In a twist over yoga

With so many types of yoga around, has yoga lost all meaning asks Nuala Woulfe

I was a child of the seventies and eighties but somehow I always knew about yoga. In my child’s mind yoga was some kind of bizarre bendy activity where quiet-speaking adults did slow movements named after pets. As an activity it definitely wasn’t ‘cool’ but it seemed simple enough.

At age 30 I’d my own foray into yoga - pregnancy yoga. It too was pretty simple and got me through not one, but three natural births. I called it ‘sleepy yoga’ because the best thing about the class was the snooze at the end.

Roll on a few years and when my youngest was a baby and I was suffering cabin fever, sleep deprivation and crazy hormones, I signed up to a morning Laughter Yoga Workshop. We zipped around making the noise of imaginary lawnmowers, leaped about like lambs on acid and tried to make each other laugh. One of my boobs leaked – possibly from all the forced joy or from missing my baby. The experience was both interesting and horrendous and I didn’t want to try yoga again – until recently

With the experience of sleepy yoga and crazy yoga under my belt I thought I’d opt for ‘normal’ yoga, the simple form from childhood memories, but yoga is anything but ‘normal’ anymore, the choice, even in Ireland is mind-boggling.

There’s hot yoga, trance dance yoga, mystic yoga, blind yoga, aqua yoga and if you’re in Dublin - you can even give naked yoga a shot, but while yoga used to be about finding inner peace is it now just about fashion - something to boast about to your friends?

This year’s trendy bendies with deep pockets are raving about cold yoga, where you walk into a huge fridge and do stretches in full ski gear before hitting the piste.

In Australia they’ve concocted chocolate yoga, a practice where people drink chocolate then stretch - the combination is supposed to induce bliss, but surely we all know chocolate induces bliss, do we really need to wrap our legs around our ears for extra benefit?

In America yoga and club culture have combined – it’s all about the sun salutation to rock, rap and rave music and Ireland’s heading that way too. Our first yoga rave took place in Dublin in July and in the capital you can now do yoga while working out with weights.

For the yoga fanatic, having a baby need not be a drawback either as Alec Baldwin’s wife Hilaria is demonstrating to the world, pose by pose, on planes, on buses, sometimes in high heels, sometimes with her baby balanced on her back.

Here in Ireland us non celebs can try pregnancy yoga, post-natal aqua yoga and even baby yoga classes where mum gets tighter abs while baby apparently gets all kind of benefits, including wind relief.

Baby might even win ‘best in class’ when you enrol them in kids’ yoga later on which will help get them ahead for the Olympics – yes, yoga really is mooted for the Olympics! In today’s yoga world competition is key; who’s got the best body, Geri Halliwell couldn’t stop showing us hers, who’s got the best yoga gear, Kate Hudson- co- founder of Fabletics is where all the fashionable get their workout pants, but is competiveness part of yoga? What happened to insight and enlightenment? Has yoga become too flaky?

Sighle McDonnell in Dublin of www.sighleyoga.ie has been teaching yoga for 30 years and says yoga is about, ‘the coming together of mind, body and spirit.” While agreeing that there are yoga fads, she tries not to judge people’s motives, ‘there’s something for everybody out there and they might try a class later on which will lead them to a deeper level of connection.”

It’s a view echoed by Donal Quirke, www.northtippyoga.com a Buddhist practitioner who’s been doing yoga for 20 years. He says yoga is meant to be about ‘overcoming the hindrances of the mind’ but the term yoga has become a bit like Christmas – it has a different meaning to different people.

“In the west yoga is very much aligned with the physical but if you are drawn to something deeper, you won’t settle with just the physical,” he says.

This still leaves me, a yoga newbie with something of a ‘what’s best’ dilemma. A friend of mine, knowing that I’m on a yoga quest, recently invited me to an acro-yoga class. “What’s that?” I asked, dreading the answer. “A combination of yoga and acrobatics, sometimes called flying yoga,” she said. Ah no, I don’t think so; it’s becoming clearer to me now that what I really need is some kind of non-demanding elder citizens’ yoga, but I might down a hot chocolate before I go - just to stay on trend.


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