Hyper Specific Yoga - Fanaticism Week


By Timothy Dillon

It seems there is no getting around it, Yoga is here to stay. This should be no surprise at this point. The mystique of this everyday physical practice is fading away and most people understand yoga for what it is: a physical and spiritual proactive form of self care. As a society, we no longer look at Yoga as some sort of cult, just a way for people to get or stay in shape. But some people are not satisfied with yoga the old fashioned way.

Here in New York City, we have some members of our community who are willing to make lemonade out of lemons (or in the case of The Fat Jew, Bikram Yoga out of a New York Summer Subway stop). But that’s just the Big Apple. What other types of yoga exist for those whose taste exist on the fringes?

Heavy Metal Yoga
Photo courtesy of Carlos Varela.

Coming to you from Pittsburgh, PA it’s Heavy Metal Yoga. Sound ridiculous? It might make sense that loud music or erratic beats and melodies would make synchronizing your breath and body movement very difficult, but then again, not everyone really feels calm from a babbling brook or soft chanting. This is the philosophy of Black Yo)))ga.

On the groups site it reads, “Vinyasa (flow) yoga set to drone, noise, stoner metal, ambient, industrial, trip-hop and other traditional meditation music. Incorporating basic poses in a relaxed environment, while focusing on safe body mechanics. Although this is a traditional yoga class in practice, you can definitely expect it to be darker than what you may typically associate with yoga.”

While this group lacks a set studio space, they have made do by renting various spaces around the city and setting the class price at an affordable $10. So if you need to hone in on something deeper and darker to get rid of that lower back pain or properly do a handstand, this class might be for you.

Aerial Yoga
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial Yoga.

Because contorting your body into various vulnerable states is only enhanced by suspending yourself in the air. Actually, sarcasm aside, there is some truth to that.

This specialized type of stretching involves the use of a “circus hammock” or otherwise long-looped pieces of fabric that hang from the ceiling. Using traditional and innovative poses, aerial yoga allows participants to go further with different aspects of their stretches. Some poses you simply hang in, allowing gravity to do its work. In others, you are using stabilizing muscles to prevent yourself from swaying or dangling. While some practitioners swear that injury from falling is rare, don’t go into one of these classes unless you’re ready to commit to it.

Christian Yoga
Photo courtesy of Jen Rynda.

Christian Yoga is not exactly yoga. There are two predominant methodologies that can be easily tracked down online. PraiseMoves and WholyFit promise Christian divinity in every pose you make. Sure, it’s a bit strange to have this on the list, especially when these are physical practices that are trying to distance themselves from the eastern counterpart. On the site for PraiseMoves, there is an interesting section about how practicing Yoga is, in fact, practicing Hinduism.

Now, it would be easy to scold these alternative institutions for being discriminatory toward Hinduism and traditional yoga practitioners (who identify as Christian). But that’s not what needs to happen here. Instead these exercise enthusiasts are simply providing for a crowd that wants to feel the presence of God in their physical practice.

Well, specifically their God, but at the end of the day, stretching is stretching whether you’re thinking about Vishnu, Jesus, or Black Sabbath (I could only imagine what the good people of WholyFit would think of Black Yo)))ga).

Ghetto Yoga
Photo courtesy of Peter Woodman.

With the rise in popularity of yoga and the scramble to carve out a unique way to brand different types or philosophies, there are always going to be a few that miss the mark. Ghetto Yoga did just that, and spectacularly so.

Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. Fabrizo Goldstein aka “The Fat Jew” also took to the subway to get disenfranchised and homeless people stretching. However, advertising your class as “ghetto fabulous” might get you in trouble.

According to a report from NY Daily News this past September, Power of Your Om Yoga in Santa Barbara, California set out to host a yoga class accompanied by rap and hip-hop music. The blacklash was immediate and severe with one source telling journalists the class would be better served with a “discussion on racism.” For many this marketing ploy was insensitive and racially charged. The name was quickly changed to Hip Hop Yoga, and the world has learned a valuable lesson.

Dance Yoga
Photo courtesy of Brendan Lally.

What could go together better? At their best, Yoga and Dance both seem to share that synchronicity of movement, breathe, and discipline. This movement (pun intended) differs from some of the types of Yoga we have seen so far. Most of the “alternative” or “fringe” yogas have to do with try to accompany the same practice of stretching with different types of music. Aesthetics are important and marketing yoga has caught wind of that, but where Hip Hop and Heavy Metal Yoga stop at the music, in Dance, you can find new ways of flowing between positions and getting a better stretch.

The bottom-line is, if you want a special type of yoga, it’s out there. I it’s not then you can always pioneer it yourself. Much of the yoga culture revolves around a set of traditions and poses and it’s safe to say, that even with these ways of mixing it up a little, the culture of yoga is not suffering, but rather flourishing. When metal heads, acrobats, and even Jedi can practice yoga, it’s safe to say it’s here to stay.

Star Wars Yoga