It takes steadfast devotion and an elephant’s memory to keep track of the continuously growing styles of yoga springing up around the world and the countless strings of studios that house the numerous classes. The basic, traditional yoga forms of the East, such as Iyengar, hatha and ashtanga, have morphed into various styles that appeal to those of us in the West by bringing us such tangible results as toned arms and a sweet ass.
With 142 nonstop movements of intense strengthening asanas (postures) that focus primarily on repeatedly lifting oneself off of the ground within a 75-minute session, rocket yoga is no exception. Each class is guaranteed to heat its practitioners up, get them sweating profusely and kick the detoxification into high gear before they can weakly mutter “Om Namah Shivaya.”
For many, simply hearing the term “rocket yoga” may conjure visions of sweaty WWE wrestlers pounding Red Bulls while Pantera guitar riffs blast through the air. The asanas are surely accompanied by moaning and possibly even desperate cries for help as beginners limp sheepishly out the back door while the pro-wrestlers continue their testosterone fest. According to rocket yoga creator Larry Schultz, however, these fears should be as tenderly wiped away as a Tibetan sand mandala. Rocket yoga, he assures, is for everyone.
Rocket yoga is rooted deeply in ashtanga yoga, which was brought to the West from Mysore, India, by K. Pattabhi Jois, or Guruji as his devotees lovingly called him until his death in May 2009. Ashtanga practice swept through the West like wild fire in the 1990s and was promptly picked up by celebrities such as Madonna, Sting and even that wacky Willem Dafoe. The vigorous style of asanas includes a primary series that leads into another hardcore and intimidating six levels that very few of even the most serious yoga students manage to ascend. The goal of this intense style of bending, balancing and lifting postures—intended to flow along with each breath—is to produce balance, strength and clarity of mind for the practitioners.
Schultz developed rocket yoga as a form of exercise for the Grateful Dead to keep them trucking from city to city during their many tours. He took the often vigorous and intense ashtanga yoga style and modified it to be fun, exciting and much easier on beginners than the progressively difficult and challenging ashtanga regimen. Though the word “rocket” tends to imply that the practice is more quickly paced and therefore more difficult, Schultz claims that by taking the hierarchy out of the practice and introducing beginners to the advanced poses, rocket yoga creates a more enjoyable and beneficial situation for everyone.
Schultz, along with his wife, Marie, founded It’s Yoga in San Francisco in 1989 and began teaching classes as well as holding teacher training courses for those serious about learning and sharing his invigorating style. The Schultzes continue to share their abundance of energy and passion for rocket yoga by opening a new studio in the North Bay. While the studio in Glen Ellen focuses on its specialties of workshops and yoga teacher trainings, classes may be offered at a future date.
There is no doubt that rocket yoga challenges the body by taking individual practice to new levels. And surely it challenges the mind as well, provoking such questions as “How in the hell am I supposed to get my legs to do that?” If you aren’t afraid of buckets of sweat pouring into your eyes and burning your corneas, and the sheer thought of huffing and puffing your way to a connection with your inner guru excites and motivates you, rocket yoga may be your next step as a yogi. According to Schultz, his rocket style does indeed get you there faster.
For more information about rocket yoga, including video demonstrations, a schedule of teacher trainings and workshops, visit www.itsyoga.net. It’s Yoga Sonoma Retreat, 14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 707.935.5933