Clem Balfour, Founder, Yoga Brunch Club

6 March 2017

Who ever said breakfast is the most important meal of the day clearly has never had brunch - the most supreme meal of the week! A combination of breakfast and lunch usually had on a day of rest such as a weekend and because 2 meals in one means you can gorge yourself on even more food !! Now we've established that this is the best meal invented I have to throw something else into the mix... Yoga!
When I stumbled across Clem Balfour, a food obsessed yogi and her incredible company, Yoga Brunch Club, I simply had to stalk her! Clem merged two of her loves, food and yoga, with a mission to create a space for people to relax and not take life too seriously, her pop ups around London combine yoga, delicious food and excellent music with a resident DJ.

How did you get the idea to start The Yoga Brunch Club? 

I realised early on that Yoga can be intimidating to people who have never tried it or feel they aren’t ‘flexible’ enough. When I first started teaching I wanted to encourage friends to try yoga. I ran classes at a space around the corner from my house in Brixton, where I would cook up different themed meals at home and serve them up post yoga in the cafe next door to the venue. It was such a lovely way to spend an evening, doing yoga and then sitting around a table chatting over some delicious wholesome food, from here I went on to build on the idea of The Yoga Brunch Club.

I have a background in events management and as a food obsessed yogi I decided to combine two of my passions: food and yoga. I realised that there was a gap in the yoga world, runners and cyclists often have their social clubs and meets post training sessions. However often after a yoga class you roll up your mat and head home, I wanted to create a space where yoga could be fun and social, where people come to practice and then stay to eat, chat and socialise. 

The food is a key part of the experience, collaborating with great chefs and supper clubs to provide a post yoga feast, collaborations have varied from seasonal British chefs to Sri Lankan, Indian, Vietnamese and middle eastern themed brunches. I want people to come away feeling like they have tried something new so that might be the yoga or a new dish or cuisine. There is something pretty special about practicing yoga in a large group and beautiful space, there is an incredible energy that is created in the room. The food is then all dished up in large platters, served family style down long trestle tables, it’s the weekend so no one has to rush off to work or needs to be anywhere else, people leave feeling relaxed and ready for the week

What's been the most successful or fun event you're done so far?

I founded The Yoga Brunch Club in 2014 and since then have had some great collaborations with venues and chefs so it’s difficult to pick one. The events currently run once a month in London and Bristol, it is wonderful to see the little community that has built up around these, with people coming back each month bringing friends, colleagues or their whole families! 

For the last two summer’s we have gone on the road and taken YBC to Wilderness festival, running these events in the middle of a field is a totally different experience. Last summer we were blessed with beautiful sunshine all weekend, we ran morning classes in the giant bell tent for fifty people, then brunch was served up in the sunshine under the trees by the lovely team at The Mae Deli. 

It’s been a great start to the year with a very special collaboration with Liberty London. As part of their reset space for January we run three yoga brunch clubs and our first yoga supper club. These have been incredible events; the mornings started with yoga on the top floor before the store was opened to the public so we had the place to ourselves. Then after a warming yoga flow class, we headed downstairs to the stunning heritage suite which was decorated from floor to ceiling with Liberty flowers. We collaborated with the lovely Joey O’Hare for these (as seen on masterchef the professionals) who creates delicious flavours with simple vegetables, fermenting and often vegan food. Having grown up visiting Liberty on special occasions with my mum and sisters, I have always had a fond connection to the store so these were really unique and memorable events for me to run. Plus guests got to take the iconic purple Liberty goodie bags away after each session which full of beautiful treats!

What is your favourite type of yoga and have you always worked in yoga? 

I started yoga about 12 years ago when I was 18, I surprisingly didn’t fall in love with it straight away which I am probably not meant to say, but after a number of years of health issues with arthritis I found my way back to the practice. I studied embroidery at art school and would spend hours stitching and drawing sitting still in one place. I love the contrast and feeling of flow that comes with yoga, the quietness and gentle movement that starts with the breath and builds as you move is something you don’t get with other types movement or exercise. 

I started practicing vinyasa flow and have pretty much stuck with that over the years, I have been lucky to train with some great ashtanga, yin and more restorative teachers but vinyasa flow is the practice I teach. I think it is the most accessible to people when they are new to yoga, as although it can be challenging and dynamic there are always modifications you can teach. 

As I mentioned earlier I come from a background in events management but now split my time between running the yoga brunch club and teaching public classes in various studios in London and Bristol.

Where in the world is your favourite or most memorable brunch place? 

Living in London I am definitely spoilt for choice with endless new brunch spots opening up. If I had to pick: 26grains serves up a great bowl of porridge, Wildcaper and Federation in Brixton market do a great weekend brunch or coffee and avocado on toast. 

I did my first training abroad in Kerala, India. I left London for three months and travelled around the North and South of the country. The street food snacks and food out there are so full of flavour, often after our morning yoga training sessions we would head around the corner shop to drink chai and eat plain or masala dosa. I went back for a visit last year, this time we headed to the backwaters to stay on some of the old houseboats, we woke up on our first morning to the most incredible brunch spread of fresh fruit, idli, curry and coconut chutney. I think the location was as memorable as the food as we sat looking out over the water. 

Where do you sweat, and shop in London? 

I often head to the studios with some of my favourite teachers, Yogarise in Peckham has a funky space and some great teachers. When I first started my training I worked at a gorgeous little studio in Dalston called Yoga on The Lane that has a lovely community feel to it as does YogaPoint in Brixton. I try and keep up a regular daily home practice and add in workshops at Indaba. 

I’m a big fan of sweaty betty, they do great layers and colours and new styles. For the last Liberty event’s we teamed up with Shanti Sunday’s that make beautiful yoga props, lavender eye pillows and gorgeous organic cotton clothes.

Five items you can't live without? 

My yoga mat of course, even if I have got a hectic day I try and at least get in 15 mins of practice at some point in the day. Your body will always thank you for it.

My phone- I wish that wasn’t true but I do a lot of work from it on the go, listen to music and take a lot of photos.

Tea, I try and start my morning slowly, we all lead pretty hectic lives moving from A to B so I make an effort to have some quiet time to start my day. I set the alarm a little earlier, make a cup of tea, do some yoga and I feel ready for the day.


Dark chocolate 

Next events:

London: Sunday 19 March with Soph Gordon @Brixton East, 1-4pm:

Bristol: Sunday 26 February with Steph Boote @The Forge, Bristol 10.30-1.30pm

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