Michele Pernetta is the woman we Brits have to thank for bringing hot yoga into our lives.
A yoga teacher with over two decades of experience, she opened the first Bikram studio in the UK in 1999, and went on to spearhead the stretchy, sweaty phenomenon that inspired hundreds of copycat classes.
In November 2013 Michele, who lives in Hampstead with her film director husband Terry Gross, launched her own Fierce Grace system across her studios, and the six-class Hot Yoga style became an instant hit with London yogis.
It's still a must-do for fashionable fitness fans, but with class names like 'WILD' and 'The Fix', and an ad campaign featuring bikers, pensioners and gorgeous plus-size girls, the Fierce Grace message is that anyone can (and should) do yoga.
She says: "My hope is that this system will support you at every age and stage of your life. My vision is that in 30 years from now the practitioner practicing Fierce Grace will be a new breed of older person. Gone are the Zimmer frames, walking sticks and aches and pains. This new breed of Yoga Elder will up a mountain in their hiking shoes at 80, teaching their grandchildren handstands or scuba diving on a beach in Goa. Yoga Granddad will be leading fitness revolutions. Yoga is not just for the young and fit. It is to make every age young and fit."
To make every age young and fit. Amen to that.
Michele's vision is simple: for us all to be happy being who we are now, without being perfect.
Michele is also a firm believer in balance, complimenting her yoga and spiritual practise with pasta, wine and Will Ferrell movies.
I think we could all learn a lot from this wonder woman, and it's a total honour to have her share her Detox|Retox picks with us...
Michele Pernetta's DETOX| picks
1. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Michele says: "I used to live in Los Angeles and I still travel there regularly. I love to head for Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs when I can. The heat, open spaces and quiet are the perfect antidote to London, and I adore the cacti, the dry air, and the bleached out colours.
"Joshua Tree National Park is spectacular, it’s like being on a different planet. The open spaces, giant prehistoric rocks, and the mini Grand Canyon bring me back to a sense of awe and wonder."
2. TUSCANY YOGA RETREAT CENTRE, LA CHIMERA
"My husband Terry and I own a beautiful 600 year old village fortress in Tuscany that we restored ourselves, named La Chimera. We run yoga retreats here, the kind that include, wine, meat, cheeses and trips to restaurants. It is the perfect place to unwind, swim, and relax. When there is no yoga retreat on I do mosaics or sew. I love to watch movies in our home cinema as I talk and move for a living and it requires not speaking or moving! I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan."
3. AYURVEDA, KERALA
"I discovered the powers of Ayurveda when in India a few years ago and it cured my severe tinnitus. Now I go to Kerala when I can as a preventative. The treatments are the most profound way to relax and rejuvenate. I went to Dr Unni at Agastyaa Heritage Centre, the personalised service is great and it’s a family run business."
Michele Pernetta's |RETOX picks
1. FRIDAY RAVE YOGA, HOTHOUSE
Michele says: "Yoga is a great detox for body, mind and emotion, but sometimes you want to go a step further and ramp it up in a different way.
"My Friday night class at Hothouse, (the teacher’s studio to hothouse new teachers) has been my class for nearly 17 years so I still teach there every Friday night even though the studio is now run by newly graduated teachers. We invented the Hot Candle-lit class, and this class has now become a bit of a rave, to loud dance music. We are planning to have some ‘Retox’ beer events after this class, to bring a yoga lovers version of a Friday night out, so watch this space..."
2. LA GROTTA, CORTONA
"There is a restaurant in Cortona near our Tuscany retreat centre (the walled town where they filmed Life is Beautiful,) called La Grotta that has the best spinach and ricotta gnocchi with truffle sauce in the region. They have been making it the same way since the 70s, and they serve incredible local wine."
3. THE INN OF THE SEVENTH RAY, TOPANGA CANYON, LOS ANGELES
"For a taste of the 1960s, alive and well, there is a magical "Age of Aquarius" style garden restaurant lit by a million fairy lights. A great place for a drink or dinner, The Inn Of The Seventh Ray is a strange enclave of hippie bohemian culture in the heart of Topanga Canyon, complete with a shop selling crystals and precious stones."
Fierce Grace is a series of six classes - Fierce Grace, Classic, WILD, Core, Fierce (aka The Beast) and The Fix - based on the same core poses and principles, but each with a different emphasis, duration and intensity.
The different classes are designed to be accessible and effective for everyone, from beginners, to the injured, to advanced yogis.
Michele says: "With Fierce Grace I have created the yoga classes I always wanted to do myself. Presented in ways which address our changing needs, it is taught in a motivating and straightforward way that empowers the student to become their own teacher and connects them with the backbone of real spirituality, while getting them super fit and healthy."