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MIND & BODY

Yoga with some twists

Yoga is an ancient pathway to inner calm. So, of course, it begs for some shaking up. Like paddle boards, cocktails and, for Chris Erskine, giggle fits. MIND & BODY

April 13, 2013|Mikaela Conley
  • On paddle boards in Marina del Rey, Karyn Franco, 25, left, of Los Angeles and Emily Berlin, 22, and Shunti Amadi, 20, Santa Monica stretch into cobra pose.
On paddle boards in Marina del Rey, Karyn Franco, 25, left, of Los Angeles… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

The bendy brilliance attained by practicing yoga has become a treasure sought after by many Americans. Hindu monks brought the 5,000-year-old practice to the West in the late 19th century, and by the mid-1980s, yoga was heralded as a way to cultivate strength, mindfulness and calm. And as yoga has gained popularity, newfangled ways of practicing have emerged.

Love the ocean? Had a few too many Appletinis last night? Want to be surrounded by "bro" energy? There's a class for you.

It seems only natural that people who practice yoga will combine it with other interests.

"Yoga is constantly evolving," said Kaitlin Quistgaard, editor in chief of Yoga Journal. "Variety gives people an opportunity to approach yoga from different perspectives."

Here's a look at bends and twists from traditional yoga.

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Hip-hop yoga

Want to hold side crow to some classic Notorious B.I.G.? At YogaHop, with studios in Santa Monica and Pasadena, you can do just that.

Blaring hip-hop, rock and pop music combine with a high-energy vinyasa flow practice. With a lightning bolt as its logo and brightly colored walls and TV screens, the studio is not what one might imagine as the neighborhood yoga class.

Nevertheless, co-owner Matthew Reyes, 44, has practiced yoga for 15 years, but he has taught spinning to booming pump-it-up music. He began to wonder, "How can I make a class so efficient that it has an element of all of these things?"

Six years ago, Reyes founded YogaHop, a practice that combines traditional poses, mainstream music and an intense workout.

Dian Evans, a family nurse practitioner and clinical assistant professor at Emory School of Medicine's School of Nursing who has studied the influence of yoga on chronic back pain, wondered about the collision of hip-hop and yoga.

"It's fun to move your breath with sound, but I don't know how you can be doing yoga to hip-hop music and breathe in a controlled fashion," Evans said.

But Reyes countered that the end goal for all types of yoga is the same. "Yoga is a big tree with many branches. All the branches have something to offer. Our yoga and a traditional type of yoga all get to the same finish line; we just get there in a dynamic and fun way."

YogaHop: yogahop.com/

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Paddle board yoga

Stand-up paddle boarding has grown exponentially popular in recent years. So why not try some yoga while balancing on a paddle board? That was Sarah Tiefenthaler's logic after taking her yoga-teaching course in Costa Rica and getting introduced to paddle boarding soon after her certification.

"I took the board out every week, and I just started putting together sequences while on the board," said Tiefenthaler, 30, of Los Angeles.

YOGAqua was soon born.

Tiefenthaler said the practice starts off slow, and the class is always held in calm waters. Students have about half an hour to get acquainted with the water and their board, and then their boards are anchored, so there is no worry that they will float away during the class. People shouldn't hesitate to try the class if they've never been on the board, she said. They'll catch on.

The practice works the core muscles even more than a typical practice because of the need to balance and stabilize, said Tiefenthaler.

"You're activating muscles you wouldn't normally use," she said. "You can't even allow yourself to think about anything else. Your stress and daily concerns just go away when you're on the board."

How about during the winter, when the water and air are chilly?

"We have wetsuits you can rent," she said. "We do this all year round. It's a lifestyle."

YOGAqua: yogaqua.com

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Hangover yoga

Located on the opposite side of the country and the physical intensity spectrum, Hangover Yoga at the Cobra Club in Brooklyn offers gentle yoga that focuses on slowing down, breathing and stretching.

Hangover yoga classes are offered Sunday mornings. They run $15 per class and conclude with a Bloody Mary or mimosa.

"We understand that sometimes a fun night out leads to feeling pretty horrible the next day, and a gentle yoga practice can help to offer some relief," said Nikki Koch, co-owner of the studio. "We don't believe that in order to practice yoga you have to be a saint who abstains from all vices -- our customers are real people with dynamic lives, and we embrace and respect full and varied lifestyles."

Koch said she received a few raised eyebrows from her fellow yogis, particularly from those who preach veganism and pure living, but, for the most part, she said the owners received "overwhelming support" from other teachers.

Even the post-yoga cocktail goes along with the sense of community that the Cobra Club is trying to promote, said Dana Bushman, another founder of the studio.

"It's such a rarity in New York, where you are rushed in and out of the studio to make way for the next class, to get that time to stop, relax and get to know the people around you," said Bushman.

Hangover yoga: cobraclubbk.com/yoga/

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Yoga for men

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