14 August 2011
It’s quite obvious that today’s yoga classes offer a lot more than a selection of stretches and Om chants. Joan Murphy, co-founder of Frame, a dance and fitness studio in east London, says the choice of yoga styles available in Britain are growing constantly – so much so, she is about to add a timetable devoted entirely to yoga to her current class options.
‘The variety of new yoga styles seem to be emerging from people experimenting with elements of other practises such as martial arts, Pilates, dance and now even fitness, and fusing them with traditional classes to make yoga more accessible and appealing to all,’ she says.
Murphy admits fans of the traditional spiritual side of yoga may not agree with adding weights, techno music and hammocks to their yoga practice but most purists in any industry take a similar stance. You can’t please ’em all. ‘Yoga is such a great form of exercise that if people are getting more choices and opportunities to find what works for them, then so be it,’ she says. Here are some of the latest styles rocking Britain.
A mixture of martial art, yoga and meditation, Warrior Flow is another name for budokon yoga, which means ‘way of the spiritual warrior’ in Japanese. It has been popular in the US for the past ten years and is finally starting to pick up interest on this side of the pond.
Budokon Yoga, a mixture of martial art, yoga and meditation, Warrior Flow is another name for budokon yoga.
The style combines vinyasa flow yoga with the pace and grace of martial arts movements. Take the flying warrior sequence: from standing, I swing my back leg up to waist height and rotate 180 degrees into a warrior three position – so I’m balancing on one leg in a T-shape – and reach for the ground, falling forward into a low push up. My first few attempts weren’t as graceful as I hoped.
A slower sequence is the rolling wave, a move that pulls each of my vertebrae gratifyingly apart, while still working my arms, legs and core. I start in downward dog, tilt my pelvis and float down, with my toes tucked under, into upward-facing dog with my shoulders and head coming up last. It is slow, controlled and does, indeed, look like a wave. Kimberly Hu, who teaches the class, says it gives access to a technique that most people don’t normally do.
‘Rolling wave builds strength in the shoulder girdle while cultivating core and arm strength and bringing a range of motion to the spine,’ she says. Because budokon students believe we have forgotten our evolutionary skills, you will find animal elements in your class. I like the spinning monkey, involving cartwheels with bent legs.
Krystal Nash: Yoga hybrid
Five years ago, I found myself snowboarding on the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Colorado, US. Halfway through my first week, I decided I needed a yoga class to stretch my battered body and ended up in pulse yoga, a class that uses free weights and repetitive micro movements alongside traditional yoga flows, such as sun salutations and the warrior sequence.
Frustratingly, I left the class feeling like I had a gym workout. The teacher, Argie Tang, invented the class after being diagnosed with osteopenia, a condition that means your bone density is lower than normal. The class has now made its way to Britain (although so far, it’s only available a studio in south London and Brighton), so I decided to give it another go. We start with sun salutations, hold in a plank position for a minute and then pulse in cobra position. Sweat pours into my eyes. Ah, yes, I remember this well.
Traditional yoga, this isn’t. Krystal Nash , who teaches the class, says it’s ideal for people who don’t like the gym but want some weight resistance in their workout. ‘It’s a hybrid of some yoga positions but is aimed at increasing bone density, which standard yoga doesn’t do,’ she says.
Available in London, Brighton and Birmingham. £25 for 20 days. www.yogahaven.co.uk
Hot flow yoga express is an alternative to bikram
For those of you who love the heat and challenge of bikram but feel it’s a little too long and predictable, there are other options. Hot flow yoga express lasts one hour, the teacher doesn’t wear a headset, you are corrected when your alignment is wrong (even though you are sweaty) and, although the focus is still very much on the physical, your heart rate won’t sky rocket like you’re in an aerobics class.
My teacher, Allie Hill, says this class, which includes lots of typical vinyasa sequences such as plank down to chaturanga (a low push up), shoulder stand and the fish pose, is a natural progression for people who are bored of bikram.
‘It’s about fluid movement that is connected with movement and breath, rather than holding a static triangle,’ she says. One complaint about bikram is that although my legs get a good workout, my hips still feel tight, so it was a pleasure to do pigeon, which works thighs, your groin and back, in a hot room – and to Massive Attack. Purists won’t like it but it feels incredible.