Insomniac visitors to London (and Londoners themselves of course) may have an answer to their woes. At Bermondsey Square Hotel, they have introduced yoga nidra – a form of relaxation so deep it promises to help those who can’t sleep, reduce stress levels and bring about a state of inner quiet for those of us who can’t find it anywhere else. In fact, according to Bermondsey Square’s yoga nidra practitioner, Stephen Marks, quiet and even silence are going to be the next big thing in the well-being world. Why?
Well, most of us live such frantic, stressed lives that even a moment of quiet is pretty much unattainable. So we think relaxation is going to the gym or, come to that, the pub. But as both exercise and alcohol are stimulants – although both of them are not without benefits – they speed you up rather than slow you down. And we all need to be slowed down for the sake of our overworked nervous systems, our immune systems and emotional health. Hence, yoga nidra.
So, on a cold February night, I go along to Stephen Marks’s class. This is nothing like a yoga class as most of us know them. Other than a tiny bit of stretching, mostly to wake you up at the end, the entire time is spent either sitting or lying down. The lights are dimmed and you even have a scented eye mask for the main event. You start off, though, with a seated meditation that focuses on the breath, before lying down and, eye mask in place, go through yoga nidra.
I had taken the Major with me which I knew, deep down, was not a good idea. Unlike my insomniac self, the Major can literally sleep standing up (something to do with the army) and after around 30 seconds, there was the sound of his deepening breathing as he fell into the land of nod for the rest of the class. Yoga nidra literally means “the sleep of the yogi” and is sometimes called sleep meditation so he may not have been so far off the mark.
He did miss out, though, because in the meantime, Stephen guided the rest of us around the body, relaxing each part in turn until you really do feel weighted to the earth. The mind, though, is now floating free and led through a series of visualisations. Tonight, we were in a forest and, via birdsong and rushing streams, we found a place of quiet and safety. Slowly, Stephen guided us back to the present until we were sitting up on our mats (all except the Major who had to be physically shaken).
The Bermondsey Square Hotel has lots of other alternative offers, too. It is a rather cool, slightly industrial space with pool and other games in the foyer and an all-day menu with modern British cuisine. There’s coffee and tea on tap all day. It has, though, no alcohol – so a good place for your liver to stay. There are other classes, too. There’s YogaBox, a combination of yoga and boxing that provides the ultimate workout of high-intensity, fat-burning training with the restorative effects of yoga. They’ve even got a dancer in residence. Nikki Santilli who teaches vintage jazz dancing (think Charleston hen party, maybe).
So, this is a cool, contemporary boutique hotel right in the nicest bit of Bermondsey (my room had great views of the Shard). Five minutes’ walk from Tower Bridge, lots of good restaurants all around, a small equally boutique cinema opposite and, on Fridays, arguably London’s best antique market.
The Bermondsey Square Hotel, Tower Bridge Road, Southwark, London. The hotel offers rooms from just £99 per night. Prices excluding VAT. For more information, visit www.bermondseysquarehotel.co.uk.
Stephen Marks teaches yoga nidra the first Tuesday of the month at 6.15pm.