Non-Traditional Forms of Yoga
Far from Nirvana
I have always viewed yoga as a really annoying form of exercise. Through every class, I couldn't help thinking, "How long do I have to hold this pose for or why is everyone breathing like that?" Trying to find my center while breathing into tight spots (how do you even do that?) seemed ridiculous, and don't even get me started on meditating. However, I later realized that not all yoga is the same, and there are actually many different styles that cater to every individual's unique personality.
Finding the right class is key to truly enjoy yoga. If you are in desperate need of something a little more fast-paced and exciting, here are four different styles of yoga that will raise your heart rate and leave you begging for more.
1) Hot as Hades
For those looking to add more power to their yoga routine, hot yoga is perfect. Hot yoga, also known as Bikram Yoga, is performed in a room where temperatures are set at around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity. Burning up to 1000 calories a session, hot yoga will help you lose weight and turn your fat into muscle as you flow into your poses. Working with your body weight inside an oven will make you sweat more than you ever thought possible. As you perspire, your pores will open, which improves your skin's elasticity and helps release toxins. Some even say that, with so many toxins being released from your body, you may never need to put on deodorant again. (I'm still waiting for medical proof before I take that risk.)
Aside from weight loss, hot yoga offers great relief for individuals with arthritis. Moving and extending your joints in a heated atmosphere can help alleviate inflammation. Back pain can also be improved through back and forward bends. In order to reap the rehabilitation benefits of hot yoga, individuals must keep up with a regular practice, three to four times a week.
2) Back to Nature
Don't like to sweat? Stand up paddle board, or SUP, yoga ensures that you stay cool. Sup yoga is done on the water on top of a stand up paddle board. And while yoga is demanding in itself, the movement of the water and strong ocean breeze will also challenge your balance. Shifting your weight back and forth while trying to find your center of gravity will help strengthen your core muscle, legs, and even ankles. Paddling out to the practice spot will tone your arms, and, in some cases, you will even use the paddle in certain poses, helping incorporate extra weight work into your practice.
It is important that you attain your sea legs before attempting SUP yoga. Learn how to stand up paddle board first and then test your yoga poses on the water. And, of course, be sure you know how to swim. You will take a few dips in your first few sessions, but at least you will stay cool!
3) Yoga in the Air
Deep down, we all wish we could fly. With anti-gravity yoga, you can get close to attaining that dream. In anti-gravity yoga, you use a large piece of fabric that hangs from the ceiling to form a giant hammock as your support system. The hammock allows you to get deeper into your stretches while hovering a few inches above the ground, causing no impact to your joints. For those looking to take their flexibility to the next level, this class is for you. Placing the hammock around the hips allows you to get into deep forward or back bends, and looping the hammock around one foot while balancing on the other helps you deepen your splits.
Unlike most yoga classes, you will want to stay covered up throughout this whole class. The fabric of the hammock will dig into your arms and legs, so be sure to wear pants and long sleeves to save your skin from fabric burn.
4) Partner Up
Do you have a yoga buddy? Bring them to a partner yoga class so that you can stretch and flex together. In partner yoga, couples work through yoga poses together, balance each other, and help one another into deeper stretches. Like traditional yoga, your muscle strength and flexibility will improve as you target core muscles. The big difference between partner yoga and traditional yoga (besides the person climbing all over you) are the many different posesthat are typically not found in other forms of yoga.
Couples, friends, siblings, or complete strangers can help build and strengthen their relationships through contact and non-verbal communication. In this practice, you literally support and protect each other with your bodies, which helps build trust and confidence. Also, individuals are constantly touching one another, which studies show can help reduce stress by providing the brain with a sense of comfort and acceptance.
Yoga is a great form of exercise that should be incorporated into your work-out schedule. Finding a form of yoga that best fits your personality is key to not only enjoy the activity but reap all of the physical benefits. Even if you are an avid yogi immersed in traditional yoga, I encourage you to try other forms to mix up your work-out routine and prevent your body from plateauing. Before you know it, you'll find your niche in the yoga world.