words by Samantha Whitaker

Earlier this year, Hip & Healthy met Michele Pernetta, one of the UK’s leading yoga teachers. Having brought hot Bikram yoga to the UK 15 years ago, and after teaching the 26-posture regime for 19 years, Michele is ready for something new. ‘With our increasingly busy lifestyles, my students were asking for shorter classes, more variety and some were ready for more advanced yoga,’ Michele explains. ‘We’ve created some great yogis and I wanted to offer them progression and choice within my studios.’

Drawing on her vast knowledge and experience, together with cutting-edge research on attaining optimum results in the minimum time, Michele has created a brand-new and totally unique hot yoga system: Fierce Grace. There are five classes based on a series of core poses, but each class has a different emphasis, duration and intensity to suit your experience, fitness, schedule, energy level and mood on any given day.

Classic (80 mins) – a simple and fairly traditional hot yoga class that has a similar feel to Bikram, but with more poses and variations for a more varied workout.

Fierce Grace (80 mins + 10 mins optional meditation) – a challenging class that combines Bikram, classical hatha and Ashtanga yoga, with music to aid mindfulness and relaxation.

Fierce, aka The Beast (105 mins) – a longer, advanced class to take those who have practised for a while to the next level.

Core (75 mins) – a slower-paced restorative class that focuses on deep stretching and attaining correct alignment. With more hands-on correction, this class is good for beginners, the stressed-out, or those recovering from injury.

The Fix (50 mins) – a condensed version of all the classes, this is an intense, super-efficient but user-friendly class for those wanting to stay fit on a tight schedule.

Fierce Grace balances male and female forces: strength and flexibility, effort and surrender, intensity and relaxation – both in mind and in body. All five classes focus your mind, develop awareness of the breath and work every inch of your body from your toes to your brain, while the selection introduces variety and progression. ‘I don’t think it’s possible to cover absolutely everything in one class,’ says Michele, ‘so as most people will be in the general classes for a few years, it’s nice to have four to choose from and a wide variety of poses to keep things interesting and work the same areas of the body from different angles.’

The most important thing Michele hopes to achieve with her new regime is to encourage more people to try hot yoga: ‘Yoga can get so very serious,’ she says. ‘Even though we’ve come a long way with yoga in the UK, if you talk to people who haven’t tried it yet, they still think that it’s just bendy girls stretching a lot – especially men. I’m pushing to break down that image because it doesn’t have to be like that. It shouldn’t be. You don’t have to arrive at a class and turn into someone else. It should be fun and you should have a laugh. Everyone has the same struggle on the mat and no one should feel excluded.’

To die-hard Bikram fans who may be reluctant to change their routine, Michele says that widening your experience only makes you better: ‘You can’t judge anything until you have tried it for three months. Not just three classes – three months of classes. It’s the same for anything new.’ Michele owes a lot to Bikram – he was her teacher, and then trained her to be a teacher, but now both Michele and her students are ready for more. ‘A good teacher teaches from their own reality, they’re not trying to be someone else. You’ve got to find your own voice.’ Fierce Grace has been designed to be the next step in hot yoga, offering practitioners a wider choice and a wider yoga vocabulary, explains Michele: ‘As students evolve, teachers need to evolve, too, in order to offer the classes, support and environments that students want and deserve.’

Fierce Grace will initially be available exclusively at Michele’s four London studios (see here for more details on where) from November, and classes cost from £4-15, depending on duration and membership type. Visit www.fiercegrace.com for class times and studio details.

Michele Pernetta