Enough already with “yoga and…”

 Image description: Green marijuana leaf nestled inside a white lotus flower with a swirly blue, purple, and green background. Underneath it says "marijuanasana."
Photo credit: Image description: Green marijuana leaf nestled inside a white lotus flower with a swirly blue, purple, and green background. Underneath it says “marijuanasana.”

I don’t like to rant (well maybe a little bit, sometimes). But the “yoga and” trend is starting to get to me. Regular readers may recall some recent posts about goat yoga – I wasn’t a fan (a judgment I formed without having to try it) and Sam thought it was fun when she went with her son Gavin.

Lately, there are so many different forms of yoga. I don’t mean Iyengar, Ashtanga, Moksha, Kundalini, and the many other styles of hatha yoga (the branch of yoga focusing on physical exercises) we practice in “the West.”

I’m referring to the abundance of trendy combinations of yoga and…

  • Yoga and goats
  • Yoga and beer
  • Yoga and wine
  • Weed yoga
  • Naked yoga
  • Yoga on paddle boards

No doubt this is not an exhaustive list.

I used to be a purist, having been enculturated into the precise and detail oriented practice of Iyengar yoga, that it took many years before I was even willing to try hot yoga. And when I did, I was critical of the level of instruction even though I enjoyed the hot room. See my post about that here.

I now love hot yoga, in part because at least at the studio I go to (Moksha), the approach is less rigid than what I’m used to. You can go at your pace. Lie down in savasana whenever you feel like it. The instruction is less intense – they just take you through a set sequence and focus on helping you know when to breath and when to release. Iyengar would be appalled!

But my willingness to step out of the rigid methods I grew used to through 14 years of dedicated practice through an Iyengar studio has its limits. Moksha? Okay. Yoga on the beach in the Bahamas? I’m there. I’ve even attended a yoga for runners class.

I felt my eye first start to twitch over “yoga and…” combinations when I read about beer yoga. I even blogged about it.

I teach in a Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, and we are always resistant to the idea of “women and…” courses. These are courses like “Women and History,” “Women and the Novel,” “Women and the Law.” What’s wrong with them? From our perspective they don’t necessarily capture what women’s studies is all about. For example, they might lack a feminist approach, just highlighting women without actually embedding the course content in a broader narrative and theoretical framework that talks about oppressive social structures. You can’t just tack something onto “women” and think you’ve got it right.

Similarly, you can’t just combine yoga with whatever and think you’ve got it right. Now I’m no expert, and maybe if you can lure enough people into it for the beer or the goats, at least a few will stick around for a more authentic yoga experience.

I know it sounds judgmental of me to presume that beer yoga or weed yoga are not “authentic.” You never really know until you get there, I guess. Like, your “Women and History” course may actually turn out to be full-on feminist. But I’m just saying, to keep the analogy going, you have a much better chance of getting the real deal if you sign up for “Feminist approaches to History” than what the first admin assistant I worked with in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research used to call an “add women and stir” course.

I’m especially resistant to the attempts to combine yoga with mind-altering substances like beer, wine, and pot. It doesn’t just seem unnecessary. It seems counter to paying mindful attention to your body, which is surely one of the benefits of yoga. How about going for your beer or your joint when you’re done, instead (if you must)?

On the other side of it, maybe it’s time to lighten up. I get that I can be too serious. Gimmicky yoga can be fun, and why should my own puritanical insistence on “authenticity” (which, for all I know, is not even a yoga experience I’ve even been party to) be taken seriously by anyone? If you want to take a yoga class where you balance a beer bottle and take periodic swigs from it, go for it.

Then the small voice inside says: But is the yoga tent really that big? Can we add yoga and stir and still have the result be something we can call “yoga”? I just don’t know.

Here’s a great tongue in cheek overview of “yoga and chicken nuggets”:

What are your thoughts on the latest yoga trends and gimmicks? Harmless fun? Useful introductions? Misleading appropriations? Some better than others?

13 thoughts on “Enough already with “yoga and…”

  1. People will find their own way. Yes, I am human and I do roll my eyes when I see “beer yoga” but on balance it’s better that people whose social life revolves around beer get to experience yoga without feeling excluded. And as you say, maybe they will stick at it, which can only be a good thing.

  2. For me it’s specific to the x in “yoga and x” whether or not I think it’s something I’d try. Yoga and goats is light hearted and fun. I like yoga that doesn’t take itself too seriously! But yoga and pot or yoga and beer? Not for me. Stand up paddle board yoga looks challenging in new ways and fun on a hot day. I also love the idea of yoga in lavender fields because it’s a beautiful outdoor setting. One of the things that puts me off summer yoga is being inside. There’s outdoor yoga in our little park near my house and I like that too. So for me it’s just a matter of whether I like the thing yoga is being combined with…

  3. Yep. I think it’s definitely appropriative. It takes a traditional practice and turns it into something that primarily benefits privileged (and mostly white) people and erases its origins and meaning.

    Decolonizing Yoga is a great site for anyone who hasn’t read much about it.

  4. I teach cat yoga. It is in the cat room at the local SPCA. it’s really a gentle hatha class with some cats wandering. The cats seem to like it, especially the yoga nidra I finish the class with. Everyone is calm by the end.
    As a sober person I don’t choose to participate in yoga and wine or beer or weed.

    I personally go to yoga classes to practice because I like the group energy, but for me, the asana practice is a celebration of life. Using mind altering substances does not support that.

    There is a lot of yoga that I would really call stretching. The practice is a path back inside and the physical part is only a small facet of that.


    1. I have to say, cat yoga appeals to me. I also like that it is explicitly considered a way of bringing something positive to the lives of cats who live in the shelter. I don’t think we have that here. And I’ve never heard goat yoga pitched as benefitting the goats.

  5. Your question is a good one, and (except for the wine/beer/weed and… versions, which I’m not particularly in favor of), using gimmicks to get people in the door (or to the park) for yoga seems like not a bad thing. Some friends went to a Bro yoga class– a gimmick for sure– designed to be for men, or people who were less flexible but wanted to try stretching and yoga-lite. They liked the class a lot. At the same time, I’ve seen news stories that are pretty offensive (denigrating women who are adept practitioners of yoga, and a variety of borderline misogynistic statements).

    It’s hard to figure out where to land here– lowering barriers to exploration and creating a beginner-friendly environment all seem really good to me. But I also want to explore yoga as a set of traditional practices, which can get lost amidst all the gimmickry. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  6. The only yoga+ I’ve seen in my area is a yoga and hard cider thing, but the cider is after savasana, so I feel like that’s a good compromise. That being said, most of these only consider asana to be yoga, so that’s an issue as well

  7. I’m don’t drink at all and think alcohol is bad for our health. However, weed is medicine to me and really helps me get into some yoga poses, which at 65 years old and suffering from scoliosis can be tough at times

  8. I think some people need something that turns them on to yoga. Think about kid’s yoga. It involves a lot of storytelling through the poses, singing, dancing, etc. That’s not traditional yoga, but it lures children in to the practice and sets a foundation. Hot yoga is sort of along those same lines. I’ve had lots of students sign up for my course at the college because they’d been trying hot yoga and wanted to learn more. I’m okay with it if it’s a platform for someone to start with, but like Anne said above, yoga is far more than the physical practice that most of this is associated with.

  9. I’m personally not a fan of combining yoga with mind-altering substances, but I’m not a fan of mind-altering substances to begin with, so I’m not sure that has much to do with the yoga part. I think that most
    novelty yoga is probably fine as a novelty–it’s good for a new experience, for something to push your boundaries, but probably not best for your regular practice. I also like the fact that novelty yoga is often hosted by a city or offered for free, which makes it more accessible. I attend a free monthly beach yoga that’s fun and adds good variety to my practice.

  10. I kind of agree. I get what you’re saying. For me though adding the “and” part gets me motivated. Ya it’s just a few goats out there grazing but it’s the first time I ever practiced yoga outdoors. So that was a plus.

  11. I have been a yoga practitioner for more than 20 years now, and for 3 years I taught a largely yoga-based fitness class (Les Mills’ BodyBalance/BodyFlow). I have tried many different styles of yoga over the years including styles I have loved, styles I did not care for at all, and styles that fell somewhere in between. The one aspect of the yoga world I have consistently had zero tolerance for throughout all of my yoga experiences is this: people who attempt to police other people’s yoga.

    So I don’t do it. If you have a practice that is yoga to you, yeah! Go you! It doesn’t matter at all what I think of your practice. Therefore, the only consideration I make when I hear of a new yoga trend is, “Is that something I would like to try?” Hot yoga is 100% not for me. (Hot environments cause my already low blood pressure to tank to such levels I feel weak and dizzy and am in significant danger of losing consciousness.) Beer yoga is also something I will never try. (I dislike the taste of beer.) But I love yoga slacking and SUP yoga. The added challenge of practising yoga asanas on a slackline or paddleboard is great fun for me and a great fit for my health and fitness goals.

    My bottom line is this: Yoga has the potential to provide significant benefits to pretty much everyone. Expanding the yoga tent (whether through new styles of hatha, new yoga fusions, or simply new combinations of yoga with other things) has the potential to make yoga accessible to more people. So it’s all good.

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