Transcendental experience is the last thing one would associate with the busy Old Ford Road in London’s Bethnal Green. Home to a lively and thriving community, it is known for heavy traffic, schools and charity shops rather than higher levels of consciousness.
The Yoganesh centre, towards the Cambridge Heath Road, is so discreet that a spiritually uninspired passerby may just miss it. But once inside, the heavy scent of incense and soft ambient soundscape will transport you a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Xenia Bolomyti, originally from Greece and now a resident of Mile End, is an assistant at Yoganesh. This 34-year-old massage therapist and physical theatre performer says she has always been fascinated with the human body.
“I’ve always been interested in the body; how it acts and reacts,” says Bolomyti. “For me, the body is a house and a home and I believe we need to treat it well. I have done a lot of work with the Alexander Technique (a form of arts performance training that focuses on the body), yoga and massage.”
Yoganesh began offering yoga sessions about three years ago. The sessions are held mostly during lunch hours and evenings. To make yoga accessible to all, the centre also conducts ‘donation sessions’ twice a week for those who could not afford a regular session.
Bolomyti, who found out about the centre through a friend, says its holistic approach to treatment–from yoga and massage to beauty treatments and psychotherapy–struck an instant chord.
“I thought I have found a place where I can happily be myself,” she says.
Bolomyti recently turned to Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of healing, and now provides therapeutic sessions in Ayurveda also at the centre.
“Ayurvedic therapy is a holistic form of massage,” she explains. “It goes beyond the massage and is concerned with your diet and your lifestyle.”
The aim of Ayurvedic therapy is to keep the body and the individual constitution–called dosha– balanced, bringing mental and physical wellbeing in line with each other. The massage aims to ‘loosen’ toxins from the body, while the recommended diet may involve elimination of certain foods, such as dairy products or spices, depending on the individual’s needs and concerns.
“It is an individualised treatment, which is highly therapeutic,” says Bolomyti.
The psychotherapy sessions are conducted by trained psychotherapists, who use the ‘mindfulness’ approach. Therapy sessions align Buddhist philosophical practices with Western psychology.
Mindfulness, a Buddhist technique that is also recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, helps people focus on their thoughts and feelings. It is used to treat stress, anxiety and depression.
For Bolomyti Yoganesh, it is not just a yoga centre, it is a way of life.
“You become aware of your body and I don’t just mean the physical body,” she explains. “The spiritual body is also key. It is important to work with the different aspects of your life, not just exercise but also your diet and the ways in which you communicate with people. It should all come together.”
For the locals of Bethnal Green, inner peace is just around the corner.
Yoganesh, 24 Old Ford Road, E2 9PJ. Visit the website at www.yoganesh.co.uk