When Yoga Goes Off-Piste
Yoga – it's not just calming the mind, fostering spirituality and nourishing the body through poses and breathing techniques that've evolved over hundreds of years.
Alright, yes, it is mostly about that. But! If you really put your mind to it, you can bend yoga into all kinds of freaky, far-out shapes – just have a gawp at the following...
Yep, this is exactly what you think it is: yoga, stoned.
First practised in Toronto in 2009, Ganja Yoga is now gaining a foothold in North America's more laidback and hippy-fied cities: Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco.
Ganja Yoga's inventor, certified hatha yoga instructor Dee Dussault, claims that it's “less physically intense that most yoga. Classes are gatherings designed to slow us down and promote relaxation and well-being." Presumably while trying to not break into fits of giggles or ravenously demand Häagen-Dazs and Pringles.
I remember thinking, 'The ground is me!' I decided to stop hitting the pipe
It's important to find a balance and not hit the weed too hard during your class, otherwsie things may get a little weird. “During child’s pose," says one recent San Francisco attendee, “I remember thinking, 'I am one with the mat. I am one with the ground. The ground is me!' That's when I decided to stop hitting the pipe."
Of course, we don't have the same 'medical marijuana' (ahem) laws in place in the UK, and so while there may well be Ganja Yoga classes on offer here, they're not being openly advertised anywhere. Maybe go and ask that shifty-looking guy who's always hanging around your local pub car park, handing small plastic bags through car windows? He'll probably know a guy who knows a guy, innit.
Coed Nude Yoga
“Coed", for anyone unaware, is Americanspeak for “male and female together". So, yes: this is a roomful of men and women, bending right over in front of each other while simultaneously trying not to peer directly into anything too horrifying.
As you can imagine, given our inherently prudish/giggling nature, Coed Nude Yoga has singularly failed to take off in the UK, but it is very much a 'thing' in the US, particularly in New York.
However, you can't simply swan into a Nude Yoga class off the street, disrobe, exhale and downward dog your bits'n'bobs into the breeze – first-timers have to be background-checked before attending, which is probs for the best.
The man to my right has balls the size of kiwis
In an eye-watering piece for Details, one writer related his experience of a Coed Nude Yoga class: “I ogle no one – but that doesn't mean I don't notice objects in my sight-line. The man to my right has balls the size of kiwis. The man to my left, a tattoo on his ass quoting Alfred E. Neuman: 'WHAT, ME WORRY?' One woman's breasts hang like amphorae; another's pubic hair is so dark and thick it hovers over her groin like a storm cloud."
Yeah, d'you know what America? You can keep this one, ta anyway.
Does the very thought of trying to be still, centered and serene for an hour-plus fill you with a strange and nameless rage? Then maaaaybe yoga isn't for you. But maaaaybe Tantrum Yoga is!
Created by LA yoga teacher Hemalayaa (just the one name, like Cher), Tantrum Yoga is all about connecting with your inner three-year-old and letting rip like Mummy just refused to buy you some Haribo Tangfastics. Screaming, yelling, foot-stamping and chest-thumping are all encouraged. (You're still not getting any Haribo, though.)
Screaming, yelling, foot-stamping and chest-thumping are all encouraged
"We are emotional beings," explains Hemalayaa, “and there are times we need to let go of emotion, especially old stuff that's sitting in there, festering. Otherwise it gets stuck in our bodies and could turn into stress or disease, etc. I'm committed to being in the best state of health I can be in, and if that means I have to scream every now and then to feel great, I do!"
Admit it: you well fancy a go.
Doga really hit the big time when it featured on an episode of Made In Chelsea, which led to its inventor – Switzerland-born Mahny Djahanguiri – landing a book deal and appearances in the Times, the Mail, the Metro and on This Morning, the latter of which infamously featured some red-hot dog-on-dog humping action.
With Doga, you're essentially performing standard yoga moves, except, y'know, your dog is there. Sometimes you'll scoop your dog aloft; sometimes your dog will balance upon your arched back; sometimes your dog will wander off, bored out of its furry mind, and start making sweet love to the leg of the person in front of you. Anything could happen.
Obviously, the diddier and better-behaved your dog, the better. If you're the owner of a particularly unruly and sexed-up St. Bernard, you might want to give this a miss. Cheers.
Heavy Metal Yoga
Not everyone finds whale noises and wind-chimes soothing – for some, the abrasive, blood-spattered sounds of Slayer, Pig Destroyer or Sepultura do far more to induce the kind of spiritual inner-peace that yoga aims to foster.
Hence the current trend – both here and in the US – as for classes such as Metal Yoga Bones (slogan: “Unleash Your Inner Beast") and Black Yoga (“You Can't Appreciate The Light Until You Understand The Darkness").
We raise our voices to Satan with a dark and deep howl
“My class starts off with a lot of growling, screaming, and hitting the floor with our fists," says Brooklyn's Saskia Thode, who set up Metal Yoga Bones. “This gives people a chance to release some of the anger, stress and the darkness inside. And to close the class, we raise our voices to Satan with a dark and deep howl."
We always figured Satan to be more of a Crossfit bro than a yoga dude, but whatever. We're sure he appreciates the gesture anyway. \m/ \m/
And at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from the chugga-skronk of metal, we have the relentless bum-tish of dance music.
From the website of London-based chain Gymbox, which host regular Yoga Rave classes: “Yoga, beats and dance: Yoga Rave is a class that will rock your mind, body and soul! Let the beat of the music take you on a flowing journey through fluid yoga sequences in our UV-lit studios that will transcend you to a whole 'you' kind of high!"
You're doing soothing poses in a room that looks and sounds like a nightclub at 4am
Essentially, you're doing soothing poses in a room that looks and sounds like a nightclub going full-tilt at 4am. Either that'll sound straight-up awesome or nigh-on impossible, depending on your disposition and tolerance for bum-tishing.
Brainchild of Dr Madan Katan – “The Laughter Guru" – Laughter Yoga is all about striking poses while ceaselessly chuckling like a daft bozo.
Starting with just five students in Mumbai Park in 1995, Dr Katan initially used jokes and funny stories to generate the lolz, but found he ran out of material them too quickly. However, he soon found that “the body cannot differentiate between acted and genuine laughter" (okaaay) so he went with insincere chuckles instead.
The body cannot differentiate between acted and genuine laughter
Laughter Yoga moves include “the milkshake", in which you pretend to mix and drunk a milkshake while pretend-giggling uncontrollably (presumably you can also pretend that some of the milkshake has shot out of your nose).
You might wonder if there could be anything less relaxing than being surrounded by a roomful of people fake-laughing like maniacal simpletons, but Dr K's disciples swear by his methods: “Life has its ups and downs," says Chandanna Denzayll, “but Laughter Yoga has enhanced my ability to respond to all challenges!" So there you go.
Of all the bonkers yoga variants out there, Laughter Yoga is perhaps the most successful, having been covered on incredulous news reports by the BBC, CNN and NBC, amongst many others. So you could say that Dr K... has had the last laugh.
("Booo!" "Gerroff!" etc).
Co-devised in LA by yoga instructor Jennifer Pastiloff and DJ Gina Mooring, Karaoke Yoga has you crankin' out pop classics while getting into poses, and is mostly definitely not suitable for uptight yoga purists who knit their own yoghurt.
“If you're looking for a strict, alignment-based class, don't come to this," warns Pastiloff. “This is not one of those classes. This is about having the workout of your life, singing, dancing, feeling silly."
'Let It Be' is the biggest tearjerker
If you fancy making the trip over to LA, New York or Chicago for one of Jen's classes, expect to find yourself bellowing along to Adele, Journey, Michael Jackson and The Beatles (there's no room for coolly obscure indie B-sides at Karaoke Yoga). “'Let It Be' is the biggest tearjerker," says Pastiloff. “Everyone always gets emotional with that one..."