Off-beat ways to perform yoga has become a huge trend, thanks, in part, to a new generation of yogis
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Yoga: would you do it on a boat? Would you do it with a goat?
Today’s yoga scene sounds like it took a page from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” But yogis are practicing on boats, with goats — and in hammocks, on horseback and with a lap full of puppies or kittens.
Off-beat ways to perform yoga has become a huge trend, thanks, in part, to a new generation of yogis looking for a fun, quirky way to enjoy an ancient practice.
“Some are fusing other forms of exercise, like hooping or Pilates to the yoga program,” said physician Joanne Wu, an integrative and holistic medicine and rehabilitation doctor practicing in Rochester, who also teaches yoga. “Others are a brand new form of movement. It makes it more fun and keeps people challenged. For yoga practitioners, it helps remain mindful of their exercise program while trying something new.”
Wu teaches aerial yoga, which uses silk fabric and hammocks as props to help students perform circus-like movements with yoga; pi-yo, which merges Pilates and yoga; barre yoga, a mix of ballet and yoga, acrobatic yoga, where a partner aids in achieving poses; and SUP yoga, which uses a stand-up paddleboard on the water.
“There are definitely ways to make yoga fun and lighthearted, but maintain the mind/body connection that makes yoga what it is,” Wu said. “I’ve worked on blending different exercises with a yoga core. People want to stay active and still learn new things while keeping old traditions. They want something a little different incorporated into their program.
“Alternative yoga is helpful for a yogi who wants to stay grounded with mat practice, but expand their horizons and meet more people in the community.”
For example, SUP yoga may draw paddleboard enthusiasts who have never tried yoga.
Kaitlyn Vittozzi, co-director of Finger Lakes Yogascapes, instructs stand-up paddleboard yoga, in addition to traditional yoga, in Canandaigua.
“Part of the reason people love us is that we have a very short summer up here in New York,” she said. “When the weather is nice, they want to be outside.”
In addition to the novelty of the location, SUP yoga challenges participants by offering a somewhat wobbly surface. As a result, they strengthen their core muscle groups while practicing on the stand up paddle board.
“It’s a great core workout,” Vittozzi said. “It’s different from doing crunches or holding planks. You’re so focused on breathing and where you’re moving your limbs, you don’t realize how hard you’re working.”
Both Wu and Vittozzi said that alternative yoga classes aren’t just for advanced students. People of any ability should be able to participate.
“It’s not easy, but not something to be intimidated by,” Vittozzi said.
Finger Lakes Yogascapes also offers a “snowga” retreat, a snowshoe hike with yoga poses at a scenic lookout.
“Doing yoga on a paddleboard or with a goat or in the snow makes you think about things differently,” Vittozzi said. “Being outdoors in general brings a peace about you, as opposed to inside when you’re doing a challenging pose.”