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LA’s ROCKET YOGA hits London

rocket 1

Everyone’s heard of hot yoga, but what about rocket yoga? Sometimes called the original power yoga, American yogi Larry Schultz created rocket in the 80s but it only started reaching wide popularity in the States a few years ago. Schultz developed rocket yoga as a form of exercise for the Grateful Dead to keep them bendy and fit while on tour. He took the vigorous, flowing ashtanga yoga style – the one Madonna and Sting gushed about in the 90s – and modified it to be more fun and easier on beginners than the intense and serious astanga regimen.

Now it’s made its way to the UK. The goal of rocket is to use repetition and increased speed along with coordinated breathing to create heat (read: sweat), focus and flow. The simple goal is to ‘get you there faster’, ideally getting you farther and deeper into your moves than other classes would in the same amount of time.

For those in London, yoga haunt Yotopia is offering Rocket Yoga classes outdoors in St. Martins Courtyard in Covent Garden every Friday at 5:15pm for the rest of the summer – with payment by donation. That means you can try it out for a few pounds between shopping mini-jaunts or after work.

rocket warrior

The class is in a pedestrian area between a storefront and a Thai restaurant’s outdoor eating area, which lends itself to quite a few entertaining moments. At one point a cyclist pedaled right through the class and diners cheered us on during one of the more challenging periods of the flow. This class is a great way to enjoy the summer, mix up your fitness routine and improve your yoga ability at the same time.

rocket dancer

While I’m more than content with a slow yoga class to help relax and focus body and mind, some people crave something a little more dynamic and that’s where Rocket Yoga comes in. A Vinyasa flow (a discipline focused on linked flowing moves and coordinating breath) with increased speed and difficulty, Rocket Yoga is a great compromise for yogis of all types.

rocket hstandThe rocket class which includes all of the standard and beloved poses – a few good minutes of sun salutations, all of the warriors, and trees – along with more challenging moves, think headstands and handstands, and positions that look more like pretzel folds than anything humans should do.

The best part of rocket yoga is that it pushes you, and this may just be to the credit of the instructor  a rather excitable man who most definitely looks like he’d be a yoga teacher, all lean muscle and hip veganish style.  He’s also perfected moves I could never dream of, like lifting himself off the ground from a sitting position with just his arms; legs and rear in the air. This was genuinely the only part of the class where I was thinking: ‘Yeah right, like that’s going to happen.’

Through the consistent speed of the flow, repetition of sequences, and integration of more complicated moves like the aforementioned headstands, handstands, and crazy difficult lifts requiring superhuman upper body strength, you are forced to deepen and improve the moves you already have and get just that much closer to the moves you thought you’d never get (with a bit of help from the instructor I even managed to do a headstand for a few seconds). I found myself in positions I hadn’t even thought of since my pre-teen years as a gymnast. At one point I had my knee pulled up over my shoulder while holding my foot to my chest, I didn’t even know I could still do something like that.

Outside of surprising myself with my ability (though not perfectly or necessarily gracefully) to execute more exotic moves I also found rocket’s claim of ‘getting you there faster’ to be true. It usually takes me about half a class to stretch and warm up enough to get a nice flat-footed downward dog, during rocket I was able to do the same halfway through but with increased difficulty; my hips higher in the air and my legs and arms farther apart.

There are no excuses and no judgement in this class, you have to at least attempt to execute every move in the class. Even though the class contained 20-something casual yogis, 20-something yoga masters, middle aged women who just got off work and a man in jeans who our instructor affectionately called ;jeans man’ we were told that ‘everyone has to at least get their feet off the ground’ during the handstand sequence according to the instructor.

Even though it was outside in the middle of a London heat wave the class was not miserably hot. The time of day and shadows from the surrounding buildings lent the class a warm but comfortable outdoor atmosphere. I did sweat pretty profusely, but that was from the practice itself and not the heat. I would absolutely recommend wearing an exercise tank top of some type; if I had worn the t-shirt I originally planned on wearing I would have been a sticky mess on the already hot Tube ride home.

When I left my body felt great; relaxed, stretched, content and capable (my favorite post-workout emotion). The next morning I was incredibly sore and a little stiff, although I’m sure the three hours of dancing in Camden later that night didn’t help. What can I say? When I dance its go hard or go home, and who can show restraint when Rihanna is pumping through the speakers?


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