Hidden in plain sight on Kensington High Street, CaliFlow first grabbed my attention with its minimalistic aesthetic and sanctuary feel – the pale yellow accents perfectly in sync with the welcoming smiles of the front of house staff. It didn't take very long for me to realise that this isn't your run-of-the-mill yoga studio. The name is a nod to Calisthenics: a method of strength training stemming from the Greek words "Kalos" for beauty and "Stenos" for strength, originally said to be a movement method promoting health and beauty in strength. While the terminology might sound foreign, the method itself is well known to most. It includes various own-body strength exercises from push-ups to planks. The revolutionary aspect? CaliFlow weaves these methods into each of their classes, not only the strength based circuits, but also their yoga and stretch classes, focusing on building deep strength throughout. The studio fosters another focus of deep strength: improvement over perfection and consistency over motivation. An ethos often lost in our current world of 'get a bikini body in two weeks' YouTube videos and a constant desire for instant gratification.

I will confess to being quite impatient myself and thus signing up to this class is me metaphorically signing up to a commitment of self-improvement, not reaching a specific goal or completing a challenge, but to continuously show up and improve over time.

The class I sign up for is their classic caliFLOW, although they have a plethora of other options: caliSTRENGTH, caliCURCUIT and caliBALANCE all designed to work together in sync for a holistic fitness experience. The studio is divided into two main rooms, the top floor reserved for the strength and circuit trainings, resembling a dogpound studio and the lower floor designed to feel like a sanctuary of mindfulness, with long flowing curtains along the glass walls.

As I enter the space, I'm engulfed in a cloud of incense and make my way to one of the perfectly laid out mats. One of the first things that strikes me is the diversity of visitors to the class. Everyone from early twenties yoga fanatics dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon (perhaps I am guilty of falling into this category at first glance too) to an elderly couple happily chatting away with the instructor as one would catch up with a neighbour or old friend are participating. The second thing I notice is how personal and friendly everyone is. If it wasn't clear before it definitely is now: unlike other trendy yoga and fitness studios dedicated to sculpting their clients into their picture perfect ideals, adding protein smoothies and ceremonial matcha to the list of must-dos, CaliFlow challenges its clients in a different way. When I look around me, everyone here seems to be showing up for themselves. Instead of consciously or subconsciously promoting a common goal and ideal, the challenge here is to dig deeper, and without getting too spiritual either, to compete against yourself and improve your physical and as well as mental strength on your own terms.

The class entails many of your usual vinyasa elements: variations of sun salutations and other dynamic flows, sprinkled with elongated strength poses and stretches. Despite being an open to all class, the approach is very individual, with the instructor constantly walking around the room helping each client throughout with alignment and technique. Their overall philosophy is felt in every part of the experience. There is a much more fierce focus on each persons individual improvement than there is on a common goal of perfection. Especially being in that loop of being too experienced to be a beginner but not consistent enough to be advanced that I have found myself in for the last couple of years, their hyper-individual approach proved to be incredibly effective. Instead of going through the motions and drifting into thoughts of to-do lists and weekend plans, I can feel myself being more present, focusing on the specific instructions I receive and working more deeply into every muscle, pose and breath. By the end of the class I feel tired and revived in the best possible way. 

Although my headstand may not have been the most impressive in the room, I know for a fact that it was better than my last, and that tomorrow will be better than today, which I suppose in conclusion is the best result I could have hoped for.

Book a class at CaliFlow here.

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