A group of yogis hold child’s pose while miniature-sized goats leap into the air, over and onto students’ backs. A couple of the little goats stop to nibble on practitioners’ necks, while others buck as if they are in a goat rodeo. While the instructor directs students to “just relax and breathe,” a woman gets kicked in the face by a goat hoof, another feels goats jumps on him while he is saying “namaste” and pretty much everyone is misaligned and hardly calm.
And so goes a recently viral goat yoga class – just one of many yoga fads launching all over the country. There’s weed yoga, naked yoga, tantrum or primal screaming yoga, yoga with critters like horses, cats and dogs, yoga on a trampoline and even yoga while drinking beer.
While some more serious practitioners think such classes are mockeries of a spiritual practice, others say, “lighten up.” Here are some points to consider before coming to your own conclusion:
Pro: Yoga fads are fun.
Gimmicky yoga trends are great for having a good time, but not for making you better at yoga. Is there a benefit in having fun? Absolutely – so long as you acknowledge that’s what you’re getting out of it, and not much more.
Most trendy yoga classes are not effective in achieving what a regular practice will help you accomplish. If the modern class promises to clear pain, tone your body or make you feel more grounded, for example, be a little skeptical. It is ridiculous to say that smoking a joint during yoga, for one, will make you realize something beautiful inside.
Con: Some fads can be distracting or even risky.
If you are going to yoga with the goal of getting high or buzzed, at least do so after yoga and not before or during class. Not being able to tell your right arm from your left leg is not a healthy practice. Yoga and life should be enjoyed naturally. Anything that alters your natural state of mind is no longer yoga in my book.
Don’t get me wrong: I teach yoga and beer tastings, but I always teach yoga beforedrinking. Focusing during yoga is hard enough. Adding cats or trampolines only creates more distractions. (Who can really resist the urge to pet a cuddly puppy or stay put while a cat pounces?) Personally, I’m more in favor of pairing yoga with other interests if the two are separated. Let your yoga practice be its own experience.
Pro: Trendy yoga classes get new yogis in the door.
I believe that if it takes something extra to get people to try yoga, then it is a positive thing. I’m always pleasantly surprised when new students come to one of my yoga and beer tastings. While they usually start by telling me that they would never set foot in a yoga class and are making an exception for the promise of beer, by the end of the class, they rave about how great they feel. Before you know it, the same student who was just interested in the class because of beer is now a regular.
Pro: All yoga provides connection.
In a world where everyone has their face buried in a laptop, cellphone or iPad, we long for real human interaction. The trendy yoga classes are often a vehicle to get people together. Hip-hop yoga, for example, may seem paradoxical, but people still make eye contact, talk and smile. Being in community and conversation with others is healthy and uplifting. That habit is just as important as a strong physical exercise or meditation program.
Ultimately, I believe that while almost all yoga gimmicks will expire, yoga itself doesn’t have a shelf-life. Yoga has longevity because it works.