The new yoga kids on the block
Western culture has embraced yoga with a hungry gusto. It loves the designer yoga gear, loves quoting spiritual gurus, and loves contorting one's body into a pretzel - and it’s a fun workout.
As a response to this demand, a plethora of new and unusual yoga classes are popping up around Australia. While traditional yoga poses are taught in these classes, the volume for tradition and spirituality is slightly turned down. Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, however, are turned up high.
Letting go and being still
Swami Gopalpuri, Yoga teacher and Manager at Victoria’s Richmond’s Yoga in Daily Life says that while these yoga classes are great sweaty workouts, they don’t always promote stillness like in traditional yoga:
“Contemporary yoga is catering for agitation. People even with a little amount of anxiety, struggle to be still, let alone, meditate. They need to let go not only on the physical, but on the mental level too.”
"Can twerking and freestyle yoga lead one to pursue more traditional practice?"
In a traditional yoga class (also known as Raja, from which hatha, asthtanga and vinyasa stems), the air is thick with spirituality and ancient ritual. Students slowly unfurl and bend their bodies, while the teacher softly instructs Patanjali yoga movements along with deep pranayama breathing based on ancient Hindu practices.
The goal of Raja yoga? To reach the state of samadhi – where one experiences nothing but the bliss of the undisturbed.
But the new yoga kids on the block believe their unique twist on yogic traditions have a lot to offer for the modern agitated mind.
Led by Keely Windred, also the Dance Captain of Bey Dance, this yoga class combines the empowerment of Queen ‘B’ (Beyoncé) with the classical sivananda yoga sequence of vinyasa. Bey Yoga students mix twerking and asana to Beyoncé’s upbeat tracks.
“We practise focusing on our bodies, our breath and our mind, as well as having a good laugh while practising our butt twitching!” Windred says.
A high-intensity vinyasa workout, complete with a DJ playing fast-tracks, dress-ups and plenty of kitsch, Disco yoga is a party to celebrate community and life. Nickie Hanley created Discoyoga after giving up partying and missing the music scene:
“My aim is to show people they can party and get high without drugs and alcohol, and celebrate life with complete strangers.”
Where yoga takes flight. Playtime Healing teacher Einat Bardea says that the flying yoga class is a result of modern-day curiosity looking for exciting ways to get fit and healthy. Yoga moves are traditional, although some of them may be done on top of your partner.
Hip hop yoga
For students who’d fancy some Snoop Dogg with their downward dog, Sammy Veall’s Yoga 213 is Australia’s first hip hop themed yoga centre. Yoga 213 offers quick-paced vinyasa yoga taught to the beats of hip hop tunes and positivity.
“Happiness for us is number one, and there is no way you can’t be happy when there is great music playing and you are doing something that is healthy for your body, mind and spirit,” Veall says.
Tradition or contemporary?
According to Swami Gopalpuri contemporary yoga is a necessary by-product of the modern world. We’re thirsty for spirituality, but being time poor we’re attracted to the all-in-one package yoga class promising fun, fitness and mental clarity. This, he admits, is enough for some people:
“It’s a step for many to be able to slow down via physical exhaustion and experience stillness and moments of inner calm and clarity. As a consequence this lasting memory of true peace might guide them towards a more traditional practice.”
Can twerking and freestyle yoga lead one to pursue more traditional practice? Gopaluri can only hope.
In the meantime the new yoga kids are having great fun practising yogic sequences to popular radio tunes. Bliss, it turns out, can be found in many ways on the yoga mat.
And unless you’re the fun police, you’ve got to admit there’s no harm in that.
Image by Kristin Wall (Flickr).