Blinking my freshly woken eyes in the grey Sunday morning light, at a time that rarely sees me out of pyjamas, I trotted down Gloucester Road a few weeks ago in slightly too bright yoga pants for my first Yoga Brunch Club experience.
I had been kindly invited down to Bristol’s Yoga Brunch Club, a monthly event that I had stalked on Instagram and always planned to go… and I was incredibly excited. Especially as it’s hosted at The Forge; only the most stunning space in Bristol!
Yoga has been a budding love of mine, especially over the past year. And although I’m still very much an amateur with an irrational fear of handstands, it is the absolute perfect weekend activity. And of course another thing that gets my butt out the door this early on a Sunday is food. When these two glorious things come together, I’m out the house faster than you can say ‘yoga brunch club’.
What is Yoga Brunch Club?
If you haven’t heard of Yoga Brunch Club, then consider this a public service announcement as this should be a staple event in your diary.
Founder, Clem Balfour, began these events back in 2014 when she decided to marry her two passions (food and yoga) into these monthly pop-ups in London and Bristol. The purpose of these events is to break down the barriers of yoga and make it accessible to all – you’ll never enter the space feeling intimidated, even if you’re a complete novice. Finding beautiful spaces to lay out her yoga mats, she either teaches a Vinyasa Flow or gets a guest teacher to take over the session, and runs a solid 90-minutes of flowing yoga.
After the practise, partnered chefs or supper clubs serve food to nourish all, bringing everyone together to chat and indulge in goodies that make the tables strain. A wonderful way to end a yoga session sociably, without everyone hightailing out the door after the last Namaste is uttered.
Yoga Brunch Club: Eat, Pray & a whole lotta Love
The Forge is tucked out of sight on Colston Avenue, sitting in Colston Yard. I brought my yoga mat just in case it was needed, but they had already laid out a variety of colourful mats across the bare floorboards. I got a warm welcome at the door, and Clem made sure to introduce herself to everyone, find out your level of yoga and check if you had any injuries she should know about. Around 30 people filled the space in the cool light of the beautifully rustic Forge, quietly nattering until Clem began the session.
Vinyasa Flow is my jam – my favourite practise – so it was an absolute pleasure to begin with the slow stretches, and then follow Clem into a challenging dynamic flow. As I mentioned, it’s designed to welcome all levels, so you’re encouraged to take it at your own pace and there’s an extra yogi on hand to adjust your postures. It certainly tested my strength and flexibility, but I do love a session where it actually feels like I’ve worked out! With thighs slightly shaking from exertion, our Shavasana was a welcomed siesta… although the smell of the food was beginning to get too tempting…
With an early start and 90-minutes of a solid power flow, I was freakin’ starved by the end. Time to fill my belly! This session, we had Vietnamese pop-up, Uncle Ho’s, providing the 3-course feast.
Uncle Ho’s may sound like my distant relative from the motherland, but nope – he’s a fully English Vietnamese pop-up chef based in Bristol and can turn out some flavourful asian food. I could see ‘Uncle Ho’ (who needs to know his real name when his chef alter-ego is this good?) busily bustling behind the wooden counter set at the back of The Forge’s space; chopping vegetables, slicing exotic fruits, drenching bowls of produce in sauces… my beady eye picked out the army of Sriracha and Hoisin bottles awaiting to be dispatched, and I immediately knew those holy sauces signified a great meal ahead. HOP TO IT UNCLE H!
We gathered around the trestle tables, chatting and sipping juice provided by The Juice Collective, then tons of fresh and super healthy food started coming out. We kicked off with bottled iced coffee (they might look like beer bottles, but only caffeine here!) and a Mekong Fruit Salad: Mango and melon, doused in lime and coconut dressing.
Light and fresh was the running theme, like most Vietnamese food, and it stuck true with the mains too. Make your own Summer Vietnamese Rolls – huge platters of crunchy green papaya salads were served, sprinkled with crispy shallots. We soaked vietnamese rice paper in warm water, then filled the sticky pancakes with a generous handful of salad and either charcoal grilled turmeric chicken or tofu skewers. Add a thin layer of rice noodles, mint, crushed peanuts and dipping sauces – et voila. I love making these deliciously fresh rolls, but I certainly was no artist – they turned out more like Vietnamese burritos then slender summer rolls.
After the main was devoured and digested, many slowly gathering their things and left with a slice of coconut and lime cake stuffed in their pocket. Mine didn’t last more than 30 seconds after I left The Forge. Absolutely stuffed!
Gathering everyone around tables to share a meal and a chat after the practise was such a simple, yet brilliant concept. Everyone had slight post-yoga euphoria (or just me?) and as you dine close together, it’s perfectly natural to strike up conversations with the strangers surrounding you.
I happened to bump into Elinor of Lokken Watches and it was absolutely brilliant to get to know her over this meal. I met some guy who had never done yoga before but now had a new found respect for his yogi girlfriend. I also finally met Instagram friend Kasia Kiliszek, a brilliant Bristol-based photographer/videographer/everything-she-touches-turns-to-gold creative, who had been silently tiptoeing around taking snaps of the event.
When you have those experiences that nourish you both inside and out, plus puts you in contact with lovely people, you can’t help but feel inspired and glowing afterwards. A feeling that stays with you for hours, if not days. Bristol always surprises me with great experiences – like Yoga Brunch Club – and reminds me of what a wonderfully creative city it is, with a huge range of talent lurking around every corner. An experience to be featured on your monthly calendar if you live in Bristol!
A massive thank you to Clem for inviting me and welcoming me so warmly to her club – I absolutely loved the event, and everyone I met left me glowing (as I’m sure you can tell!). All thoughts and opinions are my own. All photographs are my own.