An acquaintance of mine recently suggested I join her in a “face yoga” challenge, which involves contorting your face for a few minutes a day with hopes of looking younger. My response was “no thanks,” but it got me thinking.
As a devotee of (actual) yoga for more than 30 years, I’m annoyed by the rampant trendy adaptations of this beautiful, age-old tradition — I mean, goat yoga?!
Here are five of the strangest interpretations that may be fun, but just aren’t yoga:
1. Goat yoga
Put simply, yoga is the practice of uniting the body and the mind (the Sanskrit term “yoga” means “to yoke”). So, consider this the yoking of mind and goat? Though I laughed out loud watching footage of goat yoga, the fact that people are taking this seriously (there’s a 1000+ person waiting list at one farm in Oregon) as a yoga practice is kind of sad. I’m pretty sure Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (also known as the father of modern yoga) didn’t have this in mind when he revived the practice for modern consumption.
2. Beer yoga
Yoga poses, or “asanas,” are just one small part of the tradition. There’s also a major focus on living purely, avoiding stimulants (like alcohol) to clear your mind of its “chitta vritti” (chatter) so you’re poised for meditation. Most yogis I know love their liquor in moderation, but in my view, drinking on the mat is basically blasphemous. Many traditional yoga classes won’t even let you bring water into the class — bringing in a “cold one” may stifle the internal fire (or “agni”) that we’re trying to stoke for purification.
3. Hip-hop yoga
Namasdrake? Yup, there’s a popular style of yoga that lets you get your groove on while doing your chaturangas. It’s really just yoga poses performed to hip hop music, so students get the physical benefits of yoga without getting bored. But anything that transports you from the “boredom” of the present moment is not yoga, and ideally you should be able to hear the sound, and observe the rhythm, of your own breath.
4. Harry Potter yoga
In this whimsical new offering, the teacher catapults students out of the here-and-now and into the world of Harry Potter, conjuring spells, reading passages from the book, and encouraging all to “keep Cedric in our hearts.” Bottom line: Anything that magically transports you out of your body is just plain simply not yoga. (And while the jury’s out on the effectiveness of props, like blocks and straps, in yoga classes, wands would be a definite no-no.)
5. Bar stool yoga
Interested in bar stool yoga? Well, then lucky for you, there’s a book you can pick up to get serious about the practice. But, just don’t mix this with beer yoga because, on page 10, the authors strongly advise that you do not mix yoga and alcohol: “Have fun with the yoga poses on the barstool, and then have your beer, wine or cocktails. Always, always, always be safe.” You might want to make sure that bar stool’s steady when you’re doing backbends on it, then.
Want to try any of these styles? Go ahead! I don’t mean to be a buzzkill. But can we just not call them “yoga”? Call them “fun,” call them “movement,” even “stretching” — how about “drinking?” You can even use them as stepping stones to yoga. But they’re all based on distraction and on tuning out, and we’ve already got Netflix and social media for that. True yoga is one of the rare, effective tools we have to help us tune in to the present moment, to tap into the body’s innate wisdom — no gimmicks, no escaping, and certainly no goats.