The new year is a fine time to try new things — even in the realm of yoga. If you want to enhance your usual practice or invite more spirituality into your life, here are 15 things to try that you may not have before.
You may associate Tantra with Sting's notorious (and probably exaggerated) marathon sex sessions, but the goals of Tantra and intercourse are actually quite different. While it can still be sexy in practice, Tantra's main focus is to cultivate a connection with the divine by consciously channeling our sexual potency. Earth-shattering orgasms are just a bonus.
It is believed by both Tantric and Taoist study that our sexual energy is the most powerful source of energy in existence. By harnessing this power, we may have the ability to clear blockages within our body and psyche, potentially ridding ourselves of disease and anguish. And though the form has been practiced for centuries, it's becoming more of a buzzword in yoga circles among practitioners, with myriad workshop offerings around the world, and renowned teachers like Keith Mitchell advocating its benefits.
A true exercise in trust, AcroYoga is more about letting go of inhibitions than it is circus acrobatics. More yogis everywhere are experimenting with this form of "divine play," building trust between strangers and partners alike.
Until recently, yoga was traditionally a solo practice of self-study — just you and your mat. But AcroYoga goes deeper, encouraging participants to embrace vulnerability and curiosity, with emphasis on having complete faith in another person to support their body. This form of "therapeutic flying" uses the force of gravity and bodyweight to enhance the stretching and strengthening of many familiar yoga poses. Each partner takes on the role of either "flyer" or "base." It's also feasible for all shapes and sizes of yogis.
3. Live Music Yoga
Whether it's a live DJ like MC Yogi spinning Beastie Boys tracks, or traditional Sanskrit mantras harmonized with the Rabab and harmonium, live music can help deepen your practice. Many studios now incorporate live music, DJs and, of course, Kirtan into their regular schedule rotation, offering a more spiritually uplifting experience for students.
4. Hot Barre Yoga
A hot topic last year, barre classes were a were a hit with those tired of yoga — now, Hot Barre Yoga classes are offered at many studios across the country. It's a combination of hot yoga with ballet, Pilates, and weight and interval training — with room temperatures averaging around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Yoga Pole Dancing
Women everywhere have rewritten their beliefs about pole dancing, as it becomes a more widely acceptable, and even empowering form of intense exercise. Yoga Pole focuses on teaching inversions like headstands, handstands and forearm stands by using the pole to help practitioners hold steady.
While providing support and stability, the pole also allows students to enter deeper, challenging poses with more ease and less fear. According to Yoga Pole Studio in Brooklyn, "Yoga Pole does not teach you how to strip. There is no spinning in this class, no sashaying. No heels. You don't pant maniacally so much as you breathe, deeply. During class, you don't realize just how much your muscles are working until you wake up the next day and feel that your body has changed."
6. Kids Yoga
Children can benefit from a regular yoga practice, and even teachers will agree. Regular yoga and mindfulness practices can help children succeed not just in school, but also later in life. Many studios and schools now offer yoga programs to children, but if you're interested and you don't have access to a program, here's a great sequence you can do with your young yogi right at home.
7. Corporate/Office Yoga
Many large corporations use wellness programs like yoga and meditation in the workplace, and studies are showing that they really work! We're all aware of the dangers of our sedentary lifestyle. Whether your company offers a wellness program or not, there are still plenty of exercises you can do right at your desk, for better posture and sustaining energy. Taking a break from the grind will help you return to your work with less stress and more productivity.
8. Restorative Yoga
With self-care on the rise, restorative yoga offers a therapeutic approach to asana, minus the rigorous practice of Vinyasa. Restorative yoga invites us to stay in restful poses longer, by using props like blankets, blocks and eye pillows. When we allow ourselves to completely relax, let go and invite in healing, total restoration of our bodies on a cellular level can take place.
While it may seem like you're lying around doing nothing, something is happening deep within you as you hit the reset button on your nervous system and allow yourself the opportunity for mental and physical repair. Even endurance athletes are starting to use restorative yoga as a means of recovery.
9. Underwater Yoga Diving
If you ever have the opportunity to travel somewhere exotic like Belize, the Great Barrier Reef or Bali, you're probably keen on giving scuba diving a try. Underwater yoga diving gives the feeling of weightlessness in Lotus and Savasana a whole new depth of meaning.
10. Meditation Apps
Technology might be the source of many of our distractions, but meditation apps like Headspace make it easy to cultivate a daily meditation practice. There's a revolution happening in terms of ways to live more mindfully, and it's no secret that a daily meditation practice is highly beneficial to our overall health and mental well-being.
Reiki was developed in the Japanese Buddhist tradition in the early 20th century as an energy healing modality. The Reiki practitioner acts as a conduit for universal energy, to rebalance and clear blockages in the chakras, or energy centers of the body.
Now, more certification programs are becoming available for practitioner and master-level status. Many Western healers like acupuncturists also offer hands-on Reiki treatment to their patients as part of their therapy. Reiki circles also serve as an opportunity for practitioners to come together as a community, and offer healing to participants or distance healing to those in need.
12. Full Moon/Women's Circles
Full moon and women's circles can provide participants with a safe haven, so they can be truly heard as they bring forth their highest self, surrounded by a group of empowering individuals. Under the powerful energy of a full moon, we can use its energy to manifest our intentions to work for our greatest good. Women who come together in a group can feel a strong sense of camaraderie and trust that they might not get from other relationships. While full moon and women's circles are typically for, well, women, they can be co-ed, too.
13. Sound Healing
Many yogis are discovering the life-changing benefits of sound healing. Sound vibrations can have profound, lasting effects on our psyche. Bowls made of crystal or brass are placed next to each other and played by circling the outside rim, giving off a vibration. Sound healing workshops can be offered at yoga studios, and you'll probably notice your teacher playing the bowl at the end of class.
14. Temazcal Sweat Lodge
These can be hard to come by, but if you have the chance to attend a traditional Mayan sweat lodge, you must not pass it up! Outside of retreat destinations like Tulum or Nosara, most of these are typically word-of-mouth, and can take place anywhere from the desert in Arizona, to a community park in the Bronx.
Safely led by a Shaman, a Temazcal sweat lodge is a highly spiritual purification ceremony. But it is not for the faint of heart. Seated crosslegged on the dirt floor of a small, pitch-dark hut with a dozen other people for two hours can be claustrophobic for some. There's also the blazing fire pit that's filled with scalding hot stones, dusted with aromatic Copal smudge — to help you purge your inner demons, of course. Aho!
15. Ayahuasca Ceremonies
From Marie Claire to The New York Times, it is well documented that Ayahuasca ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular. But you no longer have to travel to the Peruvian Amazon to partake — New York and Los Angeles are known hubs for underground Ayahuasca ceremonies. A typical ceremony involves drinking a hallucinatory plant/vine tea blend under the guidance of a respected Shaman, for a long night spent in deep connection to a higher intelligence and a better understanding of one's true self. Ayahuasca is indigenous to the Amazon and is legal there, where retreats and ceremonies are held and authorized, but not in the U.S., where the scene is still quite secretive.