Yoga: it’s great for meditation, limbering up and your blood pressure. It’s been growing in popularity as a form of exercise in western culture since the 1980s,with interest spiking around 2001 and staying high. In accordance with yoga’s growing popularity, alongside the most often practiced Hatha yoga, there are other forms of yoga that have either splintered off from Hatha or experienced a resurgence of interest, from the highly popular hot yoga, to the core-strengthening stand up paddleboard yoga.
Bikram, or Hot Yoga
Bikram Yoga, or hot yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. Each session runs for ninety minutes, and uses the same twenty-six Hatha yoga postures, accompanied by two breathing exercises. The part where it really differentiates from your average yoga class is the environment: the average classroom for Bikram yoga is 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees celsius), with a forty percent humidity rate.
The school does offer variances in temperature and humidity, with higher temperature classes having lower humidity, and higher humidity classes having lower temperatures. The high temperature and humidity are believed to help with flexibility, detoxing the body and increasing oxygen flow. Because, obviously, practicing yoga at extreme temperatures can come with health risks, Bikram is very clear about the rules, and who can teach his classes. Only Bikram certified teachers can teach the class, with only certified senior teachers can offer seminars and clinics, and advanced classes are only offered at the Bikram Headquarters in Los Angeles.
Unnata, or Anti-Gravity Yoga
Developed over the last ten years by circus arts performers, unnata yoga combines yoga poses and stretches with aerial silks. Unnata yoga uses a modified aerial silk apparatus to suspend you upside down while you do your yoga poses. By doing the poses upside down, the stretches are augmented by gravity, leading to a better quality of stretch. Once you’ve learned how to stay upside down comfortably for a few minutes, the health benefits are almost immediate. According to practitioners, not only does Unnata Yoga improve the stretch, but also decompresses the spine, helps manage long-term back problems, as well as leaving you feeling refreshed thanks to the increased blood flow to the head.
Where other forms of yoga on this list combine the meditative nature of the poses with the desire for an intensive workout, restorative yoga’s different. The average restorative yoga class goes through less than 10 easy Hatha poses per session, and promises a slow, all ages and fitness levels friendly session. The poses often use supports like bolsters and rolled blankets, to reduce strain on the body. The poses are believed to stimulate the physiological responses that aid in reducing stress, chronic pain and that promote general healthiness. As far as yoga forms go, this one is focused on reaching a state of deep relaxation. The classes also promise that the poses learned can be easily integrated into your daily routine.
Developed in Mumbai by Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri, while writing an article on the health benefits of laughter. At first, it was a laughter club, where people gathered, told jokes and funny stories to make each other laugh. But when hurtful jokes began to be told, Dr. Kataria searched for a way to gain the health benefits of laughter without risking alienating any members of the laughter club. He found that the human body can’t differentiate between faked and genuine laughter. Combined with laughter’s (fake or otherwise) contagious nature, all it took was a few moments of faked laughter, and it shifted to real laughter. Combining the laughter exercises they developed with Pranayama yoga exercises, laughter yoga was born.
The average session involves warm-up exercises, designed to stimulate the body, loosen inhibitions and shyness, followed by breathing exercises to relax the body, and then laughter yoga exercises, followed by a laughter meditation and comprehensive grounding exercises, as the sessions can often contain catharsis that, if not properly grounded, can leave practitioners feeling unstable or empty.
Naked yoga is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s yoga that you practice in the nude. This particular style of yoga’s been practiced in one form or another since ancient times, and began being practiced in Europe in the mid 1980s, usually among naturists. Alongside the usual health benefits of yoga, naked yoga practitioners claim that the practice multiplies those health benefits, as well as trains the practitioners in body acceptance (of both their own and others), and achieving a sense of separation from worldly possessions while calming their active minds. However, it can be difficult to adjust to, especially in classes open to all genders, and you’re probably going to want to bring your own mat.
This is rock star yoga. Rocket style of yoga takes its name from practitioner Bob Weir (of the Grateful Dead fame), who claimed that the style ‘gets you there faster’, with ‘there’ being fitness nirvana. Rocket yoga was developed by yoga maverick Larry Schultz, who gave students access to all poses, rather than following the traditional practice of only teaching a student a new pose after they’d mastered the previous one. The practice remixes poses and postures from primary and intermediate Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, going through over a hundred poses in the seventy-five minute classes, with the goal of improved body strength and flexibility. In another break from tradition, rocket yoga encourages students to make their own interpretations of the postures and poses for the ease of practice. There are three series of Rocket Yoga, entitled Rocket I, Rocket II and Rocket III, and students ideally attend one class of each series a week. Rocket I acts as a sort of warm-up class, Rocket II is the more intensive class and Rocket III is the cool-down class, ideally done at the end of each week. Rocket Yoga’s attracted some big name practitioners, beyond the Grateful Dead, with celebs like Madonna and Sting also taking part.
Yoga in the Wild
Yoga promises to help you clear your mind for the length of the session. But if you really need to get away from it all, there’s always wilderness yoga. Yoga in the Wild, in Utah, offers a range of yoga retreats for dedicated practitioners, from the single day retreat to themed yoga hikes. These retreats are designed to invigorate, restore and give you a chance to reconnect with both inner joy and external beauty. A little new agey, maybe, but in the best sort of way. The longer sessions include meditation, hikes, yoga classes in picturesque locations, hiking, and all meals. To participate in these excursions, you must be at least eighteen, or be fifteen and have a parent or guardian willing to accompany you.
It’s also called ‘Yoga Doggie Style’, and is yoga practiced with your dog. Developed by Suzi Teitelman, doga is a partner yoga class, where your partner is your pet. The dogs take part in the postures, either by holding the pet during poses or through massage. Doga often has a much shorter session period than the average yoga class, about twenty minutes. Doga has the same health benefits as a regular yoga class, but that your pet also shares in those benefits, as well as it strengthening the bond between dog and dog-owner.
Yoga with Belugas
You can’t practice yoga underwater yet, but the Vancouver Aquarium’s offering the next best thing- a chance to practice yoga with Quila and Aurora, the aquarium’s two beluga whales. The class is a gentle Hatha yoga class, open to all levels, with no-sweat sequences available for beginners and more complex sequences for those with more experience. The practice provides a chance for city-dwellers to reconnect with nature, and is open the thirty-five people per class. The belugas occasionally participate as well, according to program coordinator Jonathan Hultquist, watching the class intently and blowing bubbles at the practitioners. As interesting as this class is, it has drawn protest for its use of the whales, with people using it as a platform on which to decry keeping whales in captivity.
SUP Yoga, short for Stand Up Paddleboard yoga allows people to take yoga to the seas. The paddleboard is similar to an over sized surfboard, about 9-12 feet long, with several fins attached to the bottom. SUP Yoga is exceptionally good for core-workouts, as you must not only complete the yoga poses, but keep your core engaged to stay balanced atop your board. The classes can take place in calm spots of the sea, lakes or slow moving rivers, and is practiced worldwide (though the classes on the Atlantic coasts can be a little rough at times!). Some of the poses are slightly modified in SUP Yoga, in order for them to be feasibly completed while balancing on a board in the water. Teachers of SUP yoga also state that falling over(board) in these classes is part of the fun, rather than the ultimate shame it can feel like on solid ground.