is novelty yoga still yoga?

Is Novelty Yoga Still Yoga?

You’ve probably seen the videos: adorable little goats hopping all over people as they do yoga. It’s springing up all over the place.

And then there’s yoga with weights. Yoga in super hot rooms and yoga in the snow (snowga). Yoga to heavy metal music. Yoga in the air, with partners, and on slack lines. Yoga with beer.

Does it reach a point where it stops being yoga at all?

When it comes to hybrid and novelty yoga, I’m torn.

What I Love About Novelty Yoga

  • It’s creative and fun. It gets people interested, and their yoga/beer experience might ignite their curiosity (or calm their nerves) enough that they join a typical yoga class.
  • It gets people moving. I love anything that gets people moving. From a fitness instructor standpoint especially, I love hybrid and novelty yoga because it reaches more people.

What I Don’t Love About Novelty Yoga

  • It’s gimmicky. It insinuates that some value needs to be added to regular yoga, that yoga is not enough.
  • It detracts from the richness yoga has to offer. There is so much to learn in yoga. If you continue your study, you’ll never get bored. Think you know all the postures? Doubtful, as there are thousands. And what about the mudras? Have you tried yogic cleansing? How’s your meditation practice? There are already so many levels to yoga, even without adding goats or alcohol.
  • It’s unfortunate if people go to yoga with weights, for example, and think, “Cool, this is yoga.” It is, but it’s not.

I get it. Things evolve, and yoga studios and teachers feel pressured to do something to differentiate themselves. Even the yoga I’ve taught for years is usually a hybrid of the yoga I trained in and the many other classes and trainings I’ve attended over the years; I’ve got a yoga with the pilates ring class on YouTube and I taught a yoga class that included a chocolate meditation and, for fun, a coffee tasting to round out the Colombian theme I was working with.

novelty yoga: chocolate meditation and coffee tasting

Still, I’ve always tried to stick closely to mindfulness, connection of breath and movement, focus on the breath, meditation, and more. I’ve challenged my classes physically, but I’ve intended to retain the inner work, too. And I would never suggest going to coffee-chocolate-yoga more than once in a while.

I think there are a lot of benefits to many of these hybrids. First of all, they’re fun, and that’s important. There’s movement and stretching, and hopefully some breathing and mindfulness. AcroYoga is an incredible practice for developing strength, flexibility, and balance as well as trust and connection with a partner. Aerial yoga is great for core strength and awareness. Our chocolate meditation was a powerful lesson in living in the moment, and the coffee tasting built community. I’m sure yoga with weights is an excellent workout, but that’s the thing: it’s a workout. So why not just call it that?

I don’t hate novelty yoga. Not at all. If you invite me to your beer yoga class, I won’t go, but that’s because I don’t like beer. Now, if you invite me to your wine yoga class, I’m there.

If I decided to go to yoga with weights four times a week, it wouldn’t be instead of my regular yoga practice, but in addition to. It would be my workout of choice, not my yoga practice of choice.

A fellow trainer at F45 just told me her friend runs goat yoga here in Las Vegas. I’m probably going to try to do that at some point–for the fun, not for the yoga.

Movement is good. Creative, unusual classes are fun, so do them once or twice as a social outing and to look at your practice in a new way. Still, I encourage you to develop a yoga practice outside of these formats, and see what happens.

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