Yoga Purists look away. Things are about to get a bit screwy ‘round here.
I love yoga. I love it for the way it affects my nervous system. I love the way yoga asanas relax the deepest tensions in the body. I love the way the breath work calms the mind. Meditation? I’m not the biggest fan but this is more my problem than yoga’s and, frankly, I’m the first to admit I could use a good meditate. I love yoga philosophy for its insights into living and human nature. Yoga is AWESOME.
But it’s missing something.
That something is ZUMBA (sorry if you just choked on your kichari, I did warn you).
If you’ve been living under a rock (or in an ashram) for the past 10 years, Zumba is like aerobics, only J-Lo style. If you don’t know who J-Lo is… oh forget it. Zumba is aerobics with booty and hips. Every routine is flavoured with a Latin dance style – salsa, cumbia, merengue, reggaeton, samba… It’s the most fun you can have with sneakers on.
If yoga had Zumba, it would be the complete package. Why? Yoga devotees will tell you that yoga works the whole health of the body but when it comes to cardiovascular health, yoga doesn’t really work the heart muscle as effectively as some other forms of exercise – in a physical sense. Sure, it can get your heart rate up (try doing 20 sun salutations without a resting breath) but it just doesn’t have the kind of aerobic intensity that really works and improves cardio fitness, which is really important for good physical health.
Apart from fitness applications (which yoga isn’t REALLY for at the end of the day), Zumba opens the heart about ten-fold. The music lifts the spirit. The dance opens the soul. When I do Zumba I just want to hug myself and people (even awful people). Zumba is extraverting – it thrusts you out into the world. And much of yoga is really introverting – it draws you inward. Unlike Zumba, there’s not a lot of gay abandon in yoga. You should be wearing underpants at all times and refrain from being too ‘look at me’ or from rolling your hips for any other purpose than for lubricating the hip joint to prepare for long sittings in meditation… things like that.
Yoga purists will disagree with me. They may highlight Kirtan as the Zumba of yoga. But I’ve tried kirtan over and over again and I must admit, I would rather put a bucket on my head and ram it into a wall for half an hour. Apologies to kirtanist friends and supporters. You are all fabulous and I love you dearly. But kirtan does not make me want to hug you. It makes me want to run screaming into the hills. I am no bhakti yogi.
Here’s the controversial conclusion. Zumba is a path to higher consciousness. There. I said it. Hopefully Krishna will not smite me. I don’t think he will. He liked to dance too.
© The Yoga Experiment, 2013