30th October 2017.
Stretching your body is an important part of fitness ? after all, without the proper stretches, we'd be sore every time we finished a round of strenuous exercise. Yoga goes a step further, though, and this ancient practice seeks to unify body and mind while you move through a series of positions. Some challenge you, others will leave you feeling relaxed and good about yourself, but every form of yoga can have positive benefits to your health. From strengthening joints to improving your mental wellness, there is much to gain ? but what if you aren't satisfied with a traditional, "basic" form of yoga anymore?
You're not alone. In fact, recent years have seen an explosion in the number of new approaches to yoga hitting studios all around the world. While some are brand new inventions that stray farther afield from yoga's origins, others continue to draw on ancient practices for inspiration. From the unique and challenging positions of aerial yoga to the battle of wills that hot yoga often is, what's out there that you could try? Whether you're after new experiences or you just want to experiment with a type of yoga you're unfamiliar with, here are six of the most intriguing "alternative" forms of yoga out there.
Take to the air with aerial yoga
One of the most exciting and popular new ways to practice yoga involves leaving the ground altogether! Perhaps you've seen friends sharing pictures from their aerial yoga studio, or you've heard about it from
others in passing. What does it involve? Rather than working through the session on top of a yoga mat, you'll instead climb into a giant sling hanging from the ceiling. Meant to support all your weight, the sling is the "aerial" component of the class. You'll use it to support your body as you explore new poses and positions that challenge your muscles in many new ways.
Aside from being a fantastic workout for your core and your heart, it's also extremely low-impact ? there's no unnecessary stress on your joints. As a result, even those who generally struggle with yoga might be able to see benefits from trying an aerial class. Did we mention it's also tonnes of fun? In a group setting with a skilled instructor, rotating and flipping through the air with your classmates can be one of the most exciting exercise experiences out there. You don't even need to be an expert at mat-based yoga, either. Everyone is welcome to try their handle at the unique approaches found in "anti-gravity" yoga.
Sweat your stress away with hot yoga
For true yoga lovers and those who enjoy pushing their bodies in challenging ways, hot yoga, also called "Bikram," is just the thing you need. Why is it so hot? It's literally about the temperature in the studio.
You'll stretch through 26 unique positions in a room warmed to 40 C and with a humidity level of up to 40%. It's not meant to be comfortable ? in fact, chances are good you'll feel some discomfort during your first few sessions. Afterward, though, you might just break through the barrier and discover the reason so many people find Bikram yoga sessions addictive. The heat and the yogic poses combine to encourage the release of endorphins.
Meanwhile, your body will be in the midst of a strenuous workout
. The high temperature forces your heart to work harder, and the poses in hot yoga aren't all easy. In fact, many of them require you to use multiple muscle groups at once. It will take some practice before you can complete all 26 poses correctly, but putting in the effort is very worthwhile. Though hot yoga isn't for everyone ? those with heart conditions should stay away, for example ? many people can find just what they want from a workout here.
Learn inner and outer balance via paddleboard yoga
What if you'd rather spend more time moving around outdoors rather than spending your yoga sessions cooped up inside a small, sweltering room? Consider reconnecting with nature through the elegance of
paddleboard yoga. By using a large surfboard-like object and a body of water as your studio, paddleboard yoga challenges your balance, your mental concentration, and your muscles all at the same time. Meanwhile, you'll be able to enjoy the serenity of being on (or in!) the water as your instructor walks you through each of the poses. This is another form that isn't for all beginners, as you'll need a good grasp on some yoga basics before you mix in the unpredictability of a floating yoga mat.
The challenge inherent in paddleboard yoga will allow you to develop self-confidence and reinforce the fact that no matter how many times you fail, getting up and trying again is what's most important. You'll face these kinds of challenges in fitness all the time; turning to yoga to develop more mental fortitude can be an immense help. While classes in "stand up paddleboard" (SUP) yoga are often only found in areas with suitable bodies of water, they're worth trying if you can find one!
Aquatic yoga allows you to relax in a cooler environment
Maybe you enjoy being in the water more than you'd like standing on a paddleboard. You're in luck ?
there's always aquatic yoga available for you to try as well. With classes taking place most often in community pools and other aquatic centres, it shouldn't be difficult to find a group to join. Popular with everyone from the young to the old, aquatic yoga involves guidance through various poses while standing in the pool. Much like aerial yoga, this low-impact form of exercise allows those with arthritis and other similar issues to enjoy an improved range of motion.
Most of the poses you know from yoga classes on dry land translate well to the water. Others, like the plank, undergo adaptations and use floats or the pool wall to achieve the right position. With its gentle support for your body, serene atmosphere, and the potential for more fun interaction with your peers, there's no shortage of reasons to give this one a try.
Nude yoga pushes you to greater self-acceptance
Want something truly challenging? Imagine undertaking your typical yoga class, but without any of the clothes, you'd typically wear! While nude yoga classes are certainly in the minority, they've found popularity in the main cities around the world, such as in New York. Usually, (but not always) gender segregated, these classes place great emphasis on bodily acceptance, self-confidence, and inner spirituality. Losing your clothes is just one way to shed some of the inhibitions that might hold you back from a truly meditative yoga experience. Don't want to try it in a group setting? You can always explore the same poses you enjoy in this manner at home.
Explore other traditional styles of yoga, too
Don't forget that there's much more to yoga than the Downward Dog and the plank. There are more than a dozen classical Indian forms of yoga, and each of them stresses a different aspect. Many involve varied approaches and will challenge your body in ways other styles of yoga won't. From Vinyasa to Ashtanga and beyond, there's a wealth of culture to explore while you work on fine-tuning your body. Some classes will combine multiple styles, while others will offer introductory sessions to give you a chance to see the basics of a new form of yoga. Whichever you choose, be sure to read up on your chosen form before your first class.
What's your favourite way to stretch your mind and soul?
From the twists, turns, and unique angles of aerial yoga to the self-esteem boosting effects of doing yoga in the nude, it's clear that there is no end to the creativity alive among yoga practitioners. While not every style will suit all individuals, there's sure to be at least one alternative form out there that you can enjoy. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish while practising yoga? Answering these questions will help you to narrow down your choices ? but why stop at just one? If there are available classes in your area, don't be afraid to try more than one type. Sometimes, it takes time before you find your ideal way to meditate.