What Is Rocket Yoga?

If you’ve been researching the world of Power yoga, you might have encountered a style called Rocket.

The name alone implies it is a powerful and dynamic practice, but this unique style isn’t reserved only for advanced yogis and athletes. You’ll likely enjoy Rocket yoga if you enjoy Ashtanga but need something more playful and less rigid.

In this article, you’ll learn the history of Rocket yoga, what makes the practice different from other yoga styles, and how to practice it yourself.

Rocket Yoga Definition

Rocket yoga was created in the 1980s by Larry Schultz after he spent nine years learning Ashtanga yoga. Most of that time was spent learning directly under the tutelage of K. Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga.

Larry was frustrated because he didn’t progress in Ashtanga yoga as fast as he wanted. Traditional Ashtanga yoga allows the student to progress to the next sequence only after mastering all the poses from the prior one, which can take decades to achieve. Like many other western yogis, Larry thought Ashtanga was an elitist practice that doesn’t adapt to different needs and skill levels.

But frustration didn’t make Larry give up yoga. Instead, he developed his own style and, quite controversially, first taught it to the members of the band The Grateful Dead. One of the members, Bob Weir, is credited with creating the name Rocket after he said the famous quote: “Rocket: It gets you there faster.”

During the 90s, Shultz began welcoming many students to his studio situated in San Francisco. Most of his students, and later trained instructors, agreed with his criticism of Ashtanga and enjoyed his approach to making yoga as playful as it can be.

This story reveals what Rocket is  – a dynamic practice based on Ashtanga sequences but designed to cater to all levels, help students progress faster, and encourage them to have tons of fun while doing it.

What Does A Rocket Class Look Like?

Like Ashtanga, Rocket yoga includes several sequences, each more difficult than the previous one. There are three main sequences in Rocket yoga, and they include asanas from all four series of Ashtanga yoga. However, unlike Ashtanga yoga, you don’t need to nail all the postures from the first series to advance to the next one. Instead, you have the freedom to decide which series you want to practice.

If you have experience with Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga, you will see many familiar poses. The main difference is you’ll be encouraged to be playful during class. Although a set sequence does exist, Rocket allows you to modify challenging poses – and there will be many of them. Rocket yoga further encourages you to create your own versions of traditional asanas. In this manner, you can adapt them to your individual physiology and anatomy. A teacher will help you go through a transition or pose in your own way while still ensuring the alignment serves your body.

Difficult poses, particularly arm balances, are the heart of Rocket yoga. The students are slowly taught to learn a variety of such asanas. However, the method of learning is accessible to everyone – nothing is forced or taken too seriously. Rather, you will be advised to stay curious and approach your own body with compassion.

Benefits of Rocket Yoga

Benefits of Rocket yoga may include:

  • Improved mental health
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Better motor control
  • Weight loss and management
  • Improved stability and balance
  • Enhanced strength and flexibility
  • Improved sleeping pattern
  • Stronger lungs
  • Balanced blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Rocket Yoga Poses

Since it developed directly from Ashtanga yoga, Rocket yoga borrows most poses from that style. Each of the three Rocket sequences includes arm-balance poses, forward bends, backbends, standing yoga poses, and hip opening poses. Rocket yoga poses include:

How to Practice Rocket Yoga

Rocket yoga isn’t available in many studios, as there aren’t many teachers dedicated to this style. However, you can try and ask in a nearby yoga studio or fitness center. Even if they don’t offer Rocket yoga classes, the employees might know someone who does. You can also check your location in the official Rocket Teacher Directory.

Another option would be to learn at home through an online class. We share a couple of YouTube videos below, and you can also find courses online.

Regardless of how you decide to practice, note that this style is most appropriate for those who already have some yoga experience. You can build your foundation and learn most of the poses you’ll encounter in Rocket in beginners’ Hatha and Vinyasa classes.

Having experience in other classes will also make you more aware of your body. That awareness will be at the core of your Rocket class once you decide to try it. After all, this style emphasizes how you feel in a pose rather than attaining a perfect shape.

Once you decide to practice Rocket – you can expect to quickly build confidence to try new shapes, maybe even arm balances that currently feel too intimidating. Rocket classes will inspire you to try new things and learn to combine patience and focus with fun and play.

Now, we’ll briefly sum up the three rocket sequences, starting with the easiest one – Rocket 1.

The Rocket Sequences

Rocket 1

Rocket 1 is a sequence for those new to the Rocket yoga style, but it is still quite challenging. This class is designed to help you build a base for more difficult poses in advanced sequences. You will focus on improving flexibility and building core strength. The first arm balances will also be introduced, encouraging you to experiment with these poses right away.

Sometimes, you will also stumble upon a modified Rocket class. These are even simpler and shorter than Rocket I and are perfect for absolute beginners.

Rocket 2

Once you spend some time following Rocket I classes, you will be able to advance to Rocket II. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, you don’t have to master all Rocket I poses to transition to Rocket 2. It’s all up to you and how you feel.

Rocket II complements everything you learned in Rocket I and adds backends, spinal twists, and more arm balancing poses. It offers modifications for many poses in the second or intermediate Ashtanga series, so it’s a perfect introduction if you want to give those a try.

Rocket 3

Rocket III brings together everything you learned in Rocket I and II and includes many twists and folds while also making sure you keep building balance and strength. This series is the most advanced, and you should have a solid foundation as well as knowledge of your body before you attempt it. Even through the most difficult poses and transitions, don’t forget the idea of this style is not to take yourself or your practice too seriously. Rather, use it to explore your body, accept your limitations and play on the mat.

Start Rocket Yoga at Home

Check out these follow-along videos if you can’t make it to a Rocket Yoga studio or want to try it out at home.

Rocket Yoga Express – Modified Rocket I Sequence

Rocket Yoga FAQs

What is Rocket Yoga Good For? 

Rocket yoga is an ideal style for building confidence and physical skills to achieve advanced yoga positions. It’s perfect for yogis who don’t like the strict nature of Ashtanga yoga but still want to attempt arm balances and other challenging poses. It is also a fantastic low-impact cardio workout and builds strength and endurance. These benefits make it an ideal choice if you have physical goals you want to achieve through yoga, like building muscle or losing weight.

Is Rocket Yoga Difficult?

Rocket yoga emphasizes the importance of adapting practice to our unique anatomy and skills. Still, it involves many challenging and complex poses, which are not suitable for absolute yoga beginners. It would be best to try it only after you have some experience in other yoga styles to build your foundation and learn to connect breath to movement.

Who Created Rocket Yoga?

Larry Schultz created Rocket yoga in San Francisco in the 1980s after nine years of learning and practicing Ashtanga yoga under the tutelage of Patthabi Jones. Interestingly, his first students were members of the US rock band the Grateful Dead. He wanted to develop a style more appropriate for western practitioners who don’t like the strict rules of traditional Indian yoga and prefer to advance in their own time and way.

Important: Check with your doctor before trying Rocket Yoga for the first time if you have any injury, illness, pain, or are pregnant.

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