[Teaching at the IKEA spa retreat experience. Photo credit: David Parry/PA]
I was really lucky to be asked to be a part of the Swedish furniture brand IKEA's first ever overnight spa experience at the start of September 2014. I had no idea what to expect when I was first approached as I was only asked if I would be interested in teaching an early morning yoga class at IKEA in Lakeside and that it would be for about 30 guests who would have spent the night in-store having been pampered the previous evening.
After agreeing to take part in the experience I didn't hear anything for a while but subsequently started seeing articles in the press about how IKEA was creating a Retreat Experience and a Pop-up Sanctuary and started to realise this might actually be a big deal especially as it was taking place in 5 different stores nationwide. I was then contacted again and told that there would be press photographers, a film crew and journalists from The Telegraph and The Mirror taking part in the experience too. So the scale of what I had initially signed up for seemed to be increasing. However, despite the whole IKEA spa retreat promotion angle my role would remain the same: to teach yoga to up to 30 people on the morning of Monday 8th September. So I approached it as just that.
When it came to the morning of the experience, my biggest challenge - which far surpassed the actual teaching - was getting up early enough to arrive on-site for 6.15am. Those who know me know I am not naturally a morning person - not that early in any case! But it was a smooth run through the tunnel to Essex and refreshingly quiet on the roads and I arrived at the same time as a lovely PR woman. We eventually found our way into the building through a myriad of corridors and shop floors and were immediately made aware that all the guests were still sleeping. I helped to make a space within the restaurant area that would be big enough for people to lay down their mats and then having been woken to the sound of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (unintentionally I think!) the guests floated past one by one in their IKEA-branded robes and got themselves ready for the yoga class.
[Teaching at the IKEA spa retreat. Photo credit: David Parry/PA]
It did dawn on me that I might have 30 unwilling participants, what with it being early in the morning or people feeling hungry, but actually they were all in good spirits, despite varying accounts of how well they had or had not slept the previous evening. Eventually everyone set up their mats or towels and we were able to begin our practice. Some people had done yoga before, others were completely new to it but I was met with a sea of smiling faces before me. As the air-conditioning in the restaurant was quite loud I did have to "project" somewhat and as some were struggling to see at times I did have to try to make myself as visible as possible but everyone took part, gave it a good go and I even managed to make time for a decent length savasana - despite having it whispered in my ear that I was running over time. But, as we all know, you can't skimp on savasana!
I managed to have a chat with quite a few of the participants at the end of the session and those who were new to yoga seemed to enjoy it and those who had not done it for a while seemed keen to get back to a local class again. So as an exercise in spreading the yoga love, it was a job well done and all in all a very unique and enjoyable experience.