The new yoga
The biggest thing I get out of yoga is an interesting perspective on life. Being origamied into spirit-, mind- and body-bending poses always seems to give me a new, enlightened view of things. Like my mental-physical connection. My inner strength. My own backside.
But over the weekend I discovered the style putting a new spin on yoga itself. It's called kryoga, it's only just arrived in Australia and it completely kicked my butt. I loved it.
Created by Indian guru Master Kamal (he's a Beatle in yoga circles), kryoga is rhythmic yoga. Combining the philosophies and postures of other schools (like Hatha and Ashtanga, if you know your disciplines) in a series of fluid movements, it's thought of as an all-in-one style, given a contemporary twist.
Selene Short, the CEO and founder of V Club, the fitness centre that brought kryoga to Australia, says that this style injects an ancient art with extra vitality. "The variety and dynamic nature of kryoga is what makes it so attractive," she explains. "The Master teaching can 'feel' what you're responding to and customise the sequence. It's personal – you don't just feel like a body in a class."
Yoga can be intimidating, especially for beginners, but kryoga aims to make it approachable. "It's yoga – it's complex and you can interact with it on emotional, physical or spiritual levels," says Short, "but it's also fun."
And sweaty. I checked into a class by Master Raj (Master Kamal's handpicked-for-Sydney yogi) expecting a cruisy stretch, but quickly got the picture: kryoga is vigorous. It's a cardio and muscular workout, though in a more gentle and cerebral way than your average slog on the treadmill. As Master Raj told me afterward, "It's about having a strong mind and a strong body". Your mind should tell your body what it's capable of, not the other way around.
So as I was telling my little engine it could, Master Kamal also reminded me of the joys of breathing. Because, nuts as it sounds, I often forget. I tend to hold my breath when stressed or struggling, so when he almost sang "inhaaaaaaale" while I was pushing through a tough movement, it was a revelation. Not to mention a relief.
"Women, in general, should breathe 15 times a minute, but most find they usually only breathe five times," Master Raj explained. "When we focus on breathing in kryoga, your brain and body work better. You are much more relaxed."
No kidding. By the time we'd finished our last relaxation technique (Master Raj dishes out some really applicable tips on dealing with daily stress and fatigue), I not only felt stretched out and limber, I felt focused. And I was on an absolute yoga high.
Which is apparently addictive. Three years after being introduced in Bangkok's Planet Yoga with 450 followers, kryoga now has 16,000 devotees, with televisions all across Asia tuning in to watch Master Kamal's classes on television.
"I think kryoga is so popular because it actually forces people to slow down and focus on themselves while getting fit, but in a modern way that fits into their lives," says Short. And that's why she brought it to the workaholics of Australia.
More locations are in the works, but for now the gleaming new V Club fitness centre in Sydney is the only place you can get Kryoga – and you get a bona fide Master yogi into the bargain. You can even use V Club's GHD to straighten up before you head back to the office. Modern yoga indeed…