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The Other News Round-Up: Acting the goat

Marelise van der Merwe and Daily Maverick grew up together, so her past life increasingly resembles a speck in the rearview mirror. She vaguely recalls writing, editing, teaching and researching, before joining the Daily Maverick team as Production Editor. She spent a few years keeping vampire hours in order to bring you each shiny new edition (you're welcome) before venturing into the daylight to write features. She still blinks in the sunlight.

Every week, Daily Maverick brings you some of the stranger happenings from South Africa and further afield. This week: goat yoga.

When you were small, did you ever play Simon Says? It always struck me as a singularly pointless game, even when I was tiny. Someone you don’t know from Adam starts whacking their arms and legs about for no apparent reason and you have to do what they do, otherwise you’re out of the game and you can’t have your party pack.

I still feel something of this as an adult, especially when confronted with exercise trends. I feel all the same bewilderment when I see the cool kids squeezing their wobbly bits into preposterous outfits and gushing about spot reduction. For the life of me I can’t understand why one can’t just go for a good old jog in your otherwise useless team-building shirt. But no. Simon says you have to go to twerking classes or POUND (caps compulsory), the air drumming craze that made me wonder if chemical warfare had finally transformed a third of the adult population into teenage boys.

So, my friends, I was not entirely surprised when Reuters this week featured a long interview with purveyors of one of 2017’s top exercise trends: goat yoga. Having kicked off late in 2016 and gone viral early in 2017, goat yoga has gone from strength to strength, gaining an exponentially larger following in a few months. As far as I can glean, it isn’t notably different from conventional yoga, except that it’s a social media driven craze where goats wander about in the studio and occasionally on to the backs and bums of the hapless yogis. The goats, say instructors, bring a “joyful energy” to the room and “bring everyone together”. Classes go for the equivalent of about R300 a pop.

I’ve got to tell you, I’m loving the chutzpah. It’s not every industry that would allow you to pass off the presence of your pets as an extra. Just last month I asked for a bonus on grounds that I keep a parrot in my office. When she’s not biting your finger off, she brings a hilarious energy to the room.

Kidding. But not really.

Sometimes I’m convinced personal trainers are actually just muscle-houses with a really sadistic sense of humour. I don’t blame them. If I were built like gateau de boeuf and needed a few bucks I might just amuse myself by thinking up bonkers new exercises to see how many people fall for it.

Hey, Bob.” I can picture the conversation.

Uh huh.”

You wanna play our game?”

Okay. How about… uh… uh… horse-bracing! Make them squat, gallop and mime cracking a whip but there’s no horse!”

Lolsies. How about, er, Giggelates? Pilates meets laugh therapy to strengthen the core?”

Brilliant. Surfboard cycling!”

Stiletto aerobics!”

Underwater ballroom dancing!”

Air DJing! Chant wikiwiki to work the diaphragm!”

Mosh fit! Headbanging and heavy metal!”

Police Academy! Law enforcement with the meanest trainer in town!”

Frolix! Mime prancing through a meadow! Great for the thighs and mind!”

Chefcercise! Use pots and pans as weights. Scientifically proven to reduce your desire for food!”

They let out a satisfied sigh. Bob wipes a small tear from the corner of his eye, still chuckling.

Good game, bud.”

Good game.”

If you think this is far-fetched, spend a few minutes googling some of the exercise trends of the last few years. May I direct you to surfboard yoga, where you’re expected to balance on a surfboard in a series of challenging balancing poses? Of course, this is only if Doga (yoga aimed at bonding with your dog), aerial yoga or naked yoga didn’t hit the spot.

Or so-called “air conditioning” (nope, not what we thought) which it turns out is just the pretentious name for trampolining. High-heeled workouts (various), in which one apparently overlooks the potential breaking of bones for the benefit of a perter derriere. Indeed, some classes actually include weight lifting in stilettos. All I have to say to that is: don’t do it. This may or may not be due to an incident circa 2009, which may or may not have involved me, a friend’s kid, a skipping rope and a pair of stiletto boots. It also may or may not have involved six months of physio.

There’s more. There’s punk rock aerobics, held in nightclubs during off-peak hours to a soundtrack of, you guessed it, punk rock. The guys who brought us spinning classes have also upped their game. That odd-looking arm cycle you’ve probably never used actually has a name – the Krankcycle, which is not to be confused with any of the bands performing at punk rock aerobics. Buti is an alleged combo of “yoga, strength training and tribal dance” that aims to deal with “problem areas” on women “such as the butt, belly and thighs”. I’m not sure what to say to any of that – from the clinical analysis of “problem areas”, which makes me wonder how far we have actually progressed from the days when it was considered socially acceptable to regard Sara Baartman as a lab specimen; to the unspecified “tribal dances”, because cultural appropriation is totes fine as long as you’re completely ignorant of the culture you’re appropriating.

Then there’s Hoopnotica, a trademarked exercise involving weighted hula hoops; no relation to Hoopilates, a hula hoop/ Pilates hybrid. FitWet, not for the space-saving, is a stationary bike that comes installed in its own jetted hot tub. Because why cycle when you can wet cycle? And why get a Jacuzzi for yourself when you can get one for your bike?

But perhaps the most peculiar exercises are not hybrids but inventions, and they defy description, so we’ve thrown in some visuals. I present to you Kangoo Jumps, an exercise so taxing it apparently resulted in the loss of an entire syllable. Basically, though, it involves jogging on the spot in really odd-looking ski-shaped bouncing boots:

If that isn’t strange enough for you, give Cardioke a bash – Karaoke plus aerobic exercise. Join Billy Blanks and the Cardioke Family for an encouraging song:

And what would any exercise hot list be without Joanna Rohrback’s Prancercise? In Rohrback’s words, it’s “a holistic fitness method” based on “a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation”.

Is it just me or do most of these exercises have one thing in common – people’s desire to be a kid again? Sing a song. Pretend to be a horse. Roller-skate. Go trampolining. Get in your hula hoop.

But me, I always hated Simon Says. So I guess when it comes to exercise crazes, I’ll forgo the party. You can catch me outside, jogging in that otherwise useless team building shirt. DM

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