The bendy brilliance attained by practicing yoga has become a treasure sought after by many Americans. Hindu monks brought the 5,000-year-old practice to the West in the late 19th century, and by the mid-1980s, yoga was heralded as a way to cultivate strength, mindfulness and calm. And as yoga has gained popularity, newfangled ways of practicing have emerged.
Love the ocean? Had a few too many Appletinis last night? Want to be surrounded by “bro” energy? There’s a class for you.
It seems only natural that people who practice yoga will combine it with other interests.
“Yoga is constantly evolving,” said Kaitlin Quistgaard, editor in chief of Yoga Journal. “Variety gives people an opportunity to approach yoga from different perspectives.”
Here’s a look at bends and twists from traditional yoga.
Want to hold side crow to some classic Notorious B.I.G.? At YogaHop, with studios in Santa Monica and Pasadena, you can do just that.
Blaring hip-hop, rock and pop music combine with a high-energy vinyasa flow practice. With a lightning bolt as its logo and brightly colored walls and TV screens, the studio is not what one might imagine as the neighborhood yoga class.
Nevertheless, co-owner Matthew Reyes, 44, has practiced yoga for 15 years, but he has taught spinning to booming pump-it-up music. He began to wonder, “How can I make a class so efficient that it has an element of all of these things?”
Six years ago, Reyes founded YogaHop, a practice that combines traditional poses, mainstream music and an intense workout.
Dian Evans, a family nurse practitioner and clinical assistant professor at Emory School of Medicine’s School of Nursing who has studied the influence of yoga on chronic back pain, wondered about the collision of hip-hop and yoga.
“It’s fun to move your breath with sound, but I don’t know how you can be doing yoga to hip-hop music and breathe in a controlled fashion,” Evans said.
But Reyes countered that the end goal for all types of yoga is the same. “Yoga is a big tree with many branches. All the branches have something to offer. Our yoga and a traditional type of yoga all get to the same finish line; we just get there in a dynamic and fun way.”
Paddle board yoga
Stand-up paddle boarding has grown exponentially popular in recent years. So why not try some yoga while balancing on a paddle board? That was Sarah Tiefenthaler’s logic after taking her yoga-teaching course in Costa Rica and getting introduced to paddle boarding soon after her certification.
“I took the board out every week, and I just started putting together sequences while on the board,” said Tiefenthaler, 30, of Los Angeles.
YOGAqua was soon born.
Tiefenthaler said the practice starts off slow, and the class is always held in calm waters. Students have about half an hour to get acquainted with the water and their board, and then their boards are anchored, so there is no worry that they will float away during the class. People shouldn’t hesitate to try the class if they’ve never been on the board, she said. They’ll catch on.
The practice works the core muscles even more than a typical practice because of the need to balance and stabilize, said Tiefenthaler.
“You’re activating muscles you wouldn’t normally use,” she said. “You can’t even allow yourself to think about anything else. Your stress and daily concerns just go away when you’re on the board.”
How about during the winter, when the water and air are chilly?
“We have wetsuits you can rent,” she said. “We do this all year round. It’s a lifestyle.”
Located on the opposite side of the country and the physical intensity spectrum, Hangover Yoga at the Cobra Club in Brooklyn offers gentle yoga that focuses on slowing down, breathing and stretching.
Hangover yoga classes are offered Sunday mornings. They run $15 per class and conclude with a Bloody Mary or mimosa.
“We understand that sometimes a fun night out leads to feeling pretty horrible the next day, and a gentle yoga practice can help to offer some relief,” said Nikki Koch, co-owner of the studio. “We don’t believe that in order to practice yoga you have to be a saint who abstains from all vices -- our customers are real people with dynamic lives, and we embrace and respect full and varied lifestyles.”
Koch said she received a few raised eyebrows from her fellow yogis, particularly from those who preach veganism and pure living, but, for the most part, she said the owners received “overwhelming support” from other teachers.
Even the post-yoga cocktail goes along with the sense of community that the Cobra Club is trying to promote, said Dana Bushman, another founder of the studio.
“It’s such a rarity in New York, where you are rushed in and out of the studio to make way for the next class, to get that time to stop, relax and get to know the people around you,” said Bushman.
Hangover yoga: cobraclubbk.com/yoga/
Yoga for men
In most yoga classes, the majority of practitioners will be women. But not at Broga. The practice, specifically designed for men, was created in 2009 on Martha’s Vineyard and since has opened studios in San Diego, Somerville, Mass., and Winnipeg, Canada.
Robert Sidoti, a co-owner of Broga Yoga, said classes are designed to suit the specific needs of male bodies.
“I’ve chosen poses and movements that are comfortable and accessible for the male body while being challenging enough to gain benefits,” said Sidoti, 42, who has practiced yoga for 14 years. “The classes also include different push-up variations, plank variations and some fitness-type movements to get the heart rate up a bit and achieve ‘the workout feeling.’ ”
Some students have never tried yoga, while others have been practicing for years. Some are highly active and athletic, others less so.
“I’m still teaching a lot of standard warrior poses, lunges, but the basic idea is that just about every guy will be able to move through the practice without feeling at all ever like he has failed at yoga,” said Sidoti. “If this feeling occurs, he might feel it’s not for him and never come back. We don’t want that.”
Broga Yoga: www.brogayoga.com/
Dripping with sweat in a 100-degree room while finding one’s breath in warrior III may not be for everyone, but hot yoga has proved to be for plenty of people.
While all Bikram yoga is hot, not all hot yoga is Bikram. The two often are mistakenly interchanged. Bikram, created by India native Bikram Choudhury, consists of a series of 26 postures performed two times during a 90-minute class. The general term “hot yoga” refers to yoga that is practiced in a room with a temperature of about 95 to 105 degrees.
At Hot 8 Yoga in Santa Monica, yoga director Deanna Ainsworth said the static positions combined with the heat are particularly restorative for the body’s endocrine system.
“The heat combined with the postures brings the body back into balance and allows for a deep detox, alignment and flexibility,” Ainsworth said. “We have alternative ways to heal our bodies right in our own hands, right in front of us.”
Advocates of the practice also say the mental focus and discipline demanded in the heat create a sharpened concentration.
Hot yoga has drawn some criticism for the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Hot yoga practitioners are encouraged to drink lots of water before and during the classes.
Ainsworth said she has seen people faint in class, and she said all students are encouraged to stop and rehydrate if they feel dizzy or nauseated, and remain still or move to a cooler area.
Hot 8 Yoga: hot8yoga.com/
Laughs that last
Chris Erskine heads to Orange County for a yoga class that focuses on the fun. E6