In Depth

ChromaYoga: London's immersive answer to wellness

Founder Nina Ryner discusses the benefits of this unique take on yoga that combines light therapy, sounds and scents

I've never been very good at being told what to do. Throughout the years I have done a variety of things, whether it be teaching myself to sew and then creating my own fashion label or being a backing dancer for bands for five years. Whatever I did, I have always been a big ideas person who enjoys being her own boss.

I started working for a yoga events company to earn some extra money on the side and, before I knew it, I ended up being the person who was coming up with all the event ideas, seeing first-hand what was popular and what people were paying for. Then one day I came up with the idea for ChromaYoga.

The original seed came way before I started working in the yoga industry, when I went to see the Light Show exhibition at the Southbank's Hayward Gallery in 2013. There was an installation by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez in which three rooms were lit with different coloured lights – blue, red and green. As you moved between the different spaces, it amazed me how the different coloured lights alone had such an impact. I could also see other people's reactions to it and it stuck with me.

©Stephanie Sian Smith

I was going to a lot of yoga classes, finding them either overly commercial or very new age, with no in-between. The imagery also felt quite disingenuous and sometimes cheesy, featuring people doing yoga on the beach in a bikini and promoting self-love. I was starting to get quite frustrated with not having anywhere to go that I enjoyed. During this period I also increasingly felt the need to do something in response to the over-commercialisation of London, as for me the city had gone from being somewhere exciting and interesting, where artists were just creating and some spaces were still relatively cheap to live in, to somewhere that felt dead. The idea for ChromaYoga was my response.

Once the idea was born, yoga and colour seemed so obvious, considering the connection between the chakras (the Indian belief that there are seven centres of spiritual power in the human body), with each having a corresponding colour. Although these beliefs weren't incorporated within my idea, I was sure that somebody must have created a colour-based yoga already, but nobody had. I then realised that I was onto a really good thing and that I needed to run with it.

My research began by looking at colour psychology and colour therapy, which is the notion that light is a vibrational healing technique, where certain wavelengths of light can help emotional and physical ailments. It was really important to me that the idea had a scientific grounding, and the more research I did, the more great information on light therapy I found.

Light can do so much to your body that I didn't even realise. It can aid muscle repair and recovery and help build muscle, as well as balance the collagen in your skin to help fight aging. There’s also a lot of evidence relating to how blue light controls the way that you sleep and your sleep cycle. After finding all of this research I then structured it into the classes, working with a yoga teacher friend to ensure it made yogic sense.

While studying meditation I learnt about brain frequencies called binaural beats, which are emitted at certain states of consciousness. They can be replicated within sound; some people use them to get into a meditative state. People's bad taste in music was another thing that I found frustrating with yoga. So upon my discovery I then worked with a sound designer to create these subtle soundscapes that were free of vocals, but incorporated these frequencies.

Realising that it had become a really multisensory and immersive experience, I decided to also add a scent element. Luckily my friend is a scent maker, so we worked together to make a separate scent for each class, each designed to complement the energy of the class.

In addition to creating a completely unique experience, having the best teachers was one of the most important things to me. Six months were spent testing around 100 teachers and going to every studio in London, which was pretty gruelling. But now we know we have the best teachers in the capital, each with a different skill, whether that is acupuncture, massage or muscle and bodywork, taking the tuition to the next level. Using their skills we also offer a wellness programme, our holistic answer to personal training.

We have now been open for a couple of months and have people travel to us from all over London. I would say that all of the different colour classes we offer are relatively equal in popularity, although recently there has been a big shift towards people wanting to do more restorative yoga. I think people are carrying a lot more stress than they used to. The Pink class, teaching a therapeutic and yen style of yoga, is very popular. The Red is also really popular with people who want a challenge, as the red light affects your depth perception.

Chromatic is a new class we have just introduced which is inspired by a style of yoga called Mandala Vinyasa, in which you move around the mat in very fluid movements. We paired this sequence with lights that mimic the colours of the sunrise or sunset dependant on whether the class is morning or the evening, matching your natural circadian rhythms, while still giving you the light that you need. It's the perfect wake-up or wind-down and my favourite class at the moment.

NINA RYNER is a creative entrepreneur and founder of ChromaYoga. The studio on Charlotte Road in London's Shoreditch can hold up to 20 people per class. One-off sessions start from £11 for a 50-minute class; chromayoga.co.uk

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