If you’ve practiced yoga before or are interested in it, you’ll know that there are plenty of unusual styles of yoga out there. It seems that each year there is a new version being developed by someone, somewhere! The essence of true yoga involves the union of mind, body, and breath with intention. As strange as it may sound, these unusual styles of yoga still manage to incorporate the true essence, integrating the mind, body and breath.
One of the most unusual styles of yoga to appear on the scene is aerial yoga. Students use a soft, fabric aerial hammock suspended from the ceiling as a prop to explore new and traditional yoga asanas (postures). Aerial Yoga is naturally evolved from Hatha Yoga (the physical style of yoga most commonly found in the west). Michelle Dortignac, is the most famous founder of Aerial Yoga called Unnata. She pioneered the use of aerial hammocks as a prop to help yogis explore and advance their traditional asana practice. Some styles of aerial yoga focus on fitness, others on circus arts and performance. In an Unnata Yoga class, you’ll get fit while increasing your range of motion, and while lengthening the spine and relaxing the nervous system.
Restorative Yoga also known as Gentle Yoga, is a general term used to describe a slower paced Hatha Yoga that is never rushed. Deep and smooth breathing is emphasized and this style is typically used after injuries or when physical rehabilitation is required. Restorative Yoga is actually a form of Yin Yoga (an ancient system of Hatha yoga, which as mentioned above, is the most common style of yoga movement practiced in the west). Yin Yoga focuses predominantly on strengthening and stretching deep tissue muscles around the hips and lower spine, in order to improve one's ability to comfortably meditate for prolonged periods. In essence, Yin Yoga helps set the stage for meditation.
An unusual style of yoga that combines music, movement and meditation (and drug-free fun)! Yoga Raves begin with a guided meditation before breaking into free-form movements connected to music. The founder of this style of yoga, Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, wanted to focus on blending ancient Sanskrit mantras with modern rock, techno, and hip-hop beats. Mantras are sound vibrations that have a specific event on the body’s nervous system. The energy and connection generated in the room during a Yoga Rave meditation is phenomenal. Check out a listing of yoga raves coming to you soon at yogaraves.org
Dru Yoga is a style of Hatha Yoga that focuses on channeling the body's energy through the heart. Stillness, directed breathing and visualizations are important elements in this style of yoga. Asanas are practiced in a slow-flowing, therapeutic manner, and a lot of emphasis is placed on spinal poses, but the joints remain relaxed. A unique feature of Dru Yoga is its use of Energy Block Release sequences to relieve physical, mental, and energy blockages within the body.
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga is a worldwide organization encouraging yoga on the water with a paddleboard, instead of a traditional yoga mat. The great part about SUP Yoga is you’ll notice right away, if you’re exerting too much energy on one side of the body, versus the other, as the paddleboard reacts to your body’s movements. Thus, paddleboard yoga has been known to increase stability, flexibility, core strength. It also rejuvenates your mind and spirit, because you’re practicing on the water.
Kalari Yoga is based on ancient shamanic postures of Kalarippayat. The shamanic postures aren’t classical asanas, but are based around animal movements, created to enhance the physical and spiritual growth of the Kalari warriors of medieval Kerala, India. A unique feature of Kalari Yoga is its outward focus. It’s believed that concentrated focus on an outside point produces the same results as concentrated focus within (contrary to the Eight-Fold Path of Ashtanga and all Hatha-inspired yoga styles, which have an inner focus). Kalari Yoga was almost lost, but has been recreated because a small group of monks were able to decipher the ancient Kalari manuscripts that were preserved on palm leaves.
Zen Yoga was created by Aaron Hoopes and is a combination of Hatha Yoga, Chinese Qigong breathing exercises, Tai Chi meditative movement and Zen meditation. Quite the mixture and fusion almost! Since the main purpose of Zen Yoga exercises prepares one for the challenges within, perfection with physical asanas is not given much focus here. Instead, Zen yogis are encouraged to practice at their own pace, according to their own goals, needs and abilities. Sounds pretty Zen-like to me!
One of these unusual styles of yoga has to appeal to you, on a certain level. Whether it's because they're so quirky and not the traditional, classical styles of yoga, or because they are just gaining traction, I still recommend trying one of these unusual styles. Will you be flying in a hammock, standing on a paddleboard, or creating animal movements anytime soon?
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