Anti-gravity, hybrid or extremely hot, there really is a type of yoga for everybody
Yoga: it’s just stretching and chanting, right? Not according to the increasing number of women who find its cardio, strength and toning benefits make it the ultimate mind and body makeover.
Always quick to try the new fitness trend, I’ve blitzed my way through a spinning class with a rave soundtrack, searched for my ‘inner diva’ at a Beyoncé dance workshop (don’t ask) and channelled Nicola Adams in a box-fit class. Fun, yes. But, like crash diets, these fads rarely produced long-lasting results. Then three years ago, aged 36, I tentatively tried Bikram yoga. Ever since, I have practised some form of yoga up to five times a week and, often, it’s the only form of exercise I do. My body has never been more toned.
I’m not alone. Tired of long working hours, commutes and childcare, being yelled at in frenetic bootcamp-style is losing its appeal for women, who no longer want to risk the muscle and joint injuries associated with high-impact workouts. For the time-poor, psycho-babble intolerant, much of the attraction is that it doesn’t take long for yoga to yield results. A study by the American council on exercise found that after eight weeks of hatha yoga, performed three times a week, participants had stronger, leaner muscles; after six months, they reported increased definition and strength.
The promise of physical transformation in a meditative state has never been more enticing. Emily-Clare Hill, a Lululemon UK ambassador who teaches vinyasa flow at Hotpod Yoga, Stretch and Yotopia, goes as far as saying that yoga is all the exercise you need, if you find the best type of yoga for you. ‘As a form of toning, strengthening and cardio, yoga is enough on its own, but I encourage clients to diversify their practice. Yin yoga and restorative yoga are the perfect combination for when your energy levels are low and stress is high. Both styles work the body on a deeper level.’
And yet, the misconception endures that yoga is little more than some gentle stretching. ‘The most common thing I hear is that “yoga is too slow,”’ admits Sweaty Betty ambassador Charlie Morgan, who teaches vinyasa flow. ‘But right now, yoga is undergoing a complete image overhaul. People are realising it is the only practice that works both mind and body simultaneously.’
On a physical level, yoga works every muscle in the body, plus the heart, lungs and blood vessels, which decreases your risk of heart disease. it builds muscular strength and bone density, improves flexibility, and supplies a steady flow of oxygen around the body. On a psychological level, it’s been found to regulate blood pressure, lower anxiety and increase mood-boosting chemicals, helping you to relax and sleep better.
The cardio power of yoga, as a fat- burning, heart-pumping workout, is often underrated, but as Morgan says, ‘Vinyasa flow, hot, ashtanga and power are all examples of higher-impact styles.’ case in point, an ashtanga class can burn 300 calories an hour; during an intense vinyasa flow class you could expect to work off 450, and a Bikram class – practised
at 40.5°c – can burn up to 600 calories.
In the workplace, an increasing number of women are also using yoga to prevent career burnout. Nike, HBO, Forbes and Apple now all offer on-site yoga classes for employees, and it’s this point, where exercise meets relaxation, that has seen yoga come into its own. A study of British university staff reported a significant improvement in emotional well-being after participating in an hour-long yoga class once a week for six weeks. Just one scroll of the increasingly alarming news agenda is enough to work out why we’re all jumping on the endorphin- boosting yoga wagon.
‘The benefits are endless,’ explains Alex Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana, an initiative to get more teens into yoga. From balanced hormones and a decrease in menstrual pain to less anxiety and better sleep, it makes you more in tune. I’ve seen women create better relationships or develop career confidence. Yoga can be an amazing platform to create the life you want.’
With so many styles of yoga, studios and teachers out there, it’s hard for a yoga newbie to know where to start. The very first yoga class I took was billed as all levels, but five minutes in I was struggling to keep up with the teacher’s drill sergeant like instructions, which was very intimidating. It’s not uncommon to try yoga once and find it too slow and repetitive, too fast and complicated or to not connect with the teacher or studio in some way. Finding the right style of yoga and a teacher you connect with are crucial to yoga becoming a regular part of your life, and this can take perseverance. it was a long time before I tried yoga again and it took me several attempts to find a style and type of teacher that worked for me. if you have no previous yoga experience at all, find a beginners class or course that will give you an introduction to the basic postures. Here, a teacher will be able to correct you so that you’re doing each asana with the right technique before you move on to tackle a fast-paced group class.
As Emily-Clare Hill says, ‘Modern life is more stressful than ever and yoga is a way to create a space for yourself. The more you delve into yoga the more you enjoy the positive journey it takes you on; it feels good to feel good.’
Where it all began
A Sanskrit word meaning union, yoga is thought to have originated in India 5,000 years ago, with written references appearing 3,500 years ago. First introduced to the West in the late 1800s, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, born in India in 1888, is the yogi credited with influencing today’s style. Three of his disciples were Pattabhi Jois, who founded ashtanga, B.K.S Iyengar, of Iyengar yoga, and Indra Devi, who taught Marilyn Monroe.
The new yoga hybrids
Currently in NY, but heading our way, this is yoga meets bootcamp. In each 75-minute class, you’ll work one muscle group per song. Great if you want to be pushed theclasswithtt.com
Hotpod’s inflatable heated studios take the pop-up trend and apply it to yoga for an intense vinyasa class at 37°C. Best if you like to work up a sweat. hotpodyoga.com
A dynamic fusion of yoga and vogueing, think high-energy dance moves with an 80s soundtrack. Best for those who get bored easily and want fast results. vogalondon.co.uk
Yoga, acrobatics, dance, pilates and calisthenics — all while suspended in a hammock! This is the closest you’ll ever get to flying. Best for muscle lengthening. antigravityyoga.co.uk
Partner-based yoga combining acrobatics and your own body weight to enhance stretching. Best for releasing tension and strengthening. acroyoga.org/ find-a-class
A hybrid of yoga, plyometrics, African dance and dancehall, this style tones and shapes the body in a feminine way. Best for truly amazing abs. butiyoga.com
Want to try out the newest type of yoga to hit the UK? Then join us at our health & well being event for a fitness class, beauty treatments and much more. Tickets and more info here: www.marieclaire.co.uk/fitfest