. (The last class I went along to, elsewhere, was a high intensity one, full of super-toned sporty types, and I was super-intimidated as I huffed and puffed alongside them, vainly trying to keep up.)

The instructor, Davide, bounces into view to introduces himself, and the class begins… Then something really strange happens. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s because Davide is quite fabulously enthusiastic, but I find I am actually really enjoying myself. I feel really energised.

VeraFlow was created by British dance and fitness expert Naomi Di Fabio, to bridge the (seemingly large) gap between modern dance and yoga. As a dancer, she understood that she benefited from the strengthening and stretching aspect of yoga, and definitely from its emphasis on mindfulness, but, in her words, it was ‘boring’. This is why I now find myself interlacing familiar yoga poses with very unfamiliar hip hop moves – and grinning away while I do so. It really is so much fun.

I’ve attended yoga classes in the past and enjoyed them, but I have absolutely no sense of co-ordination, and would feel really intimidated going along to an adult dance class. What’s great about VeraFlow is that because we are dipping in and out of each discipline so quickly, there is no need to be an expert in either. Plus, Davide is a great teacher, and includes a little practice of the key moves we’re about to do before each song starts, much appreciated by a newbie like me. He explains afterwards that he changes the routines around every six weeks or so, too, so they continue to feel fresh to the regulars.

Each song introduces a new style of dance, so I’m flowing (dis)gracefully between ‘downward dog’ and down-and-dirty street moves; from tree pose to tango. I even shimmy between a sun salutation to shaking my hips for a belly dance; and all the while Davide is encouraging us to “put your flavour into it!” in his musical (and quite sexy) Italian accent. And I do, I really do. I’m gleefully channeling my inner Fame-student – flinging my arms out with a West End flourish, rather than raising them sensibly as if I were in a standard yoga class. I haven’t had this much fun on the dance floor, or felt so uninhibited, since my cousin’s wedding... and this time there isn’t a glass of prosecco in sight.

Everyone spontaneously gives a round of applause after each song, and we grin at each other supportively. The endorphines are really flowing all-round.

After about half an hour or more of songs, the mats come out and we do some floor work. This part of the class is more like conventional yoga, but still infused with lots of Davide’s and VeraFlow’s ‘flavour’. It’s also followed by a traditional relaxation session, by which time my muscles sink gratefully into the mat.

Vera means ‘true’ in Italian – and flow, of course, is that great feeling when you’re so immersed in an activity that time seems to stand still: the holy grail of mindfulness. It’s the perfect name, because the elements genuinely flow seamlessly and the hour passes in the blink of an eye.

The class is so enjoyable that I’ll definitely be back. Even at the risk of missing the beginning of Game of Thrones.

For more information...
• about Davide’s fitness classes in the local area: www.zumbanorthwood.co.uk
• about the VeraFlow concept: www.veraflow.com
• about The Northwood Club’s membership opportunities: www.darwinwellness.co.uk

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