Alison is the Site Editor at Wahanda and a life-long Londoner. A subject matter magpie and self-confessed make up junkie, if it's new, a little bit different and promises great things, she'll be onto it in a flash.
Before I tried Budokon, I was a yoga novice. As a result, I was slightly nervous but looking forward to getting stuck in to what promised to be a dynamic (and hopefully fun) blend of yoga, meditation and martial arts.
When I arrived at the newly opened Evolve Wellness Centre in South Kensington, an unassuming building in a short cul de sac off the high street, I was struck by how small (yet neat and perfectly formed) the venue was. The reception staff were relaxed (but perhaps a little too laid back) as they greeted me. After being reminded that I was expected for a class, they invited me to place my shoes in a pigeon hole near a small waiting area, before I was directed through to the ladies changing rooms. Thankfully, I was wearing particularly snazzy socks, but be sure to put on a pristine pair!
The decor throughout was very smart, earthy and minimal- lots of dark stained wood paired with serene nature photography, frosted glass and clean, white walls. The changing rooms were fairly spacious; downward opening lockers and coat pegs are available for you to store your jackets and belongings and there is also a sink and a full length mirror for pre or post-class preening. Toilets are housed in a cloakroom a few steps away and showers are also available separately in a washroom off the same narrow corridor.
The studio in which the Budokon class was held was slightly on the compact side, but for a modest, intimate centre, this was to be expected. Situated just the other side of the ladies changing rooms, it was light and airy, if a little too small for our class of seven. Brand new yoga mats were provided and it was nice easy to see expert instructor Ryan running through stances at the front of the room (even if it wasn’t so easy for me as a beginner to keep up)! Unfortunately, once the class progressed to fluid ‘dancing’ exercises, the lack of space became a slight problem and I was conscious of both the walls and the limbs of my classmates frequently intruding into my ‘dancing dog’ and ‘crow’ moves.
The session itself was a testing workout. I quickly became aware that as a tennis player, my wrists aren’t used to being simultaneously stretched and subjected to the pressure of my full body weight, but no matter how tough things were to grasp, I gave them a go! More experienced yoga students or fans of weights may find the positions easier to pick up and hold, but the incorporation of animal-style movements (such as the ‘gorilla’) towards the end of the session, meant that despite working up a serious sweat, it still remained enjoyable for newbies like me.
The meditation section of the class was much needed before the session concluded, and it was nice to lay back and relax muscles that had been worked to their fullest. The contemplative mood was marred slightly by intrusions from the outside world (nearby drilling, alarms and footsteps proved distracting whilst Ryan recited inspirational yoga mantras and philosophies), but I still managed to join in breathing exercises which helped to focus my mind and lower my body temperature.
Overall, my first encounter with Budokon was an exhausting but fascinating experience. Although I would have preferred to have been in a class of 5 or 6 so that I felt less self-conscious and better able to focus on freeing up rather than restricting my movements, I enjoyed the variation that the discipline provides.
I was left feeling stretched, energised and very aware that I had just given my body a gruelling test, which certainly involved muscles that hadn’t been exercised for a good while. However, I would recommend that those new to yoga perhaps check out a more sedate Hatha or specialised beginners Budokon class at the centre so that they are more slowly introduced to the agility that the exercises demand.
I have to admit, having seen countless depictions of floatation tanks on both the big and small screen, my pre-conceived idea of the experience was slightly skewed.
However, my curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to try out the treatment courtesy of Wahanda, but I was slightly apprehensive. The Simpsons portrayed Lisa and Homer’s foray into floating as a slightly psychedelic experience and rather frighteningly, on film individual pods often take the form of claustrophobic coffin-like contraptions. Thankfully, the outdated Hollywood and cartoon counterparts are vastly different from the reality that greets you at Floatworks in London Bridge.
Located in an unassuming building a short walk away from London Bridge station, Floatworks may be housed in somewhat simple surroundings, but by the end of my stay I was convinced it was a basement bliss.
Descending the stairs after having buzzed in, a serene setting awaits. Blue and white decor emblazoned with the centre’s logo directs you to the reception desk where you are met with a smile, a form which you fill in with basic personal details (enabling you to have a free float on your birthday each year) and a helpful laminated ‘Guide to Floating’. Fish bob about in tanks around the comfortably furnished waiting area and you are given ample time to read through the recommendations detailed in the guide booklet (what to expect, the basic ins and outs of the floatation pod and your individual room, and the importance of protecting any cuts and grazes with the petroleum jelly provided- the water in the pods is saturated with Epsom salt, enabling you to float as in the Dead Sea, but also likely to really sting if it comes in contact with any nicks).
After changing into the provided slip-on waterproof sandals (to insure you do not slip upon entering or exiting your pod), the receptionist leads you into your own (lockable) private float room and runs through the pod functions and room’s facilities. There is a shower (for pre-and post float cleansing in order to remove any product/oils from your hair and body before entering the pod, and the salt after exiting), a chair on which to place your belongings, a pair of earplugs to prevent salt water getting into your inner ear and the pod itself. Towels are provided for a small charge, but you are free to bring your own.
White, sleek and shaped rather like a computer mouse, the pods at Floatworks are equipped with a controllable blue light, a large curved lid which can be manually adjusted to you height of choice (from fully shut to fully open- which leaves it at 45 degrees, sitting about three to four feet above the base), a water bottle to spritz away any salt water splashes from your face and an alarm (just in case things get too much and you need assistance).
I opted to keep the lid of my pod open throughout, and after gradually being lulled into a relaxed state by the subtle sound of waves and seagulls that plays during the first ten minutes, I began to lose track of time. Floating itself was incredibly easy, and even though I am not that confident about floating on my back in a swimming pool, it came as second nature in my pod. There is plenty of room, no noise intrusion from the outside world and the light switch can be turned on and off with minimal effort.
At the end of my float, having been roused by the seaside soundtrack and brightening room light, I readied myself to re-enter the outside world in the specially designated (and reasonably well lit) hair drying and make up rooms. I felt lighter, noticeably calmer and also increasingly (but comfortably) tired. I was aware that my joints ached slightly on my journey home, and the Floatworks staff had explained this was likely to be due to the relief my body had felt after being free from the strains of imperfect posture and gravity whilst in the pod.
Overall, it was a unique experience, but by no means an unpleasant one. I can see myself returning for a second float now knowing what to expect, and feel that perhaps I would be more readily able to relax (and perhaps lower the pod lid) having put my initial reservations aside!