We shine a spotlight on the most inspired and rewarding alternatives to yoga
There’s little doubt that yoga – the physical, mental and spiritual discipline which traces it roots back over 2,500 years and is one of India’s most significant cultural exports – has become a go-to for escaping the trappings of modern life. Practitioners are enticed by yoga’s ability to calm and focus the mind while strengthening and stretching the body. It’s an alluring, and often addictive combination which comes in many forms, from gentle but deceptively challenging Vinyasa, to brutal yet invigorating Bikram.
Such is the (well-deserved) dominance of yoga in our psyche that it has become a natural and obvious exercise to turn to. But here at AnOther, we think it's time to showcase an array of revitalising and equally beneficial alternatives to yoga; they promise equally rewarding results but will also provide a fascinating talking point when all others can discuss is whether they have yet mastered Sirasana (that’s a headstand, by the way).
Perhaps you took classes as a child or have simply marvelled at the beauty and rigour of professional ballerinas, but ballet is often thought of as a profession rather than an accessible form of exercise. In fact, there is now ample opportunity to master a plié, with adult ballet classes becoming more widely available. It may not be feasible to become the next Misty Copeland, but fabulous grace and posture will be the happy results of regular sessions. AnOther recommends London's Central School of Ballet or Ballet for You, which offer an extensive timetable of classes for all levels. While across the pond, Mary Helen Bowers' famed Ballet Beautiful is frequented by the likes of lithe-limbed beauties such as Alexa Chung, Gigi Hadid and Natalie Portman.
At first glance it may seem hard to equate a brightly coloured climbing wall or a blustery cliff with the calming effects of yoga, but we urge you to reconsider. Physically, climbing and abseiling will concentrate on strengthening each and every muscle, even the tiniest (yet often most important) ones, in a similar way to an all-over yoga routine. Meanwhile, a steely determination and bravery is required to carry oneself ever further off the ground – just think of the endorphin highs that will come once the summit is reached. Begin your foray into climbing at Castle Climbing in Stoke Newington, or The Arch near London Bridge.
Eschew stuffy studios and wrangling for mat space in favour of learning the basics of parkour, the discipline which uses swinging, rolling, running and jumping to navigate the urban landscape. It's an impressively skillful art which will absorb all the power of your concentration and challenge your body in new thrilling and dynamic ways. Parkour Generations offers classes across the world.
4: Contemporary Dance
With techniques borrowed from a rich variety of dance genres, from jazz to classical, contemporary dancers always exude an enviable sense of freedom and flow which each of us would surely love to learn to capture with our own bodies. There's also an improvisational element which is sure to delight those in search of a new form of expression. Consider signing up for classes at Rambert, one of the foremost modern dance companies, where a selection of adult classes are available.
One of yoga's most intriguing features is the way it pushes the body to its limits of flexibility and strength, whilst to the onlooker the movements are effortlessly graceful. There's a similar dichotomy at play in the circus art of trapeze, which uses swings, ropes and silks to create artful air routines. Those who have taken up the trapeze and its gravity defying capabilities are evangelical about its transformative qualities for both mind and body. Learn Trapeze at Evolve in Manchester and Aerialand in London.
6: Brazillian Jiu Jitsu
Many martial arts have the same age-old heritage and well established belief structures which often seem to set yoga apart. Originally derived from judo, Brazillian jiu jitsu prides itself on teaching weaker opponents to overcome stronger ones through perfected technique and highly-targeted moves. What’s more, the practice is a favourite among Hollywood actors such as Ashton Kutcher and Naomi Watts looking to prepare for roles in action films. Take up Brazillian jiu jitsu under the guidance of Roger Gracie, one of the world’s foremost experts, at his academy in London or try one of Fight Factory’s numerous classes.