Posted on July 04 2020
While yoga has it's roots buried deep in India, animal flow is gaining quite the popularity in recent times.
What is Animal Flow?
I remember seeing the below video by equinox 5 odd years ago and dreaming of being able to do some of the moves:
Though the movements shown in the video are not exaggerated and anyone with even a basic level one animal flow certification can do them, the special effects with the fire and forest sure does make this style of fitness fancier than attending an Animal Flow class in person.
Animal flow is like a synchronised bodyweight dance, except, you do not really have to like (or be good at) dancing. You create your own choreography and dance to your own tunes as you flow from one animal movement to another. It lacks pattern and yet follows a structure. Here is my video enjoying some animal flow in the rain.
Animal flow is an inspiration born out of observing animals coupled with some martial arts and some yoga. I could almost call is moving meditation but boy is it hard! It is challenging and requires you to work your core, wrist and forearms (among everything else). Once you develop strength and mobility though, it is like moving meditation.
If I have sold you on animal flow already, wait till you hear me talk about yoga ;).
What is yoga?
Yoga is more than just a form of fitness. It is decades of perfecting an art. Yoga is scientific. It is much more than just a physical practice to strengthen your body, it includes principles of wellness. "In Mahayana Buddhism, the practice of yoga for both spiritual and meditative use was known as Yogachara which consisted of eight significant steps of meditation called “insight'."
Yoga, literally is moving meditation. As much as I enjoy Animal Flow, I cannot live without a few yoga practice session's per week. Here is me flowing through yoga:
Every day with yoga is different because everyday your body feel's different. Unlike Animal Flow, you cannot really perfect a move in yoga. Every asana (posture) you practice can be improved upon and will be slightly different on either side of the body. This is exciting because you can stay a student forever.
Physical fitness of course by itself has many disease reversing properties, but Yoga as a science is practised for disease reversal. From working on improving lung capacity and in turn respiratory health by synchronising your breath with your movement to specific asana's practised for specific organs of the body, yoga is vast.
The practice of yoga also preaches a certain change in lifestyle and diet to compliment the exercises. There is so much to learn around the subject of yoga that one lifetime is not enough. With time, and for different purposes, yoga has branched itself into multiple sub forms such as yin yoga (slow- paced yoga with longer holds incorporating principles of traditional Chinese medicine's) and Bikram yoga (sequence of 26 asana's practised in a hot room at 40% humidity).
Want to try your first yoga class? I suggest you let Briohny inspire you for the same. She is brilliant, warning, you will be hooked!
So what is similar between the two forms of fitness?
Both require discipline and patience. You cannot walk into your first class and expect to out perform others, no matter how flexible you are or what your fitness level is.
To flow from one pose to another gracefully is an art and will take some time to develop. Once you get that, to flow without instructions and think one move ahead of where you are while still gracefully holding the previous move is another art and requires uni directional concentration.
This is what I love about both of these practices, it requires you to shut the thought traffic in your head and focus on the task at hand. Even a second you divert your thinking, you will fall out of the pose. Its beautiful and no matter what your fitness level, I suggest you try it. Unlike strength training, where you get a few minutes of socialising between each set, here you are constantly moving from one pose to the next and requires you to be in the present for 30- 60 minutes.
If you are constantly stuck in a loop of negative thoughts some days and cannot seem to shake it off out minds, try one of the above practices to help you just forget everything for a few minutes and work on yourself. This is what fitness should be, it should just take you in a thoughtless state for a few minutes.
This is not me trying to put going to the gym down, trust me, strength training is and always be my first love. But there is an aspect of socialisation and judgement that comes with strength training. For those who cannot shut their mind off and bury themselves into their headphones, it can be quite distracting and might take away the meditation aspect of fitness.
So what is the difference between the two?
It does cater to difference audience based on your fitness level.
Animal flow might not work that well with beginners who have yet to develop forearm strength and wrist mobility. Yoga though has asana's specific to beginners.
If I were taking a beginners Animal flow class, I would include some animal flow exercises and couple them with core activation, mobility drill and flexibility training. I cannot do a 60 minute all animal flow series for beginners because they would injure themselves.
If I were taking a yoga for beginners sessions though, we would start with breathing exercises (part of yoga) and move on to asana's specific to beginners and maybe even go back and create a short flow of asana's (vinyasa yoga). It would be all yoga and core activation drills that are part of yoga asana's.
Animal flow definitely requires some prior experience with regard to physical fitness. For a beginner I suggest you explore some yoga first and focus on developing forearm strength and wrist flexibility before jumping into Animal flow. That being said, there is no harm trying to find some animal walk video's on Youtube and try them in your living room :)
If you want to try a love child of both these forms, check out my Bodyweight Bootcamp and sign up for a free trial.