Generation Yoga

Generation Yoga

By GUARDIAN20 | | 20 June, 2015
PHOTO: zoya par vin; model: varuna shunglu
From the art of being suspended mid-air while contorting your body into a complicated asana, to a session that could entail yoga with pooches, kickboxing, even giggling incessantly. Guardian20 celebrates International Yoga Day by looking at some newer trends. Move over, Iyengar, Bikram Choudhury and power yoga, it’s time to embrace the new kicks on the block.

Combat Yoga/koga (Kickboxing + yoga)

All it takes is one Hollywood star for a nascent fitness/martial arts regime to really take off: this much we know since Chuck Norris and his kickboxing magnum opus Good Guys Wear Black. And Norris wasn't even into kickboxing: a karate man through and through, he learnt the basics of kickboxing for this movie (of course, being Chuck Norris didn't hurt). After the film released, everybody was high-kicking in the morning. A similar boom may yet happen with "Koga", a fusion of kickboxing and yoga that is now being endorsed by people as diverse as Lindsay Lohan, Jason Statham and James Cameron.

Koga was started by Jon Koga (he legally changed his last name after patenting the practice), a trainer from New York who wanted to temper the fast-paced moves of kickboxing with something that would teach combatants the value of harmony and restraint; yoga, for obvious reasons, proved to be the perfect foil. As for combat yoga, it's a cross-training routine that incorporates martial arts techniques into your yoga regime.

Kickboxing and yoga might appear to be an odd pair, but Koga enthusiasts swear by its ability to make you lean in double quick time and also to improve your posture and sense of balance. Yoga provides the cardio part of your workout, while the kickboxing bits make sure that a greater percentage of your muscles feel the strain of the asanas. For instance, a common Koga pairing is the Downward Facing Dog with side, forward and down kickboxing jabs. Also popular is combining the warrior pose (which gives your thighs and knees a real hammering) along with a combination of high and low kicks: as you might imagine, this takes a lot of stamina to incorporate into your daily regime.

It's an intense routine, one that takes time to ease into. But if you are into fusion workouts, Koga may be worth a shot. Remember, Chuck Norris can kick your ass while doing yoga.

Where: Combat Yoga lessons at Crosstrain Fight Club, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi. T: +91 98915 14589.

Aerial Yoga (Yoga vs gravity)

If you want to rise above the more orthodox styles of practicing yoga, you can now do so quite literally by submitting yourself to a round of what's come to be known as "anti-gravity" or aerial yoga. With obvious sci-fi overtones to its name, aerial yoga is actually the most contemporary form of the original discipline and also the most futuristic. Image 2nd

Still, according to its practitioners, nowhere does it compromise on matters of practicality and health benefits. But what exactly, the uninitiated may ask, is aerial yoga? Well, it is exactly what it says on the label: a form of yoga that is practiced suspended in the air. The anti-gravity agent here is the good-old hammock, the aerial equivalent to a Yoga mat. All the exercises and asanas are carried out with the hammock, itself suspended from the ceiling a few feet above the ground, being the central prop. The practitioner hangs from this suspended chord while attempting to reach various basic or advanced yoga poses. Aditi Deshpande is an exponent of aerial yoga in Mumbai, conducting classes at Sitara Studio and other places. PHOTO: swapnil khese

The result of hanging so from a hammock (or a silk cloth used as one) is enhanced flexibility and reduced physical strain. Experts in aerial Yoga have also found it to be an effective stress reliever, crediting it with powers to help relax the nerves. There's also the no less important aspect of yoga for fun to be considered here, and aerial yoga scores well on this count. The increased range of motion makes it possible to combine acrobatics, calisthenics and indeed carefully choreographed dance moves to a session of aerial yoga.

But despite all the positives, aerial yoga is more demanding physically, and people with spine or neck problems would be well-advised to refrain from practicing it. Those in good shape, though, can get their "yoga high" as soon as they get their hands on a hammock.

Where: Fitnesolution , Greater Kailash-2, Delhi ; Sitara Studio, Lower Parel, Mumbai; Arts in Motion, Khar.

Broga (Yoga for Bros)

What do two bros do when they're not bumping fists, thumping chests, caressing each other's abs, punching ugly feminists, calling one another variations of "bro" — "Hey, Broski." "'Sup, Broseph?" — and just being complete tools? They sit on the side and whinge about their deep-rooted insecurities and inadequacies is what. For them, the world has thought up a new form of hybrid yoga, imaginatively titled Broga — Denial is not just a river in Egypt; Broga is not just a small town in Malaysia.

It's a super alpha, masculine beefcake version of yoga that doesn't throw the usual spiritual psychobabble at you with evangelical zest. All that twisty, bendy crap — best left in the kitchen — is complemented with studly, hair-on-chest exercises that focus on strength — cardio workouts, muscle-tone, core-strengthening.

Judgements aside (briefly), if you're the regular friendly neighbourhood Bro who would ideally want to supplement the long-term benefits of yoga with effective workouts to enhance overall fitness, Broga's the way to go. If massaging your inner chi through the power of spiritual trickery wearing yoga pants in a roomful of women prying their third eyes open frightens you and threatens your manhood, again, Broga is the way to go.

It combines the delicate, traditional art of yoga with exercise that only real men can handle.  Broga was co-founded by Robert Sidoti in 2011 (which means it has transcended fad status and is now a full on trend), as a means to combat the traditional — sexist — idea that yoga is mostly the refuge of women and pansies. Tutorials are available online, so Indian meatheads can reap its rewards too. Broga has managed to get the attention of plenty of men who're intrigued by yoga but far too insecure to take the plunge for fear of ridicule. We may judge you, bro, but Broga does not.

Where: Video tutorials for Broga are available at Have a fun weekend.

Naked Yoga (Yoga + You)

It seems easy to dismiss this as some new-age, modern, hippie, liberal invention, but naked yoga — Nagna Yoga in Sanskrit — has actually existed in our great country for billions and trillions of years, well before civilisation hit any other part of the world. It's exactly the same as yoga except for one major self-explanatory difference, and it serves as an extension of the idea of renouncement of all worldly virtues and material possessions (clothes included). It's been known to have been practised by the Naga Sadhus here, and propagates the idea of emancipation, open-mindedness and acceptance of one's primal condition and state.

Plus, the rays of the sun and the cool breeze hitting your bare torso during an early morning bout of suryanamaskar has got to have some practical scientific benefits, no? That said, naked yoga is presumably illegal over here (a fact we're okay with), so please refrain from any spontaneous striptease sessions at the next group yoga class. If you really must, you could try it at home with close friends and family (no, not family) to see what the fuss is about.

There's also the threat of infections spreading through mats and equipment graced by other similarly enlightened chunky bottoms (and more and worse) at previous sessions, so, if you do manage to find a group of secret guerilla naked yoga practitioners — probably at some naturist commune in Goa — it's best to carry your own gear. Don't knock it till you try it, though; the thought of scraping your nose with the tip of your toes at dawn, dressed in nothing but your own dignity, alongside a group of humming zombies, does sound strangely liberating.

Where: Nowhere above board in India, thankfully.

Aqua Yoga (Yoga + Water)

Yoga practitioners will tell you that the poses you're required to do can go from easy and soothing to intricate and excruciatingly tough very quickly. But when you're in a body of water and need to keep your head afloat, things take a far murkier turn. For an ace swimmer, doing the asanas (while making sure that your nose has a continuous supply of air) may not seem like a big deal. But for those less privileged, for whom cannonballs are a feat of extreme elegance and a distant pipedream, aqua yoga might mean large (involuntary) gulps of chlorinated water with every attempt at deep breathing.

Upon observing seasoned aqua yoga experts, it soon becomes apparent that the slow and steady Tai Chi-esque moves are slowed down further by the water's resistance, which seemingly assists the process of transitioning between different postures. On the other hand, you might just find your head bobbing in and out of water even as you struggle to keep your feet crossed, clutching your knees with your hands. It sounds intimidating, and, to be honest, it really is.

Broga is a super alpha, masculine beefcake version of yoga that doesn’t throw the usual spiritual psychobabble at you with evangelical zest. All that twisty, bendy crap — best left in the kitchen — is complemented with studly, hair-on-chest exercises that focus on strength — cardio workouts, muscle-tone, core-strengthening — for the insecure bro.

So, while pictures of you doing yoga poses on the beach with the sun all red in the horizon might be a desirable addition to the yoga album on your Facebook page, it's improbable that yoga in a moving body of water will be achievable. Ideally, yoga should be performed close to nature but, for this version, choose a man-made swimming pool with a suitable temperature that keeps the muscles relaxed, making it easier to stretch them when needed.

If the sea is all you have access to, paddleboard yoga is the closest you can get to aqua yoga. You'll need to develop your balance and strength first. Because, if balancing on a paddleboard wasn't tough enough, try balancing on one foot on a paddleboard with one hand holding the ear and the other catching a toe from behind. That's why, to start off with this combination of yoga and surfing, practise first on still waters to develop the strength required, before graduating to the open sea and waves.

Where: The Yoga Chakra, Delhi; Fit Villa, Delhi; Ojas Yoga, Goregaon; Sky Yoga, Andheri

Doga (Yoga + Dog)

The age-old practice of yoga that has its origin in India has travelled the world in the last couple of decades and assimilated elements from all over. One such comparatively recent trend is Doga (Dog Yoga). The idea, conceived by Suzi Teitelman in Florida in 2001, was a result of her dog's enthusiasm and fascination for her yoga mat that led her to develop this form. Image 3rd

A doga session is far more buzzing than a normal yoga assembly, largely because of these easily distracted four-legged companions scurrying around the place. The routine works both ways — while the masters help their pets stretch and train them to maintain balance and posture, the dogs also act as props for their human counterparts to perform some exercises. Doga: Exercise for you and your best friend.

Amidst busy schedules and hectic lives, people hardly get time to spend with their pets. Doga comes as a welcome respite because one can take their pooches along and sign up for a joint hour of instant connection. The trend is gaining popularity because dogs will obviously be thrilled to start their day with their most favourite person in the world. In fact, yoga comes naturally to most dogs; prime example being their typical morning stretch, also called the adho mukha svanasana — downward facing dog posture.

However, some critics have attacked doga by calling it a fad and an unnecessary addition that's maligning the traditional practice. Some also argue that humans could actually be forcing this schedule on their pets since there's no actual way to tell whether a dog enjoys this activity or not. Despite everything, though, doga sounds like a valid reason for both pets and their masters to bond over this time that remains undisturbed by external factors.

Where: There are no centres in India that take doga sessions. However, if you are enthusiastic enough to pair up with your pet and practice this form, you can take a few lessons from YouTube videos and practice at home.

Acroyoga (yoga + acrobatics)

If you were looking to attain balance and grace in life, or spend time with your partner in an everyday adventure activity that helps you really discover yourself and each other, forget faux mountain climbing and salsa dancing, and enroll yourself in a class of Acroyoga.

Acroyoga, or partner yoga, is a modern offshoot that uses Eastern healing practices along with acrobatics, and is a combination of different elements such as yoga, acrobatics and dance. The practice of acroyoga is divided into two parts: acrobatics (solar) and therapeutic (lunar). There are two schools of acroyoga: one that originated in Montreal, devised by Jessie Goldberg and Eugene Pokuand, and the other in California, by Jason Nemer and Jenny Klein. The former concentrates on acrobatics and performance, while the latter focuses on massage as well.

A standard acroyoga session includes a circle ceremony, a warm-up session, partner flow, inversions or trust building exercises, flying and acrobatics, and Thai massage. There are three people involved in each session: the flyer, the spotter and the base. The base is the person with maximum points of contact with the ground so that he/she may be able to provide the needed stability for the flyer. The flyer balances herself/himself into a number of dynamic positions with the support of the base. The spotter is the person who ensures that the flyer accomplishes her movements without slipping dangerously. Acroyoga is all about trust building and synchronicity after all.

Where: Learn Acroyoga at Delhi Rock for Rs 1,000 for a session; Rs 5,000 for six classes; and  Rs 8,000 for 12 classes.

Hasyayoga (laughter + yoga)

"Laughter is the best medicine" is a popular aphorism, one that resonates back to those embarrassing times in one's life, stumbling around in fits of meaningless giggles wrapped in tighty-whities. Another popular saying goes "Laughter is communicable", or "contagious", depending on how you look at it. These are some of the tenets that Laughter Yoga, or hasyayoga, takes up in its attempt to merge laughter with yoga, a rather goofy and comical but ultimately rejuvenating twist on the silent classic yoga. Laughter Yoga is held in Delhi and Mumbai at various venues.

What it reflects, in some way, is the ability of a child to laugh with abandon, without any real reason; how laughter can be shared in a community. Hasyayoga attempts to take one to those pre-verbal or early childhood years where one can laugh out loud without reserve in the company of many others like them; after all, your body cannot distinguish between real and fake laughter. And if you laugh hard enough and long enough you can practically make your insides imitate your outside and automatically cheer up. It's a great stress-buster, and it comes in a lot of fun techniques with cool names such as the boat roaring laugh, the silent laugh, milkshake laugh, ghost laugh, monkey laugh, belly laugh, and other such ridiculous variations. This catalogue alone is evidence of how hasyayoga is just a great big laugh! And since laughter knows no discrimination, it can effectively be practiced by any race, age, caste, sex. It's an exercise that only takes a dedication of perhaps 15-25 minutes a day and the result is a lot more organic and promising than chemicals and anti-depressants. It reduces tension, acts as a painkiller would, increases flow of oxygen, and also serves as a complete workout for every muscle in the body.

Where: Laughter Club Hasyayoga Kendra, Ashok Nagar, Delhi; Laughter Yoga Club, Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai.

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