Suzanne McGill explains what rocket yoga is while practising floating lotus pose

It’s taken Ireland by storm, with more and more studios offering classes, but what is rocket yoga and why should you give it a try?

We caught up with yoga teacher Suzanne McGill who’s become a rocket convert about what she loves about the practice, what newcomers can expect and why it’s called rocket!

What is rocket yoga?

Rocket Yoga is based on ashtanga vinyasa yoga. It was created by the late Larry Schultz who studied under Pattabhi Jois (the founder of ashtanga) in India for years during the 1980s. When he returned to America he opened up his own studio. He could see his students were unable to get into many of the postures in Ashtanga primary series, especially things like lotus and postures with binds. He could see they were getting sort of ‘stuck’ in the sequence and not progressing. So he switched it up and decided to blend 1st, 2nd and 3rd series of ashtanga together (into rocket 1,2 & 3). He added modifications so students could have a more well-rounded practice and get a chance to try all the postures.

What’s the difference between rocket and ashtanga?

Rocket allows for lots of variations and modifications of all posture to suit the practitioner’s level. It’s very adaptable. ashtanga is a little bit more strict. You need to be able to execute the pose within the set sequence before your teacher gives you the next one. There are no props in ashtanga either whereas you can use props in rocket. There’s also no music in ashtanga. Depending on your teacher, music is used to help lift the energy in the rocket practice.

What benefits does it bring?

It’s quite a fun and invigorating practice. A lot of people leave the class feeling more energized. Due to the nature of the vinyasas and things like arm balances you’ll find yourself developing both strength and flexibility quite fast.

Many yoga practices tend to focus more so on a range of motion (eg. passive forward folds) and less so on building strength and stability that the stronger poses and transitions can provide.

Is rocket yoga suitable for beginners?

Yes, it’s suitable for beginners. Patience is certainly key at the start. I actually think it’s a really good practice for beginners because the sequences are set. The opening part is always the same. You are exposed to the same poses again and again. The consistency would potentially make the initial learning process of the postures a bit easier.

Why do you love rocket yoga?

I think I love rocket so much because it’s so fun – we lead pretty serious lives as it is. This practice is a nice deviation from all that. It’s fast so you give things a go. There’s not tons on time spent on focusing on one pose, you get the chance to try it every time. I love playing around with things like arm balances and handstands.

In flow classes, a teacher might teach crow pose or handstands once in a while. In rocket you get the chance to practice pose like crow, handstands, forearm stands, headstands etc in every class. I noticed a massive improvement in my practice when I started doing rocket. I also love the fact it’s a set sequence, when I get up in the morning I don’t have to think up a flow to do (not great at that thing first thing in the morning). Instead I just get into one of the rocket sequences.

What can people expect from a rocket class?

Prepare to be challenged and definitely sweat. But also prepare to laugh and have fun and potentially do something you thought you could do before.

Do you need to be fit to start with?

Not necessarily no. As it’s a modified practice everyone can take it at their own pace. I always give students the option to come down and take a rest if they need to. I emphasis the fact that it’s a yoga practice and not a boot camp – everyone is moving to their own level.

What would people be surprised to know about rocket yoga?

It was coined rocket yoga by the band The Grateful Dead. Larry was their personal yoga teacher and regularly went on tours with them in the 90s. When they asked Larry what he was teaching them he didn’t have a name so they called it the rocket –  “because it gets you there faster!”

More information about Suzanne’s classes are available here

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