Yoga when you’re naked, yoga when you’re drunk. Yoga when you’re high, and yoga that’s been debunked. Yoga trends have been on the rise for a while in the West, but given their penchant for wearing bindis and kurtas to Coachella and ‘discovering’ the miraculous benefits of Golden Milk (aka Haldi Doodh), we’re not exactly surprised.
However, the menace is now taking over in India too — and that raises a few alarm bells.
So, there’s Beer Yoga, Cannabis Yoga, Rage Yoga, and other similar commercialised whatnots.
Don’t get us wrong — we’re all for innovation and the like, but taking inspiration from the West to recreate something that’s traditionally ours and perfectly fine to begin with makes little to no sense. We mean, Goat Yoga? Dog Yoga? Really?
Understandably enough, it has irked yoga purists in India, and they aren’t exactly bending over backwards to accommodate this newfangled fad.
Yoga is Harneet Jayakar’s first love. A professional yoga teacher who teaches the Ashtanga and Hatha styles, she has devoted her life to yoga, and has been practicing it intermittently for the past seven years.
Speaking about the aforementioned yoga trends, she says, “These forms of ‘exercise’ — and I refuse to call them yoga — are, as is being rightfully said, just fads.”
Harneet, who also runs her own yoga mat company called Kosha Yoga Co with her husband Alok, continues, “Yoga distilled down to its purest form is the union of the mind and body. It is about developing awareness of the self — the purusha — the unchanging.
“So, for instance, in a cannabis yoga class while your mind is drifting off, how are you going to pay attention and be aware of your mind and body? The same applies to rage yoga or beer yoga or any other alcohol-related yoga that might start trending.”
The very definition of yoga, she says, is, ‘yoga chitta vritti nirodha’ (Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.2), which translates to ‘yoga is the individual discipline that leads to the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind’.
“This discipline from moodiness can only be achieved through mindful meditation and persistent practice, also known as abhyasa (Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.14), not through the numbing effects of alcohol or mind-altering substances.”
There is an argument to be made, however, that these yoga fads could potentially encourage more people to get into fitness.
While Harneet does admit that some people might see psychological benefits in, say, naked yoga, and that it can help people with body image issues to shed inhibitions and embrace their physicality, she stresses that there’s a flip side to it.
“Practicing yoga naked has personal hygiene implications, as many yoga classes have mats shared by all their clients. And of course, that beer belly is only going to get bigger in a beer yoga class. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get fit in such counterproductive ways.”
Furthermore, yoga-related injuries are on the rise, but to be fair, one cannot attribute this to simply the aforementioned fads. It boils down to a combination of factors such as the age and the expertise of the teacher, and the quality of the teacher training courses (TTC).
“200 hours, which is the minimum amount of training required to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) is not enough to study a discipline as vast as yoga. Only 20 hours out of the 200 are dedicated to anatomy — far too little for such an intensely physical practice,” says Harneet.
“Often, doctors and therapists prescribe yoga not realising that each individual’s fitness levels are different and that one size does not fit all.
“This generic approach can cause people to find themselves in the wrong type and level of yoga class. The resulting injuries can be compounded by other factors like age and lack of mobility — so you really need to take everything into account before you take the plunge.”
There are ways to avoid these injuries and to yield maximum benefits out of yoga, so Harneet insists that it’s important to do your research about the various styles of yoga, understanding your level, and treading cautiously by not giving into these fads.
“If you’re a beginner choose a small batch size. And of course, respect yoga, but also respect your body!”
Image Credit: Namastehappiness