Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Hatha poses in the sun

Each week Rachel Grunwell tries a new fitness challenge to bring you the lowdown.

Outdoor hatha yoga with Cheryleita Downie lifted Rachel Grunwell's spirits. Photo / Getty images
Outdoor hatha yoga with Cheryleita Downie lifted Rachel Grunwell's spirits. Photo / Getty images

Hatha outdoor yoga

What is it? Physical, spiritual and mental strengthening with little flow between poses and some breathing exercises. It's a relaxed beginner's style of yoga.

What's needed? Clothes that are easy to move in, water, towel, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

The experience: I used to live in a tiny city apartment. I loved being close to work and play, but the downside was sometimes feeling a bit like a caged animal in my little box-like living space.

But I reckon I wouldn't have minded my minimal living space quite so much if I'd been doing Cheryleita Downie's hatha outdoor yoga classes in the city as it would've given me a chance to stretch out and move about in a big space.

Cheryleita started up yoga and Pilates classes around the Auckland central business district waterfront in September, targeting apartment dwellers (like her) and inner-city workers.

I checked out some figures and found she's got a reasonable potential audience, too.

According to Statistics New Zealand, there are 26,307 people living in Auckland's city centre and 91,140 people working around these parts.

Cheryleita hopes some of these inner-city types will feel motivated to exercise with her before work or in their lunch breaks, especially if they are keen to escape their offices or their tiny apartments.

Up until September she managed her own women's gym but says she missed being outside and found working in an office all day "depressing". So she sold the business and started up outdoor hatha yoga classes called Bodhi Yoga and Fitness. Bodhi means "enlightenment".

Her goal is to make health and fitness easy, accessible, less scary and affordable. Her classes are $10 a pop - which is about half as much as many gyms charge.

I try a 45-minute outdoor hatha yoga class at North Wharf by the Viaduct Events Centre. It's a cloudy day, but the sea air invigorates us.

Cheryleita starts the class by saying, 'This 40 minutes is just for you, close your eyes, relax, smell some fresh air. We're going to do some stretching and balance poses."

We warm up with gentle "cat cow" movements - on all fours, lifting the belly up and down - then we move into warrior sequences.

There are more than a few shoulder and chest opening movements that are challenging and I am told to do things like suck in my tummy and relax my tight shoulders! We then do twist poses, like parsva trikoNasana (twisting triangle pose) then standing poses, like garudasana (eagle pose), and vrksasana (tree pose).

We end with a few minutes of visualisation and shavasana, which is essentially lying down like a corpse and is very relaxing. It's a good, energetic workout and I love being outside and seeing all the sights like the SkyTower and the clouds making shapes above and between the highrise buildings, boats on the glistening water and people walking by.

How much? $10 a class.

Try it: Morning and lunch time sessions available at North Wharf. See www.bodhiyogaandpilates.com.

Worth it? It sure beats looking at some gym's four brick walls and the only downside is if there's inclement weather, then the classes are postponed.

Rating: 8.5/10

Rachel wears: Kathmandu Animas hoody, $159.98, www.kathmandu.co.nz; Icebreaker Spirit tank, $119.95, www.icebreaker.co.nz; adidas by Stella McCartney Run Perf tight, $150, adidas.co.nz/stella

- Herald on Sunday

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