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Weird yoga: 8 fads that truly stretch the imagination

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 21 June 2015, 7:04 IST

Hatha. Ashtanga. Bikram. Iyengar. The origins of yoga may not have included these names but they've entered the mainstream in the past few years.

What's also entered the mainstream: the recognition that yoga develops strength, balance, flexibility and calm. That's why, whether you want to relax, work out or get in touch with your spiritual side, there's a yoga class to suit you.

Except these aren't versions of your neighbourhood yoga group will recognise. It may be one of India's most successful exports, but in that process yoga today has taken on commercial, thoroughly-bastardised forms.

Its surging popularity in mainstream culture has created many offshoots: acroyoga (acrobatics + yoga), yogalates (yoga + pilates) and laughter yoga (self-explanatory), to name a few. The latest trends, though? They range from the vaguely odd to the outright absurd. Here are eight:

Tantrum yoga

We all unknowingly practiced this diligently as children, and sometimes still do (most likely when you're ready to wet your pants and someone refuses to vacate the bathroom). This strange form was created by 'yogini diva' Hemalayaa in Los Angeles, who said she wanted more out of traditional practice.

"I need more. I need to dance, I need to shake, I need to scream, so it just felt perfectly right," she said. Some of her other works includes DVDs like Hemalayaa: Bollywood Burn and Bollywood Booty. You get the idea.

Anyway, students are encouraged to throw a tantrum while attempting poses or dancing. All you have to do is yell, laugh, breathe dance and hold yoga poses while releasing emotional frustration.

Sadly for those who believe in this rather infantile practice (temper, temper), Swami Beyondananda (real name) writes in his book Driving Your Own Karma: "The primary practice of Tantrum Yoga - holding your breath until God gives you what you want - has been found to be largely ineffective."

You don't say.

Yoga rave

Even ravers need some inner peace. At these day-breaker parties, you'll be stretching into downward dog surrounded by a kickass sound system, trippy video projections, kaleidoscopic lights, and a glittering disco ball, all with glow-in-the-dark hula hoops and glow sticks.

yoga rave

A woman does yoga during a 'Rave Your Way Into The Day!' event in London. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

We hear that this idea was originally conceived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they definitely know how to party their socks off.

At these raves - now popular in New York, San Francisco and large parts of South America - everyone is encouraged to close their eyes, feel the beat, dance and bring out their inner raving hippie.

It's up to you how hard you dance, but obviously the harder you go, the more calories you burn.

The music usually includes Sanskrit mantras in all forms of music such as pop, rock, hip-hop, reggaeton and electronic music.

These 'raves' more or less eschew alcohol and drugs (unless consumed before). On the menu, instead, are locally pressed green juices, a stockpile of granola bars and vitality-promising chia drinks.

A hangover-free rave. Interesting. Who knew you could rave and relax at the same time?

Aerial yoga

Take your practice to new heights, literally.

aerial yoga

Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Aerial yoga may find its inspiration from acrobatics, but that being said, you don't need Cirque du Soleil skills to have a go at the latest fitness craze. The likes of Mariah Carey, Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow are all said to be smitten with it.

The key accessory is a special type of hammock-like fabric trapeze (so, not the kind of hammock you need for a beach holiday). It supports your body weight as you do all manner of moves swinging in the air. Without its assistance, you'd end up in a heap on the floor.

Nude yoga

As the name suggest, you will be naked. Totally naked. In a class full of people.

Shy? Don't worry; if you're confident about not requiring an instructor, you could just practice at home with the blinds drawn.

Naked yoga

A yoga instructor strikes a pose during a naked yoga session. Photo: Jim Wilkes/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Form-fitting yoga clothes reveal almost every imperfection, but nude yoga will really expose you. This freeing practice allows you to explore poses - and tune in to your body - without restrictive clothing.

It's all about shedding your insecurities, fears, and external covers and becoming more in touch with your inner, true self.

Let's not forget our very own Naga babas either, who've given us all a scare at one time or another. Unless you're a Kumbh Mela regular.

Cannabis yoga

This is a must try for all recreational pot smokers.

And it's enough of a trend that even The New York Times has talked about it.

Cannabis yoga is exactly what it sounds like: everyone in a class spends 15-20 minutes getting high together - you can smoke a joint, consume edibles, smoke a boom or a bong, or you could use a vaporiser. A 75-minute yoga class follows.

Bonus: trainers have spoken about an increase in concentration when you've had a quick bong hit or two.

A few studios in California and Toronto offer these '420 classes'. Each class can cost anything between $15-30.

[twittable]Cannabis users and yoga enthusiasts often have similar goals: relaxation, deeper awareness, bliss[/twittable]

But they aren't the first to mix pot and yoga together. Many of our own sadhus - the dreadlocked, ash-smeared ascetics who survive on yoga, meditation and the goodwill of others - smoke enough pot to, well, see god.

Makes sense. Cannabis users and yoga enthusiasts often have similar goals: relaxation, a search for bliss, and deeper awareness.

No word yet on the increase of pre-savasana naps, laughing fits, or post-yoga munchies.

Doga and equine yoga

We've all heard about the downward-facing dog, or the Adho Mukha Svanasana, inspired by the way canines stretch. So perhaps it was preordained that man's best friend would also find a place in the practice.

Doga is yoga for you and your dog. One doga trainer described it as a "practice that creates harmony and synchronisation of energy flow between the owner and dog".

So stop taking you dog for morning and evening walks, doga has your exercise schedule - and your dog's - covered.

If a dog isn't the animal of choice, don't worry. There's also equine yoga, where your horse becomes a prop for you to stretch over and under. The horse doesn't exactly partake in the making poses (neigh!). He or she is made a tool in your path to fitness, while its own is ignored.

Reviews for classes have talked about how 'terrifying' it is to balance a yoga position from atop a horse. Terrifying, yes, but for whom?

Karaoke yoga

If you enjoy belting out your favourite tunes, karaoke yoga allows you to perform yoga while singing aloud.

Yes, such a thing exists. It was created in Los Angeles by instructor Jennifer Pastiloff in 2012. "This is about having the workout of your life," she says, "singing, dancing, and feeling silly."

The benefit, she says, is not only opening up your body through yoga, but also feeling connected to the other students through the process of group singing. "People are starved for connection in the world, and this class can offer that."

The class comes complete with a TV screen for song lyrics, and you can expect group renditions of popular hits by Journey, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Adele and the Beatles.

If you think yoga is too zen and could use some livening up, and you don't want to wait for the weekly karaoke night at your favourite bar, this could be the answer to your prayers.

Paddleboard yoga

Finding a balanced pose on solid ground (to say nothing of a horse) can be tricky. Now imagine yourself floating on a paddleboard.

paddle board yoga

Students practicing yoga on paddleboards on Lake Ontario, Canada. Photo: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images

SUP yoga, or Stand-Up Paddleboard yoga, takes place on lakes, oceans, and even rivers, which means that if you lose your balance and fall off your board, you're in for a dip.

Here, the board is your mat and nature your focal point. But the image of headstands and downward dogs on a standup board in the middle of the ocean inspires giggling, not a focus on inner chi.

The SUP yoga community is much larger than you'd expect and the trend has now swept across the world. Not only do you get to cool down in the water, you also conquer your fear of falling and have fun in the process (unless you have a serious water phobia).

As participants float and wobble on the unstable paddleboard, they engage their physical and spiritual cores.

Now go try a SUPward-facing dog.

First published: 21 June 2015, 3:31 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.