WLVT: Yoga Hybrids - Are We Still Doing Yoga?
Years ago, I took a weekly hoop dance class in the Washington Square Park area of New York City. I had never been athletically minded before but, dancing around the gymnasium with that hoop flying around my waist, spinning and leaping from foot to foot as I traveled the circumference of the room, I reached a magical state of flow. It was something I had never felt before.
And after the classes stopped, it was something I never felt again. Until I found yoga, about three years later.
I quickly became hooked on my vinyasa classes. I embraced asana as a sort of moving meditation.
When I saw hoop vinyasa on the Wanderlust schedule, I was intrigued. Hooping and yoga, melded together into one fun, intense class? Wanderlust was obviously my Eden. I assumed it was inevitable that hoop vinyasa would help me reach something close to nirvana.
Still, certain yoga purists have been bemoaning the yoga hybrids popping up across the country. They claim that yoga's essence has been diluted. They lament the commercialization of something that was, once upon a time, a spiritual practice.
Festivals like Wanderlust fly in the face of this. Aside from hoop vinyasa, when you look at the festival schedule, you can find classes in slackline yoga, AcroYoga, standup paddleboarding, Budokon (martial arts yoga), meditation hikes, and something called "yoga + horses."
Are we still doing yoga?
In a Saturday morning lecture on the business of yoga, over at the Speakeasy, I listened to David Romanelli talk about how he's combined yoga and chocolate, and yoga and wine. Cameron Shayne, meanwhile, talked about how he came to start teaching Budokon. Neither of them had been looking to create a gimmick. Rather, both of them had fused yoga with something else they loved... something they had a passion for.
Shayne mentioned that many people were clinging to an antiquated model of what yoga is. The entire panel agreed that if you could bring something unique — something utterly yourself — to your yoga class, something that brought more people to yoga, it was only a good thing.
"The more people who do yoga," said Romanelli, "the better the world is."
Later on that day, as I sweated my way through Seane Corn's Detox Flow, she said something that struck me: "Yoga is a quality of living."
She was right. Yoga wasn't a beautiful inversion or a pitch-perfect half moon pose or a core-busting chaturanga. Yoga was a quality of living. It was my moving meditation. It was something I brought to everything I did.
Several hours later, I worked my ass off through one and a half hours of hoop vinyasa using the power of sheer determination (because, at that point in the day, it was all I had left).
As Sandhi Ferreira took us through the poses, some of the ways in which hooping and yoga came together felt absolutely brilliant to me. It definitely felt like I was doing yoga.
Other times, I wanted to beg for mercy. At those times, it didn't feel like yoga at all.
But as I lay there collapsed on my mat, brushing my sweat-slicked hair off my forehead, looking out across the Uncommons at hoop vinyasa-ers at varying skill levels, I knew that it was still yoga for some of them. I knew that they were deep into that state of flow.
And if that's what kept them coming back to yoga — if that's where they found there moving meditation — it was only a good thing.