On arrival in a country for the first time, one can gather a lot from the national taxi service at the airport – always representative of the people, the culture and the way of life. In Stockholm, it’s the super slick, black Mercedes Benz, attractive, stylish, solid, and above all reliable.
I’m here to check out a yoga centre that I’d heard about on the grapevine, and to meet the CEO and Founder, Neo Moreton. Why this yoga centre? Well, on a press trip to the aribbean some years ago, I met two Swedish journalists, both by the name of Anna. I was struck by their natural beauty, confidence, strength and positivity and we talked a great deal on the trip. They said: “you must come to Stockholm for the Golden Guru.” I had no idea what the Golden Guru was but it’s basically ‘yoga’s answer to iron man’ – a 12km trail run in nature, followed by 108 yoga Sun Salutations, and then the grand finale – a raw cacao-fuelled medi-dance event. Wow! I must admit I was fascinated.
I wanted to learn more about who would put on such an event, who had such a dynamic and creative mindset? Alas, I could not attend the Golden Guru, but I still had the desire to go and learn more about Urban Om, the company behind it.
I meet Neo at Urban Om, he’s waiting outside to take me to Rosendahl, a garden showcasing biodynamic cultivation of vegetables, fruit and flowers, with a greenhouse cafe for lunch. After an introductory hug he tells me “I no longer own a car so I’ve hired this, we hire it by the minute” and he gestures towards a brand
new Mini Cooper. We take a short drive and arrive at the beautiful garden centre where we eat vegan food and sit outside in the gardens. We have an in-depth, honest conversation about Urban Om’s guiding principles, which are ‘being in the body’, ‘being real’ and ‘being together’. Neo tells me that he is eleven years abstinent from alcohol; he feels that when he drinks he loses his integrity. We have a very interesting conversation about what integrity really is and I find Neo honest, open and receptive – the kind of person that you feel like you’ve known for a long time and can speak easily to.
Neo tells me about his past and what is a fascinating journey of self-discovery, spanned across different continents over many years. He explains how it has always been his dream to open Urban Om, to create a yoga community that is authentic within the heart of the city. “To play a pivotal role in raising human consciousness by providing urban oases for city dwellers to meet, connect and explore being together.”
He has certainly managed to achieve that – you will find an open, inviting, and authentic, ready-made community just waiting for you to engage in. I was only there for a few days, yet I met many, super friendly and supportive women whom are all there with the same goal – their own health and wellbeing.
This isn’t the kind of place where you turn up for the class and then leave after. This is the kind of place where friendships are made, where the stylish communal area is actually used, where people meet to catch up and share herb teas and stories, and it manages to achieve all of this with no sense of cliquiness whatsoever. So warm and welcoming, it would be the ideal place to make friends if new in the city.
They offer over 50 weekly yoga and meditation classes led by highly trained instructors plus regular immersions and special events, daily body and talk therapy sessions and a certified yoga therapy teacher training offered by international expert trainers.
‘Non-alcoholic Organic Beer Yoga’ was just one of the special events happening over the summer. Neo explains: “ We are in favour of sobriety and feel that alcohol has no place on the yoga mat. The natural high that comes from living Urban OMs three keys – ‘being in the body’, ‘being real’ and ‘being together’ is totally awesome. I’ve been sober now for over eleven years and love the drug free ecstasy that comes from a yoga way of life. Why on earth would anyone want to blur this new vision of living with alcohol? All we are saying is give peace a chance.“
When we get back to Urban Om I realise, with slight alarm that I’m booked in for a ‘strong flow’
session, and I doubt my usual Hatha practice will stand me in good stead. As I queue up for the class there’s pre-match tension in the air, lots of women chatting and excited.
When I enter the room I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many gorgeous, healthy looking women in crop tops, all in one place before. It is a sight to behold. I feel like I could be in LA, I’ve never been, but I imagine that’s what it’s like.
Shay Peretz, the teacher, draws influences from traditional Ashtanga practice and Forrest yoga to connect movement with breath in a dynamic moving meditation and it is a fantastic experience. My whole body is soaked in sweat, and so is everyone else’s. Sweat is pouring down bodies and onto the floor, but nobody minds as we’re all in it together.
This class, delivered by Shay, is perhaps one of the most powerful yoga classes I have ever attended. There is tremendous energy vibrating through the room and everyone’s riding it. Based on a basic Sun Salutation routine, accompanied by powerful booming bass lines, and Shay’s motivation and enquiring advice throughout left me, and all of the class, as high as a kite when we’d finished. There’s no other way to describe it.
Urban Om not only works with individuals, but also with big companies and schools and universities to deliver programs of yoga for change. This year Urban Om started working with the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. “We are training entrepreneurs in the making with yoga tools to handle stress and ‘Being Real’ and relationship tools to be authentic and keep their integrity even when the going gets tough. In other words, giving confidence to ‘say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.’ We feel this is much needed work considering the rate of suicide amongst (especially male) entrepreneurs is astounding – the stress and fear of failure simply becomes too much. So Urban OM intends to give young entrepreneurs life skills early on in their careers to avoid the pitfalls on the bumpy entrepreneurs path down the line.”
I came to Stockholm on a whim inspired by the Swedes I’d met in Aruba. Always go with your gut instinct. It led me to unique and inspiring experiences, and allowed me to meet many more people of natural beauty, confidence, strength and positivity. I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel, a design led boutique hotel, which was originally a girl’s school Ateneum built in 1910, and is five minutes walk from Urban Om.
For more information go to urbanom.se
WRITTEN BY- HANNAH ANSTEE
HANNAH IS A FREELANCE TRAVEL AND WELLBEING WRITER BASED IN HEBDEN BRIDGE.
TWITTER @HANNAHANSTEE SOMEHANNAHSTHINKDIFFERENT.COM