I’m lying, face up, on a thick gym mat. A blend of minimal, daze-y house music is emanating from the speakers above my head. I can hear the soft drawl of someone telling me to take a long breath in through my nose, hold it for five and release through my mouth. Stuck to my upper arm is a green patch, which is slowly releasing CBD into my blood stream.
No, I’m not at some new age hippy retreat in the Ibizan hills. Instead, I'm in the middle of London’s Covent Garden, attending Cannabliss, a mobility-focused stretch-it-out class at an outpost of perennial trendsetters, Gymbox.
CBD, for the uninitiated, is a cannabinoid. That's a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its sister cannabinoid THC, CBD does not get you high. It is, however, said to have relaxation benefits for the mind and body (a number of studies have suggested that, in specific doses, it may be of use in reducing the symptoms of several anxiety disorders).
It’s totally legal in the UK and can be bought on the high street in capsule and liquid form. The market for the stuff is booming: a dedicated shop for CBD-laced products, LDN CBD, recently opened in Camden, while manufacturers are adding it to everything from ice cream to chocolate.
Mixing yin yoga-style long poses and meditative breathing exercises along with the afore mentioned patches, Cannabliss is pitched as an ideal solution to the tight muscles and tension that a sedentary lifestyle and/ or people who do a lot of high intensity, functional fitness and strength training, but not much by the way of holistic fitness.
The outcome should be better mobility in your tight areas, as well as a nicely chilled-out sensation. I'm hoping for an antidote to the tension that accrues easily in a week of commuting, work and training.
As to why the class was launched? “I mainly teach functional training – things to do with kettlebells and pull-ups, etc,” says Firas Iskandarani, (@coachfufu) master trainer at the group. “But I also teach movement preparation and rehab stuff, which is important if you do a lot of strength and high intensity work, to avoid injury.” Wanting to do something more “creative” with the latter, he sought to include CBD in a new class after reading about its potential benefits for relaxation. “Because the patch's effects last six hours, you get a longer experience,” he says.
The class starts with a quick breathing practice, undertaken on the mat. Next, I’m instructed to affix my CBD patch (“If you want to”) by the session’s trainer, before a few more chilled breaths.
Now, it’s time to stretch. We’re told to stay on our backs and to raise our legs in the air. The stretch is held for a minute or so, before we move into a low, monkey-style squat, again for a few minutes. Then, the hard part. We’re all handed a tennis size, black rubber ball. We go onto our backs and place the ball underneath our shoulder blade. “You’re looking for your trigger point,” the instructor says. This, she details, is the point at which it basically really bloody hurts. At this stage, you’ve touched upon a tight area of muscle. The idea is to roll the ball, repeatedly, over this point as a means of releasing the fibres and creating more space and movement.
The pain is pretty acute: a sharp, pointed sensation that also feels sort of satisfying. The best analogy I can think of is the ‘argh’ of removing a splinter from your finger with a needle, before the joy of its release; or of seeing a freshly pulled off wax strip transformed into a forest of hair. The ball is used in a few places: under each glute, on the hips, every time for a good few minutes. When we release, we play with the areas and collectively marvel at how much more mobility they seem to have.
All the while, the patch is fizzing on my arm. The immediate area is warm and bright. After 20 minutes or so, my mind feels a little more mellow: the sharp edges of my thoughts have become more blunt. Whether this is a) pure placebo (my mind is super receptive to being told that something is acting on it), b) the result of some deep breathing and stretching having a nice effect on my nervous system or c) the CBD oil mingling with the above and doing its intended job, I’m not sure.
We’re told that this class is good for sleep: the stretching and relaxation contributing to increased Z’s. This, at least, I can attest to fully. I am out like I’ve been lamped by Manny Pacquiao come 11pm – and wake up with the fresh-faced optimism that's exclusive to people who've had a serious REM fix.
Is the CBD likely more gimmick than genuine aid? Perhaps. But for really getting into the nasty places where you’re holding onto tension and getting a sweet eight hours, Cannabliss comes with my well-rested recommendation.
Info: Book from 7AM the day before on gymbox.com