What is yoga?
An A to Z of novelty practices
The yoga world today has evolved far beyond its ancient Indian roots. Over time, the practice has been adapted, adjusted and altered, leading to a huge variety of schools and style of yoga on offer. More recently however, yoga seems to have entered the realm of novelty fitness fads – some crazier than others – that are attracting new students to the mat by the day. We’ve done a round-up of some of the more unconventional practice styles that have popped up around the world of late for your yoga reading amusement… it seems nothing is sacred anymore!
A trend that has – pardon the pun – really taken off in the last year or so, Aerial Yoga combines traditional asanas with acrobatics and is practiced in stretchy hammock-like slings that allow the body to take on a weightless feeling as you move. Up, up and away!
Currently being hailed as one of the world’s weirdest fitness trend, Alien Yoga actually has roots in ancient yogic practices. Also known as Nauli, it is an intensive pranayama that involves completely exhaling, isolating the abdomen and pulling it under the ribcage before contracting and releasing the muscles. Not for the inexperienced, but it’s certainly not for aliens either! Watch Hot Yoga Ibiza founder Sebastien Carincotte perform the pranayama here.
There’s nothing quite like that first refreshing sip of water during a class, but have you ever thought about replacing it with an ice cold brewski? Yogis in Germany (but of course) have beaten you to it, introducing classes where students lift beer bottles to the sky, the challenge being not to spill, in different poses. The idea is that the philosophy of yoga is teamed with the pleasure of drinking beer – health-wise, however, we’re not so sure of the benefits…
For some men, the thought of entering a yoga studio filled with lithe women lifting their legs above their heads can be intimidating, and rightly so. With this in mind, a Boston yoga studio recently introduced Broga – a class simply geared towards making bros more comfortable with the practice as they learn their way around a mat for the first time.
Well, if it was good enough for Lord Shiva… certain texts say the Hindu god would consume cannabis before entering a meditative state and now a school of yogis are following this mythological example. Cannabis yoga is generally only practiced in places where the drug has been legalised for medical use and some classes vaporise the cannabis into the studio, while others encourage students to get high on their own supply before.
Haven’t got time to walk Fido before class? With Doga, you can simply bring him along, where he’ll also be treated to doggie massage and taught to stretch alongside humans! Upward and downward dogs are interesting in theory (and without a canine companion in tow), but in practice? It brings a whole new meaning to doing it doggie style.
Practicing yoga on a horse’s back is certainly not for the uninitiated, but for those equestrians who have a trusty steed as a companion, it’s another way to deepen the connection between. Using the unstable surface of the horse’s back allegedly allows you to sharpen your focus, calm your mind and heighten your awareness. Ideal if your horse’s name is Matt.
Let’s face it – we’ve all had a hunger pang mid class. Foodie yoga fuses the practice with healthy ingredients and art of slow cooking. And while you don’t get to take a bite of an apple mid Happy Cow Face position, you will be served a healthy dinner on your mat directly after Savasana. The New York Times calls it the experience where chakras and chocolate combined, and students are taught to apply the same mindfulness, awareness and gratitude they give to a yoga posture to their cuisine.
If you’re not afraid of a little hoof-to-human contact, there are animal sanctuaries who offer yoga classes in the company of gorgeous little baby goats. These four-legged friends leap gleefully around the class, climbing on students’ backs as the move in and out of different positions. The baby goats are like animal therapy, the interactions proven to raise your serotonin and dopamine levels while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.
Indie Rock Yoga
A twist on traditional practice that was born in LA (no surprises there), students are not your usual fresh faced yogis – rather, tattoos, eyeliner and lipstick are de rigueur and you can expect to see more skulls printed on pants than unicorns. The intensity of the soundtrack is supposed to increase student’s concentration – playlists can be found all over the internet for those who want to try it at home.
Heavy Metal Yoga
As above, only heavier. A LOT heavier.
Requiring more than your average om from students’ vocal chords, karaoke yoga incorporates television screens in the studio space and students are encouraged to connect with the lyrics as they perform, en masse, while in a pose. Definitely a way to get more oxygen into the lungs.
Who hasn’t giggled during practice? Laughter Yoga – practiced in over 100 countries – embraces the art of getting silly and was designed to reduce stress and anxiety, increase your circulation and lower blood pressure, all the while burning fat. Your cheek muscles will definitely get a workout and be sure to take off the mascara before tears roll down your face. In all seriousness, laughing is considered a genuine breathing exercise, as it oxygenates the brain.
Remove your clothing and inhibitions at the studio door. Naked Yoga rejects materialism and encourages a sense of total freedom, without any sexual intent. Devotees insist that yoga in ancient time was practiced sans clothing, allowing your body true freedom of movement. Nevertheless, there are some poses we think it’s best to keep your eyes to yourself!
Pretty much the polar opposite of Hot Yoga Ibiza, but who are we to judge? This practice originated in Connecticut in the United States, where students would snowshoe up a mountain to practice in freezing temperatures as a way to improved their balance on boards and skis, before heading back to the lodge. Thermal leggings a must.
Founded in New York – of course – with the idea that walking in sky high heels can one day feel as comfortable as walking bare feet, this foot fitness fad focuses on the part of the body we often forget to take care of in a regular practice. Using small half ball props, the tootsies are massaged and exercised in a variety of ways, building strength and stability.
Perfect for the smooth waters of Ibiza, Stand Up Paddle Yoga is definitely having a moment right now. By balancing on the essentially unstable long paddle board, students need to activate their core even more than usual, while the fear of falling keeps them extremely focused.
Forget practicing inner calm during class – this novelty style of practice encourages students to release their stress by screaming, yelling, kicking, stomping – tantrum style. Behaving badly, for a good cause.
Remembering Vogue-ing? Think Madonna circa 1990, though the practice originated well before that on the dance floors of New York. Voga encourages students to strike a pose (or 20) during their yoga sessions to a playlist of 80s tunes. Voga also embraces 80s fashion, with students encourage to be as flamboyant as they wish.
What happens when vino meets vinyasa? Wine yoga, that’s what. The idea is not to get drunk in class – students are taken on a simultaneous journey through postures with different types of tipple introduced in between, teaching them to appreciate the sight, taste and smell in a meditative way. Studies suggest that drinking wine helps the body release endorphins, resulting in a post-class buzz of happiness. Hopefully not a hangover.
Do you love the idea of a dark room filled with lasers and glow sticks, thumping music courtesy of a DJ but just don’t have the motivation to go raving amongst the youths of today? Opt for a Yoga Rave instead, where a warehouse like space is decked out like a rave but the dance floor is filled with mats. Just add some glow-in-the-dark body paint to your regular yoga ensemble and get ready for a fast-paced practice that will send have you buzzing for the rest of the day.
*Please note: We’re not here to judge at Hot Yoga Ibiza, although we do hope you always choose to practice safely and under the guidance of a professional instructor.