Row brewing over global craze for beer yoga

Balancing act: Over 1,200 people have attended beer yoga classes in London. © Getty

Does doing the “Drunken Row Boat” betray a sacred tradition? Purists have condemned yoga teachers who incorporate beer into their classes. Beer fans say it makes yoga more accessible…

It is a tradition reaching back 5,000 years, a spiritual and physical practice that aims to expand your mind, free you from suffering, and help you to find inner peace.

Now, during classes from New York to Bangkok, it is practiced with bottles of beer balanced on your head.

This is beer yoga, a craze which began two years ago in Berlin.

In London, the first classes were set up by Guzel Mursalimova. She says beer “lowers the barrier” for those who might be intimidated by the practice, especially men.

Yesterday, the UK’s professional body for yoga teachers, YAP, condemned the classes: “Yoga is a sacred practice that has deep philosophical, spiritual roots. Alcohol is not compatible with it.”

In fact, yoga can trace its origins back around 5,000 years to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Over the centuries, it became a spiritual practice in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

For a long time it was mostly practiced by monks, who focused more on the spiritual benefits than Downward Dogs and Sun Salutations. The latter were not introduced until the 1930s, when modern yoga was first being developed with a bigger emphasis on exercise.

Now, yoga is practiced by two billion people around the world.

Is beer yoga a stretch too far?

Health and hoppiness

Yes, say some. It is the latest in a long line of absurd trends, which include goat yoga (yoga with goats) and metal yoga (yoga with heavy metal music). They are invented by people who do not understand its roots. This is cultural appropriation, stealing something sacred away from those who invented it. It is wrong.

It is fine, argue others. Yoga has been evolving and changing for centuries. There are many different branches, and one does not take away from another. Besides, yoga is good for you; the more people who enjoy it, the better.

You Decide

  1. Have you tried yoga, or do you want to?


  1. As a class, do the four-minute desk yoga routine at the top of Become An Expert. Then discuss: How do you feel afterwards?

Some People Say...

“Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements.”

Amit Ray

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Yoga has never been just one thing; there are six different branches, which each focus on different aspects. For example, raja yoga emphasises meditation and spiritual contemplation. Hatha yoga is more about different physical poses, called asana.
What do we not know?
Exactly when or where yoga began. The first references to it are found in texts written around 2,500 years ago.

Word Watch

Yoga Alliance Professionals.
This sentiment has been echoed by the American Yoga Alliance, whose chief ambassador told The Wall Street Journal that: “The goal of yoga is to gradually clear the mind and purify the body and alcohol dulls the mind and body.”
Indus Valley Civilisation
An ancient civilisation which reached from modern-day northeast Afghanistan, over Pakistan, and into northwest India.
A non-violent Indian religion.
Two billion
According to the United Nations.

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