Yoga now a serious business

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 10:10 09/01/2014
hot yoga
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/ Fairfax NZ

HOT WORKOUT: Kate Burford takes a Bikram yoga class.

Bikram yoga Kate Burford
BIKRAM YOGA: Kate Burford's classes can be up to 40 degrees Celsius.
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Giggles, acrobatics and tropical temperatures are now part and parcel of the yoga package in Canterbury. 

Regular old yoga just isn't enough for the latest wave of yoga enthusiasts.

Laughter yoga, bikram yoga, hot yoga and even acroyoga are taking off, and each has its unique appeal. 

Hannah Airey runs the St Albans Laughter Club where a good old belly laugh is just the ticket.

Airey got into laughter as a stress therapy about eight years ago and since then has seen it provide huge relief for Cantabrians under pressure. 

''When you laugh, you can't think of anything else,'' she said. ''It's about choosing to laugh instead of waiting for it to happen.''

Laughter yoga involves going to a workshop where laughter is simulated through exercises and deep diaphragm breathing. 

''You can fake laughter. Your body doesn't know the difference, and pretty soon, you are genuinely laughing. It's not about having your bottom up in the air and laughing.''

Airey said laughter had many benefits including increased circulation and oxygen in the blood, relaxation and the release of NKT cells used to fight diseases like cancer.

''It doesn't cure things, but it helps,'' she said. ''Even if you're not in a good mood, when you laugh you change every cell in your body.''

Bikram yoga is on the rise in Christchurch. The original ''hot yoga'', it involves doing yoga sequences in higher temperatures. 

Kate Burford runs the Christchurch Bikram yoga franchise. Classes are held in heated rooms, sometimes as high as 40 degrees Celsius. 

The theory behind Bikram is that when the body is warmed up, the muscles can stretch more easily, allowing deeper stretches with less chance of damage. 

''It was the first thing I ever did that had a real emotional and mental impact on me,'' Burford said.

The Bikram classes are full with many getting back into yoga after an indulgent holiday break.

''Lots are struggling with detox,'' Burford said. 

Bikram is a specialised form of hot yoga. Those who don't want to conform to the strict Bikram structure often go out on their own.

In Christchurch there are a handful of non-Bikram hot yoga operators, and classes are busy. 

Perhaps the most unusual form of yoga in Christchurch is the upcoming AcroYoga, with  classes being held next month.

Trevor Gribble and Amanda Farrell are promoting AcroYoga as a fun evening of partner-based yoga, combining contemporary acrobatics, Thai massage and traditional yoga.

Mums 'n' Tums is running regular pregnancy yoga classes which involve a series of physiotherapy exercises with a Swiss ball.

Classes can reduce back pain and help mothers recover more quickly after pregnancy.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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