Empty and abandoned for 17 years, the Penri Memorial Chapel opposite the bus station has been returned to community use with its transformation into a Hotpod Yoga studio. We took our shoes off and entered the chapel to meet founder Laira Marinho.

Laira, originally from Brazil, moved to Chester after 17 years in London to follow her dream of running her own yoga studio. ” I have been practicing yoga for seven years now. I was in a broken place, having a hard time and I found it really helpful alongside the physical benefits. I got totally hooked and I loved the heat”. Classes take place inside an inflatable pod which covers the floor area of the sympathetically restored former Church which was founded back in 1893.

Hotpod Yoga is a franchised system which now exists in over 50 locations worldwide. The cocoon like pod inflates at a touch of a button and takes visitors away from the stresses of an increasingly chaotic world .Temperatures inside the pod reach 37 centigrade. “The heat gives you a deeper stretch and also plays with your senses as well, with the sweat, it makes you concentrate more. You have some aromatherapy, the lights are dim, you have the heat, its a contrast to the outside world. Its relaxing but energising at the same time, you come out feeling good.

The yoga pod

Laira decided to open in Chester due to her husband Gideon’s family links to the area. ” I love it in Chester it is such a cool city , its one of these places which is small but has everything you need. Its handy that there are so many nice places to eat! When I first had the idea, there was no hot yoga venue here, this was the very first place that I saw! It has been out of use for quite some time, but I absolutely fell in love with it. It took an incredible amount of work to bring it back to life. We had the option of going on the business park , but one of the reasons why I got out of London was that I didn’t want to get in the car or the tube, I wanted to be local.”

A view from the gallery with a reminder of the studio’s former life

” Our yoga is for everyone. We have 3 classes on the schedule, 21 a week. My vision has always been to do yoga for all levels, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before. We want it to be accessible and we don’t want people to feel awkward. Classes last an hour including the morning 7am sessions- we have good feedback from people wanting to come in before work. I like to do things in the morning I’m a very early bird.” Classes are delivered by a team of 8 teachers.

inside the Pod
The modern changing/shower block created at the rear of the property

Laira’s husband Gideon , who works as a consultant in financial services was heavily involved in planning the renovation of the chapel. “My first attempt at doing yoga was when I met Laira in London. She was doing a very corporate job and decided that she wanted to do something else and I supported that. It was bringing together family, personal and my connections to Chester- I went to secondary school, my mum and dad live here. If you take on any old building you want to not touch many things as far as possible because you know everything you touch could be some kind of discovery. Here we came and took out all the wiring. the plumbing, the heating. In November this was an empty shell, cold, dark, condensation running down the walls. We have had teams of people in here over the last few months, they’ve had great fun sending me down to Screwfix at 7 in the morning . Its been a labour of love. Today for the first time I’ve been able to experience it myself for the first time, and now I’ve remembered what yoga is all about, its something awesome.”

Stepping back into reality..

For further infomation visit https://hotpodyoga.com/studios/chester/

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