Yoga is a Science. And science evolves.
Having said that; some of the new-agey yoga would have the ancient yogis tearing their beards out! Honestly though, I think the Yoga community is mature enough to understand the difference between innovations that aid the practice and trends that are meant to be – FUN!
The earliest innovations to Asana practice can be attributed to Sri Krishnmacharya, the grand sire of modern Hatha Yoga. In fact the ‘props’ he devised were then further worked on by Sri BKS Iyengar. IYENGAR YOGA‘s intelligent usage of belts, bolsters and chairs enabled many unfit persons to recover from diseases and injuries and pursue a healthy lifestyle.
Later, Bikram Yoga “invented” Hot Yoga. A lot of people were and are skeptical – but honestly, it was a case of adapting the Yoga to the audience he found. In severe freezing Winters in North America, if people are not doing Surya Namaskaars to warm up before practicing asanas – and given that a lot of people would have been unfit to start with – heating the Room itself became an easier, straightforward solution to get folks to be able to ‘stretch’!
Over the years many more expert Yoga teachers innovated to create a plethora of styles; each trying to solve a unique problem that the student presented. In the last 10 years, as Yoga has steadily become more Mainstream than ever – innovative Teachers are moving yoga outside of their studios and combining the practice with other fitness forms or lifestyle practices. Some of the fads that went on to become trends:
AERIAL-YOGA has been the biggest yoga trend in 2012. It involves performing asanas whilst being suspended from a piece of cloth (hammock) that is attached to the ceiling. It makes you feel like a Cirque du Soleil performer! The benefits include a prolonged holding of inversions – thereby sending nourishing blood supply to the head. Also, balance and upper body strength are trained; while equally importantly, a playfulness is inculcated in the practice! Similar to this is ROPE YOGA; where you are suspended and leaning over from an Iyengar-style wall with ropes attached to the wall.
ACRO YOGA is a physical practice which blends elements of yoga, acrobatics, dance/performance and lately Thai massage also. It involves the a pair of people usually – a Base (who is the person in contact with the ground usually lying down supine or prone) and a Flyer (who is the person elevated off the ground). A 3rd person called a Spotter helps the practitioners improve their posture and guides so that the flyer lands safely.
SUP YOGA has been the trend in 2013 thus far. Stand-Up Paddle boarding has become a rage and it was inevitable that people would do Yoga on their ‘floating yoga mats’! Just like working out on the BOSU, having to balance oneself makes your small muscles get engaged. AQUA YOGA is simple asanas done in water.
LAUGHTER YOGA – Dr Madan Kataria established the first laughter club in Mumbai about 20 years ago. It involved groups of people getting together to simulate a hearty laugh through different exercises. This would be followed by some breathing practices. Startling research showed that the human body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter – and the self-same effects of a real laugh are had even if you were to simulate it! Sounds crazy, right? You should try it – laughter can really get infectious!
BROGA – What do you do to get the Men to attend Yoga classes offered at the Gym? Tailor the asana routine to have more strength-building stuff and add a few push-ups, squats and crunches to let the Men FEEL that they are working out! And call it….Yoga for Brothers or BROGA!
KOGA is a hybrid between Yoga and Kick-boxing. In fact yoga has been married to every other fitness form from DANCE to even CAPOIERA.
NAKED YOGA is catching on in a few cities now. As the name suggests; Yoga is done in the nude. Obviously not for everyone – but them some students say that it helps them accept their bodies better.
DOGA – The yoga trend that has People practice Yoga along with their canines. Yes, Dogs! The poor animals are made to stretch into yoga poses along with their doting masters! Now, you’ll finally know how exactly to do your Downward-facing-Dog!
Apart from these hybrids; the other 2 trends that have caught the imagination are YOGA-in-the-PARK and YOGA FESTIVALS! YOGA-in-the-PARK is a natural progression of taking your yoga practice outdoors when the weather permits – summertime in the west.
YOGA FESTIVALS are gaining huge popularity worldwide. These typically are not like yoga retreats which are silent and introspective. These are full-blown celebrations of all things Yoga – from various Asana classes, Meditation & Speakeasy workshops, Music & Dance performances, Stalls selling yoga gear and fun-filled Community activities. Definitely worth visiting a Yoga festival for the sheer amount energy oozing all over the place!
What is a Yoga Festival? The way Yoga festivals are mushrooming all over the world; it’s really a cultural phenomenon that’s transcending the yoga space itself. In the past we did Yoga workshops, and then when there were enough yogis wanting to commit to a longer time; we did Yoga retreats. These were supposedly a chance to connect to your inner self – practice yoga and meditation in silence; eat healthy and perhaps take some Peace back with you to your insane daily life! Retreats focussed on the inner being and typically had 8-20 participants. In the last 3 years, we’ve seen a totally new phenomenon – the Yoga Festival. This, whilst giving you the time to reflect in the midst of nature – is meant to be a grand-scale Yoga celebration; almost a party! Community is the most important aspect here. Just like conferences, these Festivals are packed with Yoga classes, Meditation workshops, Speakeasy sessions and perhaps most significantly they have an element of fun – so you have Music and Dance performances! This is where festivals become vehicles for people to enjoy themselves – whilst doing the thing that they really dig – YOGA!
So, as a modern Yogi you are really spoilt for choice. Remember though, that you are to have fun with yoga – to play with your body and give your mind a new experience to enjoy!
– Manish Pole: Yogi, Storyteller, Gypsy and the founder-director of Total Yoga (www.totalyoga.in)