Rooftop yoga in Peckham

Photo: Holly Whittaker

Photo: Holly Whittaker

The journey of yoga is a long and winding one, from ancient India, to swanky studios in Los Angeles, and then the world. But in Peckham, they’re taking the practise to new heights, writes Laura Burgoine…

Throughout the summer Frank’s café hasn’t just been home to hipsters on nights out; scores of yogis have been rolling out their mats on the multi-storey carpark rooftop each weekend, lead by yoga teacher Lucy Bannister.  Classes have been so in demand, the Peckham-based instructor is continuing rooftop yoga sessions throughout the autumn and winter.

“I had no idea it would be so popular,” Lucy reveals. With classes of 25-30 people, she has had to turn people away. “It really goes to show how much people in Peckham want this; some people travelled for it but most were based in Peckham and have been really keen for me to keep the classes going,” she says. “There’s a couple of good yoga studios locally but they’re more expensive and really small; people like that with my classes you get change from a tenner and you’re getting an unusual venue.”

With Mother Nature being particularly kind to Britain this summer, the classes have enjoyed considerable success so far. “When I suggested rooftop yoga people actually laughed at me and said ‘you realise you live in England’ but we’ve been so lucky with the weather and the views are just unbeatable; it’s also surprisingly quiet and private up there; it’s just us and the chef from Frank’s preparing for service,” Lucy tells.

As part of the Pocket Places Peckham, which aims to make use of unused local spaces, Lucy ran a series of free yoga classes in the park-area behind McDonald’s on Rye Lane earlier in the summer. “I’m really keen for yoga to reach as many people as possible,” she says. “People often think they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible or whatever but you won’t get flexible unless you stretch; everyone should just give the class a go.”

Having practised yoga for 15 years and taught for 2.5, Lucy teaches Dru yoga, which follows the principles of hatha but in a slow, flowing form. “It’s not as slow as Pilates and it’s kind of like Tai Chi because of the flowing sequences but it’s mostly about preparing the body for postures; it’s not dynamic form,” she says. All of the postures can be modified to be made deeper and stronger, which means the classes feature a mix of abilities from beginner to advanced. “I’m not a typical yoga teacher; I’m not super thin, I’m fit and healthy and strong but I’ve got curves, which I like, and I feel like it’s important to stand up in front of the class as a normal person,” Lucy says.

The outdoor environment adds a huge amount to the practise, Lucy insists. “People love it, it’s such an exciting venue and so unusual. Up on the roof you’ve got the wind in your face and amazing views of London,” she says. “Yoga practise is about finding stillness while still observing the rest of the world. For me it’s not about just doing it once a week in a studio, it comes into everything in life.”

The unique location in Peckham is also a great way to connect to the city, Lucy explains. “You have trains passing and the most amazing thing is when you’re doing a sun salutation and the sun comes out at the same time. I love the fact that with outdoor yoga you’re really connected with the world.”

Lucy’s last summer session of rooftop yoga will take place at Level 7-10, Peckham Multi-storey carpark, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST, on Saturday 21 September from 10am-11am (arrive at 9:45am). Autumn classes will commence Saturday 5 October, same time. Advanced booking essential: £30 for four classes. Also watch out for early morning yoga classes due to start in Peckham.

For Lambeth locals, Brixtonite Becky Pearson teaches rooftop yoga at the Lambeth (formerly Brixton Clubhouse) above the Prince of Wales, 469 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8HH.

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