An interview with founder Michele Pernetta
Michele Pernetta left a career in fashion to bring Bikram Yoga to the UK in 1994. After opening four Bikram studios, and becoming the UK’s leading Hot Yoga business, Michele launched Fierce Grace.
Could you tell us a bit about the benefits of Fierce Grace? Why is it important to practice in a hot room?
Fierce Grace is a system. It’s made up of interconnected sequences with different energies that develop us physically, mentally and emotionally. Twelve foundation poses are woven through the system like a skeleton to ensure progression and safety. The other more than 150 poses create variety of movement so the whole body reaches it’s full potential. Performing all the classes “confuses” your muscles, awakens different internal states and allows all aspects of ourselves room for expression.
Some benefits of the Fierce Grace system are whole body integration, alignment and the return of the body’s full range of movement. Your upper body, upper back, arms, biceps and triceps will tone and firm, more than in the average yoga class. Our yoga abdominals series you will give you the flat stomach that has previously eluded you.
The FG system can be performed without heat, however a moderately heated room has many benefits as your muscles and joints are at their optimum temperature so there is less chance of injury. It facilitates safer, deeper stretching which brings more blood and oxygen to your body. You detoxify through sweating and research has shown that toxins such as unwanted metals and salts are eliminated through sweating. People also find the heat cathartic and this can help in the releasing of mental and emotional stresses.
I’ve personally experienced the changing postures and classes in your studios over the last few years as they have developed. What is the thinking behind the changes? Do you develop the classes based on what you experience and witness as a teacher?
Having taught a quarter of a million people over 20 years, I felt a new, wider approach was needed, one that connected a range of classes together with central poses that would work the body in the same way throughout all the classes, to keep musculoskeletal alignment progressing safely, but with enough variety to keep people interested and surprised.
It has taken me many years of experimentation, research, practise and work to develop these integrated classes. I wanted the classes to reach us mentally and emotionally as well.
People are not just stiff physically, having to work hard in their jobs, in a stressful city, juggle family life and work, and all this responsibility and duty means we can get stiff and “buttoned down” emotionally and mentally as well. The central Fierce Grace class addresses this, it gives flowing movements, permission to back off and feel the pose to your own level, enjoy inspirational music, expression, movement and grace, rather than perfecting a pose. Some days you want to get fired up in a more linear disciplined way, and work on alignment and stamina in the Classic class, other days you want to relax and go within in our Core class. People are responding to this approach. They can choose which class to go to on any given day and every class is connected and progressing your physical goals in a continuous fashion.
I hope the system will always be a work in progress though. A few weeks ago I was teaching and I suddenly realised that a certain sequence needed a tweak, so we have taken one pose out. The classes have taken years of development yes, but I’d like to think that we will relate to the classes as living, breathing things and never set them in stone, allowing them to respond to the bodies that perform them.
Yoga has never been more popular, with a huge range of styles on offer – from yoga raves to ‘Voga’ to paddleboard yoga. What do you think is next in the world of yoga?
Fierce Grace is what’s next! It is a revolutionary system, the first truly integrated new yoga system in decades. It’s not a gimmick or a fad.
And meditation is also what’s “next” in that yoga practitioners are naturally getting interested in this. It’s the ultimate yoga. That’s in fact what we are teaching through asana, and what everything is really about! Watch this space….
What can a Wilderness yogi expect from a Fierce Grace class?
Go “Wild” in the Wilderness! The Fierce Grace signature class is about letting go, expanding, breathing and enjoying the buzz of music, body and soul. No judgement. We don’t care if your knee is bent, you are stiff, or unfit, or an athlete yoga guru, everyone that can move, breathe and stretch will enjoy this general level class. I believe our Wild class is also on the Yogangster stand for those who want an hour of hardcore fitness yoga.
Would you say that Fierce Grace is a total workout? Or would you recommend supplementing it with additional styles of exercise?
Yes, the Fierce Grace system is definitely a total body workout. From the very first class you will feel muscles you didn’t know you had. We have our WILD class that is the hardest workout you’ve ever done, it targets stamina and strength and has a lot of hardcore yoga poses in it.
The FG system combines cutting-edge fitness wisdom such as HIIT, Interval Training and Super Slow, with some of the “bad boys of yoga” yoga poses. Our abdominal and arm strengthening sequences are groan inducing. We utilise functional movements that strengthen the body in a healthy well-rounded way and create sleek, toned muscles.
Yoga corrects skeletal alignment too, so after a 3-4 weeks of regular practice you will already see quite dramatic results in tone and posture. Your shoulders will be more open too, you will stand straighter, your waist will start to slim down, your legs start getting toned and your belly will reduce.
One doesn’t need any other exercise other than a regular yoga practise. But if one does do other sports then an FG practise is a great compliment to other styles of exercise as most sports, such as running, heavy weights or cycling, can cause wear and tear on the joints. Yoga gets you fit and strong and works on the cardiovascular system while at the same time aligning the joints correctly and creating traction in the joints so they stay healthy and preventing some of the degeneration gravity and high impact sports can cause. It is in fact the only smart way to exercise long term.
Do you do any other types of yoga? Do you ever go to other studios yourself?
I’ve done all types of yoga. I’ve brought what I thought was the best of everything I’ve ever done and put it here, in FG. Sure, sometimes I go to my friends who are yoga teachers at other studios, I love being a student, and I don’t have to worry about a light bulb being out, or that the steps aren’t swept in someone else’s studio! But I do FG. I designed the classes I always wanted to do myself, so I really have no need to go looking elsewhere any more, as I have what I love right here in my own studios.
What is on your Wilderness Festival packing list?
I hate to admit it, but I’ve never been to a festival before so I’ll probably get it all wrong and look like a twit but as I’m teaching at Wilderness I’ll bring my Ipod, yoga clothes and my trusty Crocs!