First off, a disclaimer.
I’m in a foul mood. It’s lingering from the end of the last post, and it was not helped by a lousy night sleep followed by getting up too late to practice. (We’ll see what, if anything I can get in tonight after work. Either way, not exactly off to the best Mysore Challenge ever.)
I could put it positively and say that my inner Agni is burning well of its own accord. But I don’t feel like doing so.
Given this mood, this piece from the London Evening Standard — a few days old, so I’m not sure why it popped up today — is perfectly timed. I gave me an excuse to throw my hands in the air (like I just don’t care, and I don’t) and briefly rant to myself about all these so-called yogas.
The yogas I’m never, ever, ever going to do.
And when you see how it starts, you’ll understand why it might have rubbed me immediately the wrong, wrong way:
Forget Bikram and Ashtanga, 2012’s new breed of yogas is a lot more fun – and fierce. We put fashion blogger Bip Ling and four other writers through their postures …
How did they know? I’m looking for fun and fierce when it comes to my yoga. So what are these holla from the shala yogas? Here you are:
Getting up early and braving the pouring rain that was crashing on my window was never something that I was going to find easy – especially not with my new St Tropez spray tan. However, when I heard that there was a new martial-arts-cum-yoga class around the corner from my house, I knew I had to check it out.
We kicked things off with a spot of breathing and visualisation, before limbering up into our yoga poses. But the tough stuff was still yet to begin. Rounds of Thai boxing combinations and flying high kicks certainly took my heart rate up to another level – and far beyond the one you’d usually expect for a little relaxing yoga. Luckily, at the end of the session we wound down with more breathing exercises and meditation.
Oh, wait, I think you meant kick boxing with some stretches. That’s not yoga.
There are things most of us imagine we will never do. For me, hanging upside down in a pike position with my shoulders balanced on the feet of a stranger was one of them.
I’ve seen this sort of thing done by Cirque du Soleil and been amazed. But actually, it’s not as hard as it looks.
AcroYoga, as this gravity-mocking exercise is known, is a combination of acrobatics and yoga practised with a partner or in groups.
Our teachers, Anna and Bryony, demonstrate how to form each posture move by move, for both the “base” (on the floor) and the “flyer” (balancing on top), and how spotters can rescue anyone who starts to topple over.
Oh, you mean gymnastics with ropes and bungees? Again, not yoga.
Perhaps the third time is the charm?
Like most SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sufferers, my motivation to exercise dwindles as the dark days continue. Yoga has long been touted as a way to boost your mood as well as your body but Glow yoga has the added benefit of taking place in a studio lit with anti-SAD lights – and heated by infra-red panels.
As you enter the Covent Garden studio of Glow Vibes Fitness, it feels comfortingly cosy. Unlike radiators – that only heat the air around us – infra-red panels permeate heat, warming the body from the inside out. Some studies suggest this helps everything from improving circulation and minimising exercise injuries to relieving joint pain and boosting your white blood cell count – even helping to prevent winter viruses.
The class combines Hatha yoga poses and core-strengthening exercises to flatten abs, improve flexibility and achieve long, lean muscle tone.
OK, so possibly yoga. But yoga with a gimmick. (Which is not to dismiss SAD — since I may be experiencing my own version today, except it’s been 80 degrees here in Los Angeles — but just to say, umm… yeah, that’s a gimmick.)
“Get out of my face homeboy” demanded the hip-hop track pumping out of the Gymbox weight-room’s large speakers as I walked towards the yoga area. Gymbox claims that its gyms are “anything goes, diva dancing, combat training melting pots of fitness insanity”, so delivering yoga – an ancient Indian path to spiritual tranquillity – without seriously damaging its street cred among the hardcore gym-going community was always going to be a challenge.
“Broga” is Gymbox’s solution, presumably a reference to the appeal it will hold for “brothers” rather than to the Malaysian town 50 km south of Kuala Lumpur. Broga, left, is hard, fast-paced and free from the effeminate associations normal yoga has acquired. Before the class I couldn’t imagine yoga being physically strenuous but then I realised the trick. Don’t let the gap year soundtrack distract you: along with the customary praying and leg-twisting, Broga essentially involves a lot of skilfully modified press-ups, squat-thrusts and planks. It’s fun but if you weren’t good at those things at school, you won’t find this any easier. And in my whole class of 15 people, there were only a handful of brothers in sight.
We’ve touched on this before. It sounds like a good workout, but I think just adding “-ga” to something doesn’t make it yo-ga.
I have always considered myself way too into “real” sports for yoga, so when was asked to try out YogaDance, I was a bit sceptical. “YogaDance is a unique way of combining free flowing movement with yoga,” explained my teacher Katie, from new yoga studio Yotopia. “There is a new understanding of how the body best moves and is trained – using spiral movements, pulsing and repetition, instead of linear and static movements.”
Right, I thought. “But don’t worry there is no right or wrong in this class,” she added – thank God.
The class started with floor stretches and standing yoga exercises which gradually built up into free dance. For the first 15 minutes, I tried to reproduce the teacher’s exact movements. But as the class progressed I felt more at ease – and my moves started to flow naturally. Which considering I’m French and very self-conscious seemed something of a miracle.
Dance, I think they mean. At least it isn’t Zumba.
Now, I’m going to go see if I can find someone in my office to yell at. I’m missing the days when I had 30-odd people who reported to me. I for sure could have found someone then.
Posted by Steve