Celebs like Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gwyneth Paltrow have made yoga a workout trend with staying power, and you can find yoga classes everywhere -- from the local Y to gorgeous high-end studios. Yoga's popularity, though, has led to some classes that stray pretty far from the meditation-based, peaceful roots of real yoga practice. Breast-enhancing yoga? Really?
Many of these classes have no business actually calling themselves yoga. But according to one yoga instructor I spoke with -- Ann Conte, who teaches hatha and vinyasa -- studio owners are more than willing to offer any kind of wacky classes and slap the word "yoga" on it to make a buck. Here are some ways to discern what's a more authentic yoga experience and what's likely a perfectly good workout, but not yoga:
If it promises bigger breasts: Yoga is all about accepting your body as it is -- with its limitations and imperfections -- and appreciating what you are able to do. Some studios are now offering "breast-enhancing" yoga, which is totally beside the point, to say the least. Conte points out that you will, of course, end up with bigger pecs if you practice yoga a lot.
If hip-hop is blaring from the speakers: There's a reason tinkly new age music is a yoga cliche: because it helps accomplish one of the goals, which is relaxing and letting go of expectation, competition, and judgement. Hip-hop might be great for a cardio class, but yoga? Not so much.
If the instructor looks like one of the Real Housewives: "When I walk into a class and can feel the teacher’s ego -- if she's had a breast enhancement, is barely dressed, has her hair done and a full face of makeup -- it's more about her than the student's experience," Conte says.
If you can bring your pooch: Dogs are certainly great at stretching and have inspired the iconic downward dog pose. Pets, though, are not great for helping you focus on your alignment and breath ... my cats like to curl up on my chest and my dog enjoys licking my face when I do yoga at home. Endearing, but not enlightening.
How do you choose a good yoga class? Conte says your connection with the instructor is important: Your friend might love one teacher, but her style leaves you cold ... and that's OK. You also want to look for a teacher who's registered with the National Yoga Alliance; they're likely to have a firm foundation in yoga even if they choose to mix it up a little with other disciplines. A studio that's clean and not crammed mat to mat is also likely to be well-run and have good teachers.
"Some people might actually like a little more non-pure type of yoga," Conte says. "It's all about finding the right teacher and right studio."
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