Stretch London founder Carl Faure traveled the world as a nightclub DJ. He loved the buzz but was suffering from the side effects. He wanted the highs without the lows — and then he found yoga.
He was a relatively early adopter of the exercise as its popularity rose in the west (it is now practiced by 20 million American adults — more than racquet sports and soccer) and trained to be a teacher in 2005. Now, aged 40, he owns two yoga studios in East London called Stretch and an annual festival, Exhale, in the English south coast countryside.
He says: “From the age of 15 or 16 I spent most of my time in nightclubs and record shops and threw myself into that world.
“I was writing music and making albums and was lucky to have enough success that I could travel off it. You go and you DJ and you don’t come off the decks and go back to your hotel — you get amongst it. I spent a lot of time doing that and obviously that has consequences and I found myself at a bit of a low ebb and I was taken by an ex girlfriend to a yoga class. I was blown away by it.
“I grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s counter-culture and there was something quite counter cultural about yoga 15 years ago. It appealed to someone like me who was interested in transcending the mundane and the ordinary. I grew up in a suburb of Birmingham in the West Midlands — it was as ordinary as you can get. A lot of us got into partying. Yoga had an element of that with less of the side effects.
“Stretch is very much built off the vibe we used to have in club culture. It’s a place people can go and they know people and feel connected — and there are lots of sweaty hugs afterwards.”
While the sweaty hugs might have to be approached with caution for a while, many of us are looking for an alternative to partying in this time of social distancing — whether that is to avoid the risks to our mental or physical health.
Here are five ways Carl found that yoga could provide similar highs to a night on the dancefloor — without the crash afterwards.
IT FEELS GOOD TO MOVE
“When we move we release endorphines — we’re rewarded for moving and for keeping our bodies in good nick.
Your breath is linked to your mood, so when we free the muscles and connect the tissues that impact the breath then straight away our mood changes. If we breathe into our belly, take a breath in low and let it go, then instantly there is a change.
When we are also moving with that, we are going to feel better because there is better circulation of life in our bodies. You just bring more life in.”
IT FORCES US INTO THE MOMENT
“We spend so much of our life trying to work out what we’re going to be when we grow up, or in five years time or ten years time. We’re living in the mental realm and planning and we forget to be in the moment. And the moment is where everything is going on.
The more we live in time that isn’t real, the more divorced we are from our actual life. There are so many variables and possibilities of what could happen in the future and the mind goes into overdrive of trying to work it all out. We get stuck in this cycle — and this is anxiety.”
IT GIVES US COMMUNITY
“In a secular world yoga replaces this need for communion and ritual.
A dance club night is a date in the calendar where people come together under a certain tribal banner to perform a ritual of sorts. Now that might include being sick outside a kebab shop, but it’s still quite ritualistic.
When you are dancing with a group of people you are getting cues off each other that make us feel good — a look, a touch, a smile. And yoga is the same sort of thing. We breathe together and we share these feelings and emotions.”
IT’S A PLACE TO FIND MENTORS
“When I walked into a gym and met my first yoga teacher it changed my life. There was no edge to him, no ego. He was the real deal.
I’m quite rebellious and do not really do well with authority — so if I met someone who was quite egotistical I would not have gone back. I’d have probably thought: ‘Yoga is for w******!’
To have such a positive and nurturing person as my first point of contact was a great inspiration and still is to this day.”
IT’S A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
“You can compare it to being on a dancefloor when the piano kicks in or the bass drops — you disappear into the moment and you forget who you’re supposed to be and you return to your natural essence. And that is what yoga is all about.
It’s all we are looking for really — to come home to yourself. Both of these experiences lend itself to that — only one has more pitfalls that come with it.”
Check out Stretch’s online classes — some of which are currently being offered free — at www.stretch-london.com.