At 6.30 in the morning, the last thing I feel like doing is yoga. It’s November in Somerset – not a tropical retreat.
Nonetheless, I am unenthusiastically performing stretches in my bathroom. I expect I look a bit odd as I rest my hand against the bath like a ballerina at the barre and lean to one side, one arm curving over my head.
The bath is running, filling the room with steam, ready for the second part of my workout. Welcome to the newest exercise trend. Forget the gym – we’re all getting fit in the smallest room.
Taking the plunge: Alice tries out a few yoga stretches in the comfort of her bathtub – getting fit and clean
Personally, when I sink into a fragrant bubble bath once the children are in bed, the thought of doing anything other than relaxing with a book (and possibly a glass of wine) sounds horrid.
So I’m sceptical when I hear celebrity personal trainer and yoga expert Niki Wibrow, 48, has launched two online videos of bath yoga routines.
But it seems I’m in the minority. For time-short workers and multi-tasking mothers, getting fit and clean at the same time makes sense.
Graphic designer Sara Jones, 31, from London, started doing yoga in her bath a few months ago. ‘The warm water helps limber me up when I’m stiff and releases tension,’ she says. ‘I just do a range of seated poses. Sometimes, I do the child’s pose (where you curl up on your knees), but you need to be careful not to snort in water and drown!’
For some, the bathroom is a makeshift gym. Housewife Belinda Midson, 45, from Cornwall, does ten press-ups against the sink whenever she is in there. ‘And while waiting for the bath to run, I do tricep dips against it.’
Niki says the bathroom is the perfect place to exercise. ‘It’s the place everybody associates with peace and personal space – it’s better than the living room.’ She’s right about that. On the few occasions I’ve attempted an exercise DVD, I’ve achieved nothing except the family rolling around with laughter.
The bathroom is a perfect place to exercise as it is associated with peace and personal space – and it’s private
And there’s the time aspect. The NHS recommends we do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week and strength exercises on two or more days – but when?
It’s even more difficult for those with young children. ‘I have a four-year-old,’ says Niki. ‘Working out is impossible. But when she is in bed, doing a few simple yoga poses in the bathroom is easy.’
I’m not convinced, but prepared to try Niki’s online video workouts, encouraged by the fact they are only 20 minutes each and can be adapted. The morning routine starts with basic stretches, and Niki advises not stressing too much about ‘proper’ yoga breathing. ‘I recommend breathing in and out of the nose – as in yoga, but focusing on deep, relaxing breaths, rather than trying to align them with exercises.’
So I begin by propping up my iPad to follow her instructions.
She starts with roll downs – where you slowly curl the upper body until you’re doubled over, head and arms dangling. It relieves back tension and stretches hamstrings.
We then move into standing stretches by the bath. So far, it’s straightforward – but hypnotic and relaxing. Next, I do more exercises using the bath for balance. I feel as though I’m engaging a lot of muscles in my arms, legs and tummy. Once the bath is run, I climb in, feeling rather foolish. Niki recommends filling it just to waist height so it doesn’t splash. Exercises in the water include classic yoga such as lion pose, cat pose and Ustrasana – a back bend. After 20 minutes I feel wide awake and energetic. The deep breathing, concentration and awareness of my body is like a sort of meditation.
Some professionals say exercising in the bathroom is a way of developing good habits.
‘I tell clients to stand on one leg while brushing their teeth,’ says Somerset-based Pilates teacher Tessa Clist, 40. Last year, the UK’s Medical Research Council found that 53-year-olds who could stand on one leg for ten seconds with eyes closed were the most likely to be fit and well in 13 years’ time.
Alice finds the yoga poses surprisingly effective and finds it relaxing doing poses in the warm steamy room
There are physical benefits to working out in a steamy room.
‘Muscles become more relaxed in the warmth,’ says Niki. ‘The water and warmth in the bath gives support, especially with aches and pains, though if you have any medical conditions, you must check with a doctor first.’
It’s probably worth mentioning that yoga purists won’t necessarily be impressed with bath yoga, but Niki argues you can still benefit from the postures.
The second routine is more relaxing. Sitting on the side of the bath, I roll my neck down, curving my back and releasing tension.
After some more stretches, I kneel in a waist-deep bath, put my hands together as though praying and slowly move my head backwards and forwards to stretch the neck. Apart from a hideous crunching sound in my neck, the feeling of swirling, warm water is blissful.
A gentle jaw massage releases tension and then, kneeling, I roll my hands around to relax wrists stiff from driving.
By the time I am sitting cross-legged, head tilted back and eyes closed, I am converted to bathroom workouts.