Yoga is rooted in spirituality. Yet in industrial societies far from the placid mountaintop ashrams of the Far East, you can now find yoga practitioners doing their poses while interacting with adorable goats, using hula hoops, swilling beer, and stripping down to, well, nothing. In San Francisco, there is even “weed-infused” yoga.
Basically, there is probably a class that matches your preferences for whatever style of yoga you’re looking for. Here’s a sampling of some of the more unusual kinds:
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Goat yoga: meh…
Believe it or not, yoga with goats is found at farms across the country, as well as in some indoor suburban and city locations. The phenomenon was started by an Oregon farmer after she found that being around the animals helped her cope with an autoimmune disease. Her classes are now so popular, there is a wait list.
During the classes, the goats—often babies—may frolic around you; sometimes they jump on participants’ backs. The pairing of yoga with goats allows people to bond with nature, and the animals also bring a sense of fun and playfulness. The classes vary, but they may go much longer than the typical one hour, allowing time to cuddle and enjoy the interaction.
Warning: If you have a high startle reflex or any sort of back or neck issue that could be exacerbated should a goat land on you, goat yoga is probably not for you.
Dog yoga: arf…
Often called doga, this type of partner yoga, so to speak, is offered in major metropolitan areas around the world and involves either you and your dog engaging in yoga poses together, or you using your dog as a yoga “prop.” For example, you can lift your small breed dog (such as a Chihuahua or West Highland terrier) when doing Warrior I Pose. If you have a larger dog (such as a bulldog), you can do Child’s Pose while resting your head on your pet’s back. You may also wish to help your dog into yoga poses (Downward Dog is a natural fit, of course)—though you should never force any positions. The idea is to spend quality time with your dog.
If you take a doga class, bring a towel, a leash, and dog toys and treats. Your dog should have all recommended shots and be socialized to other dogs and people.
Baby yoga: awww (or wah?)
Dating back at least to 1999, this involves moms (and sometimes dads or other caretakers) doing yoga while connecting with their babies (or toddlers), who are either nearby or, like with dogs, used as “props” of sorts. Additionally, the little ones may be helped into their own yoga poses, with the positions varying depending on the child’s age. For babies, this might simply mean gently moving their arms and legs, but toddlers can, for example, be helped into Downward Dog or Upward Dog. Sometimes referred to as postnatal yoga, the classes may help enhance quality time and bonding with the new baby, engender camaraderie by interacting with other new parents, and help the stress of being a new parent is lessened.
Before starting a class, note that the arms and legs of babies should be moved slowly and gently, since babies have lax joints, which could be overstretched. The head should also be supported because babies have poorly developed neck muscles and soft spots in the skull. New moms need to take a few precautions, too. For example, if a woman is still experiencing vaginal bleeding after giving birth recently (something that can happen for several weeks), only gentle stretches should be done to avoid increasing the flow. If a C-section was performed, even gentle stretches should be avoided during the first six to eight weeks.
Naked yoga: egads…
For millennia, monks and other ascetics in Asia have been practicing naked yoga, as a means of bringing the mind, spirit, and body into a state of balance. Naked yoga is now becoming popular in Europe and the U.S., the idea being to instill confidence and acceptance of your body and diminish anxiety about being naked—if that is something you care to work on. In many classes, whether coed or unisex, the removing of clothing is done under low lighting or in the dark with candles, sort of like a sacred ceremony.
As for hygiene, it makes sense to bring your own yoga mat and towel. Studios may thankfully require that participants be freshly showered.