Bend it and shape it with new yoga trends

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      Yoga has taken this city so much by the stretch-and-balance balls that sun- salutation series have replaced the Lord's Prayer in schools. Nothing stays forever, though, and just like language, point breaks, or your favourite post-yoga smoothie, the ancient healing practice has changed and morphed to mirror our cultural needs. We no longer have seven consecutive days at our disposal to sit in silence and meditate-our spiritual practices have to fit in between a 3 o'clock conference call and a business dinner. We've also got different kinds of injuries. In the old days, workers suffered bad backs from lifting cows out of fields. Now carpel tunnel arises from clicking a mouse too many times. Yogis and dancers have adapted their training to accommodate specific injuries, enhance physical benefits, and, in some cases, make life more fun. Here are some of yoga's newest trends, their evolution, and where to try them out. Not all forms are covered here or all studios listed; the goal is to at least get you started. Spring has arrived and it's time to get back to moving the body that hibernated on the couch all winter.


      Gyrokinesis For so long, we thought the only way to get in shape involved gruelling treadmill machines, jumping up and down to Top 40 tunes in a gym, and sporting spandex. But our prayers have been answered: it's possible to stretch, work, and strengthen your muscles, release tension in your spine, and feel you got a respectable workout, all while sitting down. Gyrokinesis is a healing modality geared at waking the spine. Students sit on stools, working through a number of fluid movements such as spiralling, undulating, twisting, curling, and arching, with the goal to release stagnation and blockage in the body, open the joints through repetition, and gently stimulate the cardiovascular system. The discipline was developed by Hungarian-born, Romania-based Juliu Horvath, a former ballet dancer, swimmer, and gymnast, who, in an attempt to heal his own sports-related injuries, combined his influences and created the technique. He went on to invent a resistance-enhancing machine he refers to as a Gyrotonic Expansion System, more commonly called the "transformer". This technically advanced practice is called Gyrotonics.

      Wannabe gurus: The ex-athlete who never did get around to seeing a physio about that pesky vertebra that juts out in weird places when she lifts her arm

      Where to go: Marta Hernandez Movement Space (305-1008 Homer Street, 604-646-0199, www .movementspace.ca/; formerly known as Yaletown Pilates) and Mascall Dance (1130 Jervis Street, 604-689-9339, www.mascalldance.ca/)


      Vini Yoga This therapeutic practice known for accommodating individual needs and (sometimes) injuries, recently changed its name to pay tribute to its founder. It's currently known as "the yoga of Krishnamacharya" because there were concerns that Vini yoga had become too branded and commercialized. In a noble attempt to return to its healing roots, the founder's son, Sri T.K.V. Desikachar of Chennai, India, threw out the "vini". Now, most teachers and students have dissociated from the original name in order to respect his wishes. The form, originally meant to be taught to children, is perfect for destressing and deep breathing. It focuses on clearing the mind.

      Wannabe gurus: Type-A stress cases who need to take a deep breath and remember to exhale

      Where to go: Yoga Therapy Vancouver. Classes are taught at various locations by Maggie Reagh (604-505-3390); for information, visit www.yoga therapyvancouver.com/classes.htm


      Moksha Yoga This year-old practice was developed in true Canadian style: it was a means of avoiding conflict. When Bikram Choudhury (owner and inventor of the ever-popular yoga-as-weight-loss plan we know as Bikram's) decided to franchise his business, he imposed a number of restrictions on the studios. For instance, he insisted the floors must be carpeted to enhance the students' heat experience. (Too bad he didn't notice the smell and the fact that 40 students an hour sweating on the same carpet seven days a week couldn't possibly be sanitary.) But well-known and respected yogi Ted Grand got smart and branded a variation. His flow, which focuses more on the hips and upper body and consists of 40 strategic poses, is done in a 35í‚ ° Celsius room and gives students all the benefits they receive when doing Bikram's. Only now, they can sweat it out on smooth, sanitary hardwood knowing they aren't absorbing the sweat left behind by someone else's down doggie.

      Wannabe gurus: People who craved a midwinter Hawaii getaway but didn't get the time off work

      Where to go: Yaletown Yoga (1232 Richards Street, 604-684-3334, www.yaletownyoga.com/); this is the only place in Vancouver currently doing Moksha. It is also done in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and other parts of Canada)


      Body-Mind Centering This is conscious stretching focused on injured or weaker areas of the body, and geared primarily toward dancers. Vancouver's only certified practitioner, Jennifer Mascall, offers BMC technique classes (with live percussion accompaniment!) at her studio downtown. Often students won't even realize the full extent to which they are benefiting from the exercises. It feels a lot like a regular stretching class for dancers.

      Wannabe gurus: Dancers and acrobats whose cores could use strengthening; and frat boys who want to look great for summer

      Where to go: Mascall Dance (1130 Jervis Street, 604-689-9339, www.mascalldance.ca/)


      Sure, it looks a tad like a torture device, but the gyrotronic transformer at Marta Hernandez Movement Space will give you a smooth and fluid workout.

      Marta Hernandez Movement Space will give you a smooth and fluid workout.

      Super Flow Kitsilano's Eoin Finn is proud to introduce what he calls "part yoga, part James Brown". The Vancouver power-yoga instructor has experimented with and studied a wide variety of arts, and come up with something sure to make you smile. Super Flow, a high-energy, interactive practice that takes bits and pieces from dance, capoeira, tai chi, yoga, and other martial arts, involves not only abduction and flexion movements (like traditional yoga classes) but also circumduction, a circular motion that works the hips and joints. The discipline is an ideal complementary practice to yoga because it's much more kinetic. Plus, as Eoin says, it's got a definitive "wa-hoo!" factor.

      Wannabe gurus: Surfers and other free spirits who see yoga the same way Eoin does-like a "bitchin'?" chord progression in the middle of "Stairway to Heaven"

      Where to go: Kits Neighbourhood House (2305 West 7th Avenue, every couple of Saturdays; 604-632-YOGA; for exact dates and time, refer to www.vancouveryoga.com/)


      Pilates When boxer and acrobat-turned-soldier Joseph Pilates was a prisoner of war in England during World War I, he took to helping fellow sufferers heal. Encouraging bedridden men to stretch, he worked gently and slowly to help them regain strength and mobility in their limbs and joints. His claim to fame is that when the fatal influenza epidemic hit Europe, all those who had taken to his training survived.

      Pilates is a sophisticated therapeutic modality using springs and other technical props to isolate particular body parts. The stretching regime was a huge hit in New York dance communities during the 1930s and '40s, and spread across North America, entering into training programs for athletes and movie stars alike.

      Wannabe gurus: Anyone who wants washboard abs

      Where to go: Call Heather Low at Meridian Pilates (202-2475 Bayswater Street, 604-730-4094, www.meridianpilates.ca/ or Marta Hernandez Movement Space (305- 1008 Homer Street, 604-646-0199, www.movementspace.ca/; formerly known as Yaletown Pilates)


      Contact Acro Yoga Getting tired of the same old internally focused yoga class? Had enough solo moments in tree pose? Try it with a friend. A quartet of yogis and acrobats out of San Francisco has developed a way to stretch together, experience the sensation of flying, and work on muscle strengthening and body opening all at once. Contact Acro Yoga, a fun and beneficial practice created by Jason Nemer, Francisco Morales-Bermudez, Carolyn Cohen, and Jenny Sauer-Klein, is just a year old and already thriving. These flexible pioneers are taking it worldwide starting in May; coming soon to a Vancouver studio near you.

      Wannabe gurus: Anyone who idolized Cirque du Soleil, human bridges, or Gumby.

      Where to go: For more information, see Yoga Tree Studio, www.yogatreesf.com/.

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