The haute-couture of fitness

How yoga evolved to fit our modern-day needs

Yoga might have started out as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, but over the centuries it’s grown beyond those roots to become a popular answer to the challenges of our time-poor, always-on lives.

The health and relaxation aspects of yoga offer an antidote to permanent busyness. There is, however, one fly in the ointment. Yoga takes years to learn and is steeped in deep meditative and spiritual meaning. As you’d expect, this can be off-putting, so we in the West have taken it and morphed it to fit our modern-day needs.

Whilst working on the launch of a new Iyengar Yoga Center in Idaho, USA (see more of the WMH work here), we learned that modern-day yoga has developed a dual purpose, both to relax and to act as a serious workout. It’s a great way of avoiding the extreme boredom of pounding of the treadmill and the horror of the kettlebell.

The speed at which yoga is changing and developing, with new fads popping up all the time, might give Hindus cause to complain about cultural appropriation, but they’d better move fast before it’s changed beyond all recognition.

“Think Vogue, think yoga. This is Voga”.Voga

Just as Madonna reaches 60, along comes ‘Voga’, describing itself as “a fusion of yoga and ‘Voguing’, fitness and fashion. The activity is set to an 80s House beat and is designed to empower. ‘Think Vogue, think yoga – This is Voga. The haute couture of fitness’. It’s enough to make a yogi throw in the towel.

Two American yoga teachers have introduced their Dharma Yoga Wheel, which, as you might expect, is a wheel to include in your yoga and exercise programme. Designed to ‘help stretch and release tension and muscular tightness in the back, chest, shoulders, abdomen and hip flexors’, it’s another example of the changing, irreverent approach to yoga.

Feel the Rock & Roll in yoga

Some pioneers combine modern lifestyles with traditions of yoga more naturally. Sadie Nardini, the popular mohawked yoga expert, puts a bit of rock & roll energy in yoga. She is the host of Rock Your Yoga, a daily yoga and lifestyle national television show in the US.

WMH talked to her when researching for our work on the Boise yoga studio, and she dismisses the idea that, just because yoga is popular, it’s had the spirituality squeezed out of it. “Yoga has always been about strength and flexibility as well as the subtler benefits of mind-centering, stress-reducing and all-around life enhancement”.

Some of the modern developments around yoga might appear a bit gimmicky, but they still have their roots in the ancient art. After centuries of quiet and gentle contemplation in an uncomfortable loincloth, we’ve taken yoga and given it a new purpose. Voga is definitely different, as was Bikram Yoga before the arrest warrants and sexual harassment charges started to fly.

Nardini recommends that newbies try a variety of classes and teachers; “one instructor or style can be completely different from another, until you find one you love – one with whom you can have fun connecting with your best self on all your levels; mind, spirit and body.”

If not every vogue in yoga will be a stunning success, we can be sure that someone else will appear with yet another, highly differentiated iteration. Things don’t stand still, even when you’re doing the downward dog.


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