Fancy trying a new twist on an ancient discpline? Classes offering weird and wonderful mixes such as Ballet yoga and Disco yoga are mushrooming. Writer and trained doctor Laura Stewart looks at the pros and cons of yoga hybrids.
Recently, I was surprised when a friend told me her local gym was offering a class in ‘Yoga Hip-Hop', a concept which seems to fit together as naturally as a tuna and a tricycle.
In fact, these days almost every gym seems to be offering one of a bewildering array of yoga combinations including Ballet yoga, Martial yoga, Aqua yoga and even, at one New York studio, Disco yoga.
Whilst some of the combinations perhaps seem logical (yogalates for instance), others require a significant leap of the imagination (Tribal yoga anyone?).
Fans of these classes say they are a good way of introducing new students to yoga. Naava Katz, an art teacher, discovered a new love for yoga after she signed up for a Hip-Hop Yoga weekend retreat in Massachusetts.
She says: 'In the past, yoga always felt a little boring to me. But I thought this workshop sounded so unique.
'In a Hip-Hop yoga weekend, something clicked for me. It was such an intense workout (vinyasa style), which I loved so much. I walked in feeling nervous, and by the end I was doing headstands.'
She adds, 'Since then, I've been taking classes near my home a few times a week. I find even traditional classes are so fulfilling now.'
Risk of injury
But there is a danger that yoga hybrid classes could undo some of the benefits of traditional yoga and even lead to harm.
Indeed, a rise in yoga-related injuries reported by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has partly been blamed on the growing popularity of non-traditional yoga classes.
One reason for this is that mixing aspects from different forms of exercise may mean working the body in unnatural ways and some yoga teachers have serious concerns.
'There are exceptions but generally I would advise to steer well clear of this kind of class' says Tara Fraser, author of The Easy Yoga Workbook and co-founder of Yoga Junction in North London.
'The whole ethos and attitude of this training is, in my opinion, quite misguided. Traditions that have evolved over centuries cannot be turned into this kind of ‘pick and mix' class without de-stabilising the essence of the teaching and ending up with a mess'.
Hybrid classes are also more likely to gloss over the spiritual and body-mind alignment aspects of yoga, which can mean people are less aware of what their body is telling them and more likely to push themselves physically.
A large part of the responsibility lies with teachers, who should notice if their students are struggling or using poor technique which might lead to injury.
Many hybrid classes are taught by people with little training or understanding of yoga, which can make injuries more likely.
'It takes years of practice and dedicated training to become a good, safe yoga teacher' adds Fraser, 'it just can't be learned in a week-long intensive course which is often all these teachers have had access to.'
To avoid injury, students should look for a good teacher who has studied yoga extensively and can discuss the tradition and their training with you, as well as continuing to practice themselves.
Coming up: we try out the latest yoga fusion class - yogavibes.
Laura Stewart is a freelance writer interested in all things related to fitness and wellbeing. She uses her background as a medically qualified doctor to write about health. Laura loves running near her home in North Devon and thinks yoga and pilates help keep her injury free. Her running exploits can be read at: http://runningexplorer.blogspot.com