Practice may make perfect, but going to the same old class day in and day out can make yoga mat time mundane. If it's time to switch up your savasana, check out these interesting classes around the world that put a new slant on sun salutations by adding water, incorporating instruments, turning off the lights or including four-legged yogis. You just might discover that your hips are open to trying something off the beaten path to self-acceptance.
1. Goat Yoga
Arizona Goat Yoga — started by yogi Sarah Williams and goat farmer/"American Ninja Warrior" contestant April Gould — is just one of many places now offering goat yoga (aka goga) in which you plop down your mat and bleat mode kicks in. While you practice, the generally not-gruff goats wander all around the group, sometimes climbing atop participants' backs and stomachs. If you're lucky, it'll be baby goat season. But watch your belongings, goats are known to eat everything in sight. You can also get your goat at No Regrets Farm in Oregon, Jenness Farm in New Hampshire, Honey Sweetie Acres in Ohio and Laughing Frog Yoga in Los Angeles.
2. Vogue + Yoga = Voga
Longing to be something better than you are today? Well, don't just stand there. Strike a pose in a House of Voga class. Started in London by a set designer trying to heal her energy levels after experiencing bad fatigue, this technique that mashes yoga and voguing (a dance style Madonna popularized in song in the early '90s) promises there's nothing to it. It's a cardiovascular workout in a club atmosphere with a DJ and sometimes even neon lights. But it's grounded in traditional yoga, with posing, balance and breath being equally important. Trained instructors now offer voga lessons in Paris, Ibiza, Edinburgh, Barcelona and Mallorca. Or get to it at a January retreat with the founder in the Philippines.
3. Cat Yoga
Usually found at cat cafes, which themselves have become incredibly trendy in the U.S. and are becoming ubiquitous in Asia, Kundalini with kittens (aka yogat) is a purr-fect workout. Sundays at Cat Therapy in Santa Barbara, try to find gracefully land some cat-urangas while adoptable furballs paw at you for attention. For more furry fun, check out the Kagonyan Cat Cafe in Japan and Meowmaste in Cleveland, Ohio.
4. Naked Yoga
Bikram in the buff? If you dare, put on your birthday suit for a private session sans constrictions. Bold & Naked, founded six years ago in New York City, is the brainchild of Monika Werner and Joschi Schwarz. It combines athleticism, artistry, power, insight and confidence-building in a safe, albeit sweaty, environment. The curious but modest can book one-on-one/couples classes.
5. Silent Yoga
Also known as Sound Off Yoga or Disco Yoga, these sessions run much like a typical vinyasa flow class except yogis wear glowing wireless headphones which pump house music and teacher instruction straight to their earholes the entire time. Ambient noise is blocked, which helps attendees block out distractions in busy outdoor spaces or hotels. Florida's Eau Palm Beach Resort hosts Silent yEAUga monthly in the Tranquility Pool courtyard. They contend that the surround sound-like guidance combined with yoga accesses positive memories and leaves guests feeling expanded and cleared. Rave-like events have been held at many Las Vegas hotels like The LINQ and The Cosmopolitan, or you can bend before brunch with free classes at the Viewhouse Eatery, Bar & Rooftop in Littleton, Colorado.
Another example of the animal-inclusive variety, dog yoga, or "doga," is exactly what it sounds like; practicing with man's best friend at your side. Given how many poses are named after pup positions, this incarnation makes plenty of sense. Austin Doga was founded in 2010 by a psychotherapist who noticed the growing amount of research that showed pets and mind-body-spirit integration exercises increase mental, emotional and physical well-being. She decided to double down on wellness by pairing the two. And owner-pet bonding is the end goal of doga sessions organized by Australia's Rancan Sisters Fitness outside of Sydney, where they hold class on the lawn when the weather cooperates.
7. Bunny Yoga
Help out San Antonio Rabbits, get healthy and perhaps adopt a new furry friend at twice-yearly fundraisers/yoga classes featuring rabbits put on by Mobile Om, a nomadic Texas yoga collective. It's like doga, goga or yogat, but with a bunch of adorable Bugs, Peters, Rogers, Pats, Thumpers and similarly cuddly creatures roaming around the room.
8. Brewga and Boga
Brewga uses a whole other kind of hops as motivation. Lots of wineries pair exercise with wine tasting, and breweries and bars are now getting in on the Ashtanga action. Folks gather upstairs for pints and pranayama at Morro Bay's Libertine Pub most Saturdays with the bartender/instructor who swears by alcohol as a muscle relaxer. Bonus: The makeshift studio has a panoramic view of the coastal California town's iconic rock. Fermentation and forward folds are also a regular thing in the taproom at The Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth, Texas, although they sip post-savasana.
9. Laughter Yoga
They say laughter is the best medicine, and laughter yoga capitalizes on that concept. Usually done as a group, gentle yoga moves and synchronized breathing are combined with bouts of prolonged voluntary giggles, jokes, eye contact and playfulness to ignite the body's "happy" and healthy chemical reaction. Cackle through crane at Alila Ubud in Bali or at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, in Hawaii.
10. Heart Beat Movement
"Parvarti Shallow, you just won a million bucks on 'Survivor.' What do you plan to do next?" Instead of heading to Disneyland, she created a new meditative movement with friend Caleb Spaulding that is a fusion of Kundalini and Vinyasa and incorporates live drumming with the idea that the beat sets a pace, calms the mind and allows people to get more connected to their own body rhythms. Headquartered in New York, they have done many pop-ups at hotels and boutiques, but they've also taken the percussive practice on the road to places like Kalu Yala in Panama.
Just don't add water to Surfset, a challenging combination of core work, surf skills and yoga offered through the spa at the Montage Laguna Beach, mere miles down a sunny stretch of California highway from where they hold the U.S. Open of Surfing. The class, complimentary to overnight guests and those who book a spa appointment, is held atop wiggling boards in the Movement Studio or on the grass overlooking the Pacific and helps build lean muscle, balance and agility. Expect to wipe out your first time off the water.
Let it flow and let yourself glow at the once-a-month bendy black-light bash at the W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island. While vacationing in the Puerto Rican paradise, the party starts by donning body paint, wrapping their necks and wrists in glowing bands and grabbing neon light sticks. Once the looks are assembled, guests join a DJ and a teacher in the dark to forward fold in all their fluorescent glory.
13. Elephant Yoga
Being delivered to class on the back of a gentle giant sure beats Uber. At Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Thailand, climb aboard a new pachyderm pal for a peaceful trek through the jungle. Once you arrive at the sala surrounded by rice paddies, spend an hour clearing out the junk in your trunk and your mind while your ride grazes nearby. Afterward, the massive mammal will return you to the hotel via the verdant countryside.
Arizona's Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley has created a hybrid of tennis and yoga in which racquets substitute for straps and the court stands in for the traditional studio. The score will be love-love for fans of the game: A portion of the class seeks to fine-tune tennis-specific skills, while the zen element promotes the alignment, relaxation and fluidity necessary for the next match.
15. Hatha Hikes
To go far beyond the mat, find a class that matches a walk in the wild with some outdoor planking. How meta would it be to see an eagle while contorted into eagle arms? The LARK in Bozeman, Montana, has a package that includes a hike to a majestic meadow (tailored to guests' ability levels), outdoor yoga, a 75-minute massage, a gift bag (water bottle, lip balm and other items useful on your journey to self-discovery) and time to recuperate by the hipster motel's fire. Snowga will be added once winter comes. New Mexico's Yogihiker hits the trails in the Santa Fe National Forest and sets up a studio in the shade of tall trees. Some add-ons include an ayurvedic vegan picnic and a guided medicine wheel meditation.
16. Underwater Yoga
Literally deepen your practice by strapping on scuba gear and taking it under the sea at Alila Manggis in Bali. Zen Harmony Underwater Yoga is a holistic combination of massage, yoga and Zentsu, a water-based relaxation method aimed at releasing muscle tension, increasing lung capacity and improving focus and breath control.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you think these nontraditional practices sound fun or freaky? Have you side-planked in a strange way? If you have tried one of these unique types of yoga, we'd love to hear about the experience, good or bad — especially if you took a quirky class we didn't cover. Tell us about it in the comments!
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