Do you hate spin class, CrossFit, and workouts that involve people with conventionally “perfect” bodies yelling at you? Are you a millennial having an existential crisis? If you answered yes to both or either of these questions, I highly recommend spiritual yoga.
When I hear the term “yoga,” I automatically think of girls with perky butts doing the splits. The truth is, though, yoga was never meant to turn into what it is now. Many people forget, or just flat-out don’t know, that yoga was around looooong before Lululemon started charging $125 for stretchy fabric. Yoga originated in India all the way back in 3,000 BCE (Boomers hadn’t even been born yet). Its original purpose was to serve as a practice to help people achieve Samadhi, a state of pure awareness. Since its creation, yoga has branched off into a ton of different forms. They all maintained the common goal of connecting the mind and the body, just in different ways.
The thing is that the kind of fitness yoga that is so popular now tends to take the mind out of the equation and focuses on just the body. Basically, Americans did what we do best: we commercialized something meaningful and rebranded it into a way to achieve “hotness.” A spiritual yoga class probably won’t get you much closer to achieving Michelle Obama’s toned arms or Rihanna’s phenomenal ~cake~ but that’s kind of the whole point. It hangs on to the dangling thread of the mind-body connection. One of the best things you can do going into a spiritual yoga class is drop the CorePower Yoga mindset of “I’m paying $150 a month for this, so I better look bomb in a bikini.” If anything, just don’t overthink the experience. That being said though, here are some things I probably should’ve thought about before my first spiritual yoga class.
Finding A Spiritual Yoga Class
“Yoga” has turned into such a broad term that it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting into when you sign up for a yoga class. Here are a few signs that a class involves fitness yoga: the class uses the words “burn” or “sculpt” in its name, your friend suggests you take the class as a way to get over a hangover, or the studio the class is held in has floor-to-ceiling windows so the public can watch you like some sort of zoo animal in spandex. Spiritual yoga classes will usually reference specific types of yoga in their names/descriptions. The type of class I did involved hatha yoga. Some other common types of spiritual yoga include ashtanga and vinyasa yoga. The website YogiApproved offers a quiz to help you decide which form of spiritual yoga best fits you. So, take a break from BuzzFeed quizzes on what type of cheese matches your zodiac sign and try it out.
Once you’ve figured out what type of spiritual yoga you’re interested in, the obvious next step is to turn to the almighty Google. Include the name of the specific type of spiritual yoga you are looking for in your area, and, depending on where you live, you should find a decent amount of studios that offer these classes. Keep in mind that just by typing in the word “yoga” your search page will also include some of the big-name yoga studios like CorePower or YogaWorks. The likelihood of you finding traditional spiritual yoga classes at one of these studios is slim to none. Your best bet is to stick to the smaller studios. Think of the big-name studios as Olive Garden, and the smaller studios as a family owned Italian restaurant. While Olive Garden can offer you a great deal on an endless amount of breadsticks and salads, you can’t go in there expecting nonna in the back cooking her baked ziti recipe that’s been passed down in the family for generations.
It’s okay if you don’t own a $200 matching spandex outfit. In my opinion, nobody should. For spiritual yoga, throw on your $30 leggings, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little money saver’s high when you tell the woman who pulled up to class in a Range Rover that they’re from Target. Do NOT wear a loose T-shirt, though. It will expose your boobs during a majority of the positions, and you might feel the urge to say “oopsies” each time you pull it back down. Also, keep in mind that the people in these classes are usually the type who own multiple shirts that have different plays on the phrase “namaste” written on them. So, avoid wearing tops that say things like “I swear to drunk I’m not God” (totally random example…I didn’t definitely do this).
Before the class begins, you might be offered the opportunity to choose from essential oils with names that sound more like titles of Enya songs than actual fragrances. The scents are supposed to evoke different emotions/states of mind. Lavender is meant to calm you, peppermint helps with focus, tea tree makes you flashback to drinking too much vodka then throwing up in a Pizza Hut, etc. So, if you’re unsure of what emotion “myrrh” is supposed to bring out, just ask the instructor. When you pick one, remember that these oils are not poppers. Do not stick the vile directly under your nose and huff it like you are in a bathroom stall at a night club. Just rub one on the inside of your wrists and pretend that “sandalwood” doesn’t actually smell like a cedar closet that someone has been chain-smoking in.
One thing that really separates spiritual yoga from your typical fitness yoga is that the poses go beyond butt sculpting. Each of the poses have a different story and meaning behind them. My personal favorite pose was the “corpse pose” which consists of one of my biggest passions, lying on the ground. The corpse pose has a pretty literal meaning—you’re mimicking death in order to prepare yourself for it, which is actually very millennial for an ancient practice.
The “warrior pose” is a deep lunge accompanied by what essentially looks like pointing a finger gun in the air. This pose symbolizes the God, Shiva, who created a warrior, Virabhadra when she got pissed and ripped out another God’s hair (not in a Jersey Shore way, but in a dignified way). I respect the hell out of Shiva, and I suggest you look her up if you’re in need of some “I am woman, hear me roar” energy. The overall meaning behind the warrior pose is to overcome our ego and ignorance, and, if social media has shown us anything, it’s that most people are stupid and full of themselves.
The “tree pose” has to do with an epic poem (epic meaning a type of poem, not how people described skateboard tricks in the mid-2000s) about a woman named Sita who waited out in the woods for her exiled husband to return. Sita isn’t waiting for her man in the toxic Disney princess kind of way. She is using waiting for him as a time to practice patience, and this pose is your chance to practice this very important life skill for dealing with people’s BS. The tree pose is basically standing as firmly as you can with your arms by your side.
Some of you might be thinking that these poses sound nothing like the type of workout positions that will make you feel sore the next day. Once again, remember that you are not there for abs. You are there for something way more meaningful than 300 likes on a bikini pic. This is only a brief rundown on a few of the poses. Take some time to learn about the stories and meanings behind the poses you can expect during a spiritual yoga class. You will get so much more out of it.
At one point, the instructor was helping me get into a position that I’m pretty sure I saw a Russian gymnast do during the Olympics, and… how can I put this delicately… I “ripped ass.” I braced myself for the middle school moment when the earth stops turning, and everyone in class turns around so they can really punch in the humiliation. But, something amazing happened. The teacher patted me on the shoulder like the kind of mother I’ve always wanted and said, “Goooood. Let it out.” I was receiving praise for performing a bodily function, which is the kind of energy I’ve been searching for my entire life. This is what true self-acceptance must feel like. So, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be alarmed. That’s just the sound of your unhealthy lifestyle leaving your body.
The Singing Bowl
No, that is not a pill crusher your instructor just whipped out. It’s a “singing bowl.”
The singing bowl started in ancient Tibet. It’s basically a metal bowl that emits a sound when you circle the top of it with a mallet. This is not like when people wet their fingers and play “Viva La Vida” on wine glasses. The sounds that the bowl produces are frequencies that target different mind vibrations. Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out. I won’t go deep into the science behind it because I’m the type of person who hears “beta” and thinks of a fraternity, not the brainwaves. Essentially, the sound frequencies stabilize different parts of your brain, which results in a calming effect. When the instructor first started using the singing bowl, I started peeking around to see if everyone else was buying into this. They were. Even Range Rover Lady seemed at a higher level of peace. So, I accepted that, as a person who could receive a medal for excellence in paranoid thinking, I’m not above giving vibrations a try. It felt like three years of therapy within five minutes. So, GIVE IN TO THE VIBRATIONS! Give in to every part of the spiritual yoga experience.
If you’re living in an area that doesn’t offer any in-person spiritual yoga classes, or you’re trying to be COVID-conscious, online classes are a superb option. YouTube has taught us about everything from the electoral college, to algebra, to making guacamole, to perfecting the smokey eye, etc. So, why shouldn’t we give it a shot to teach us spiritual yoga? There are soooo many classes on YouTube that can offer you an authentic experience for whatever type of spiritual yoga you are interested in. There are also yoga-specific websites that offer online spiritual yoga classes. These sites usually require you to pay for classes or for a subscription, but they are great for keeping you on a schedule. Whatever type or way you choose to practice spiritual yoga, I encourage you to give in to the full experience. If you do, you WILL thank me and feel free to send me an Edible Arrangement. Namaste, Betches!
Images: Dane Wetton / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
One of the hardest things for me is trying to fit in a workout when I’m super busy. Or I just like, don’t feel like it. It’s easy to cut out a workout because you simply don’t feel like you have enough time. HOWEVER. An easy way to streamline this process is by working out at home. That way, you can do it even if you only have 30 minutes, when you get home from work, first thing in the morning, whatever you want without wasting any more time. So if you’re trying to find what you can do that won’t take up a ton of space in your teensy, closet-sized apartment, here are some things you should have on hand.
Resistance bands are so easy to use, super versatile, easy to store, and the best part, really cheap. This band is only $10! You can do tons of workouts with it that are just as good as strength training with weights, as well as increase your flexibility. Just wrap it around anything or step on it for resistance and boom, instant gym! And when you’re done using it, you can just fold it up and toss it literally anywhere because it’s so compact. I think most at-home workout equipment is such a scam (like, why buy a $400 squat machine when you just can just squat with your body? I don’t understand?) and usually way overpriced, but a resistance band is a have-t0-have. If you’re unsure of ways to use your resistance band, you can even buy a poster full of workout ideas, not to mention the one million Youtube videos available for free to give you ideas.
I used to be so obsessed with yoga, but because of my recent health issues, I’m not allowed to go to a public gym right now. Yoga studios in general are very expensive (at least in LA!) and you often pay per class instead of just a monthly membership. Enter: yoga cards. You just shuffle them up, pick a card, and there’s your new yoga teacher. It’s especially awesome for people who already know the basics but just are not sure what to do when working out at home without an instructor. Plus, you’ll be doing a new “class” every time since the cards will be in a different order, and you can do as much or as little as you want.
There are so many workouts you can do with just a tiny weights set. The cool thing about having a set of dumbbells is that you get strength training and cardio at the same time if you do a circuit system. If you don’t know where to start, check out YouTube, or there are posters and cards for these also. Plus, this particular set is cute enough to sit out in the open without taking up half your apartment or being a total eyesore.
Les Mills On Demand
My friends all swear by Les Mills classes, and while tons of gyms do their classes, they also have really good at-home instructional videos. They have all kinds of strength building, cardio, barre, and even yoga classes, and it’s only $14.99 a month. In addition, their classes are between 15-55 minutes so if you’re really short on time, you can still fit a workout in. You can stream them on any device too, including your phone. This is perfect for the unmotivated, or the idiot who doesn’t really know what they’re doing (hi). *Disclaimer: I don’t know if they’re doing Les Mills in the GIF, I just like the dog.
Okay, a Fitbit isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s cheaper than paying for a gym for the rest of your life that you never set foot in. We take for granted one of the easiest ways to incorporate exercise without going to the gym, and that, my friend, is walking. It is free. But if you don’t walk or move enough, it may be time to invest in a Fitbit (or Apple Watch, or whatever wearable tech you want). Having a Fitbit can motivate you to just move more in general, and anything can be exercise as long as it puts you closer to getting those 10,000 steps. Putting away laundry, cleaning your apartment, taking the stairs—all of it counts toward your steps for the day and will help to get you off your ass. Of course, you could just do this without the Fitbit, but it’s nice to actually see exactly how much progress you make.
You definitely need a yoga mat to exercise at home, and not just for yoga. A yoga mat provides extra cushion for your weird, textured vinyl apartment floor for you to do tons of different exercises, like abs, pilates, and your pre- and post-workout stretching. It also makes you feel more in the zone for working out, as opposed to lying on your rug while your dog tries to make out with you. Like, I am ~*exercising*~ now, dog kisses need to wait.
This one can be kind of annoying to store, but exercise balls are SO cheap, and you can always deflate it and stick it in a closet before The Queen (your mom) visits. You can do a ton of exercises with just the ball, particularly abs and core stuff. And, as an added bonus, it’s way better for you and your body to use an exercise ball in lieu of a chair for studying or working out at home.
This is great in addition to or even instead of a dumbbells purchase. Kettlebells are awesome because they’re pretty compact and you can do a lot with them. Hold one (or even two) to squat and get a Kim K ass without the surgery, use them to up your leg workouts, and to tone your arms. Plus, you can just up your reps when it starts to be too easy and replace it with a heavier weight when you’re strong enough, instead of storing an entire set. And they’re really inexpensive! See how you can use them here.
Images: Amazon (5); Giphy (2)
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Also known as high-intensity interval training, HIIT classes involve lots of sweating, heavy breathing, and typically burpees. As the name implies, they are structured in intervals of high-intensity workouts. Typically, you push yourself to the maximum for 20 to 90 seconds before taking a short break and doing it all again. Due to the intensity of the workout (say “intensity” again), you can burn up to 900 calories in an hour. The harder you work, the more you’ll burn. Either way, you’ll for sure need a shower and nap after this workout.
If you want a major confidence boost, take up kickboxing. This high-intensity workout will test your balance, endurance, strength, coordination, and flexibility. Not to mention, you’ll feel like a total badass when you master a mean uppercut. A 155-pound woman could burn around 740 calories in an hour of kickboxing class. Speaking from experience, you’ll work legit every muscle in your body, and I can guarantee you’ll be so sore the next day. Have fun walking upstairs!
Personally, cycling is my favorite workout. The high energy and fun music makes me forget about how much the instructor is kicking my ass. According to this calculator, you could burn 637 calories for a one-hour spin class working at mid-intensity (which means that you could still have a conversation). Personally, I can barely breathe midway through a spin class, let alone have a conversation, but sure.
Say what you want about the people who swear by it, but this workout is no joke, and you’re able to burn almost 800 calories in an hour (so I guess those bros are doing something right). It’s a high-intensity, constantly changing workout that involves exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. Honestly, I don’t feel like I need to explain it further—if you want to know more just go up to the nearest person you know who does CrossFit and breathe in their direction and they’ll tell you all about it.
This workout may be hard, but it is never boring. It combines a variety of different exercises to work different muscle groups that you move through with a short or no break in between. Your heart will be racing basically as soon as you start. In a one-hour class (or workout you do yourself, which I’m v impressed you are motivated to do), you could burn up to 547 calories.
Well for starters, it’s hot, which some people hate but I personally love. You sweat balls, which always makes me feel like I’m working 10 times harder that I probably am. The heat also helps you release toxins and loosens your muscles so you can have a deeper stretch. For an hour hot yoga session, you could burn up to 500 calories. You can also improve flexibility and reduce stress.
I don’t think I’ve ever left a barre class when my legs don’t feel like Jell-O. Even though I danced ridiculous hours as a child, these classes are very hard. In case you missed the trend, barre is a combination of ballet, yoga, and pilates poses and exercises to work muscles you never even knew you had (or at least, that’s the case for myself). You can burn more than 400 calories in an hour class and tone your muscles. These ballet-inspired classes will make you feel like a classy ballerina.
Sometimes there’s not enough time, or motivation, in the day to get to the gym. And sometimes, we simply don’t have the funds for a membership (or you’d rather spend what little money you have on food or alcohol…no judgment). But, thanks to the invention of the smartphone, you don’t have to actually step foot in a gym to get your workout in. There are a lot of good fitness apps that require a paid subscription, but I’m going to go ahead and jump to the conclusion that if you don’t want to spend $10 a month to go to Planet Fitness or wherever, you probably also don’t want to spend money for an app, either. That’s why I picked out my top five favorite free fitness apps to download and get sweating to. (I don’t feel bad anymore about seeing 5 + hours at the end of the day on my screen time…I’m working out!) Grab your weights and your cutest pair of leggings, and let’s get started.
1. Workout For Women
This app offers categories of workouts for every muscle in your body, including abs, butt, back, shoulders, arms, and more. The exercises are mostly for your at-home gym sesh, but they do offer a few workout routines for during the day, like “deskercise”, “chair exercises”, and “office stretch”… but please, be low-key if you’re doing them at work. What I love about this app is that they offer plenty of workouts that you can do in only seven minutes. These include 7M Butt, 7M Sweat, and 7M Beginner. I love these guides because I know I can get through seven minutes of work without the thought of “when is this overrrrr??” repeating in my head the entire workout. You can see your progress on a calendar based on your workout history and calories burned. Def recommend.
2. Fitness Challenge
When setting up the app, it will ask you a few questions to help personalize your workouts. It asks for what you think your level is (beginner, intermediate, or pro) and how many sessions a week you want to work out (2, 3, or 4). It then asks you for your goal, whether that be to lose weight, stay fit, or gain muscle. This way, the experience will be tailored to you and your body. Fitness Challenge gives you an outline of your workout before starting, so you know what you’re getting into before you begin. It tells you how much time the workout will last, what exactly you’ll be doing, and how many times you’re doing it. It comes with five categories to choose from: full body, sexy legs and butt, abs and flat tummy, bikini body, and skinny toned arms. Count me in.
3. Daily Yoga
If you’re a yogi, this is the app for you, but in addition to yoga, Daily Yoga also incorporates other mainstream workouts. Once signed in, you choose your goal. This app’s options are: start as beginner, stay healthy, lose weight, skill improvement, muscle tone, and stress relief. I LOVE how they named these goals. But Daily Yoga doesn’t only provide workouts—it goes one step further, offering audio and music to guide you through your practices. They have guided meditations, mantras, mindfulness training, and more—all of which you can download straight to your phone. I recommend listening to the music before bed at night for a spa-like relaxation that’ll put you into a deep sleep.
You can sign up for FitOn through FACEBOOK, which is great, because then you don’t have to waste time plugging in personal info and can get moving instead. It does ask a few questions to personalize your experience, though, which I do appreciate. It first asks you about your goal. Are you using the app to lose weight? Reduce stress? For post-natal fitness? I like this app because it doesn’t just give you three basic goal choices; it has a bunch more to offer. After that, it asks for your favorite types of workouts ranging from yoga, to HIIT, and dance. Then, you’re in! If you aren’t ready to work out right away, you can set reminders to do so later on, which I use way too frequently. It gives you a ton of choices, like which trainer you want to take, the target area you want to work on, and trending activities to start. FitOn even gives you a custom-made schedule. You can see all your upcoming workouts and the intensity of each. You can even invite your friends to share your progress, if you’re competitive like that. There is also a section on advice from trainers, ranging from articles to videos that are informational and worth a watch.
5. BetterMe: Walking
If you aren’t into high-intensity workouts or sweating too much, this app is perfect for you. It’s all about walking, and only walking. Walking is the perfect way to burn off calories and reduce stress. I think walking is one of the most important workouts—especially walking outside. Obvs if it’s crazy weather, just hop on the treadmill, NBD. The app goes by days, so they have a list of workouts designed for you each day to complete. You can walk for meditation, renewal, midlife women, stress, or for burning off the cheese pizza you had for dinner last night, which I like to do. (Okay, so that last option I made up.) All totally great. It also tracks your steps and calories burned, if you’re over your iPhone health app after the latest update, which most of us are.
There are so many other free fitness apps you can check out, but these ones offer a good range of services that everyone can enjoy and are easy to use. These are the perfect start to get motivated and move throughout your week. You can use them in your living room, at your office, outside walking your pup, or even in class (def be cautious though…). Hope these apps help you and guide you to achieve your goals.
Images: Dane Wetton / Unsplash; Workout For Women; Fitness Challenge; Daily Yoga; FitOn; BetterMe: Walking
You know how you don’t really like cupcakes that much, until they’re in your office and free? (Okay, maybe that was a bad example because everybody loves cupcakes, but you know what I mean.) That’s because it’s basically a scientific fact that things are significantly better when they don’t cost money. Another prime example of this phenomenon in action is workout classes, which, if you live in New York, usually cost the equivalent of a human soul, so finding any kind of deal that offers free workout classes is better than your f*ck buddy telling you he’s finally ready to date you. Still waiting that one out, but you get what I mean.
Anyway, even though New York robs us every damn day, sometimes this godforsaken city gives back and offers us free workout classes when we’re new to a studio. So if you want to get swole while you save (I hate myself) then check out these seven workout studios offering very generous new member specials. Yes, I’ve done every single one of these places because I live in the seventh most expensive city in the world on a writer’s salary, so I take what I can get, especially when it comes to free workout classes.
1. GRIT BXNG
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💥 WORKOUTS LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE 💥 Push your SPEED.💨 Flaunt your SKILL. 🥊 Empty your TANK. 💦 Bring the ((HUSTLE)) and train with the HOTTEST and the most EXPERIENCED trainers in the world. 🙌💯 Opening August 8th! Your GRIT FAM is waiting… @evanfitness_nyc @angela_gargano || #August2019 #ComingSoon #OwnYourGRIT #UnionSquare
Okay, after I read GRIT’s deal online, I called to make sure it wasn’t a typo because it was that good. Rest assured, it’s not a typo. If you buy the new customer intro offer, for the price of one class, you get a free class, a “bring a friend pass,” a GRIT gym bag, and two free drinks at the GRIT bar. To put that in perspective, one class is $36, so you get all of this swag, a free class and a buddy pass for basically nothing. If you don’t buy this special right the f*ck now, I am judging you.
If you’ve never heard of GRIT, you’re welcome. It’s interval training with three stations: heavy bags, treadmills, and floor exercises. So basically, it’s Barry’s but with boxing. It also has serious night club vibes, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, drink up!
2. Swerve Fitness
Swerve is your basic spin studio, but believe it or not, I don’t mean that in a bad way! One class is $34, but if you buy the new member special, you can get two classes for $40. That’s basically buy one get one free, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me. If I had to compare it to another spin studio, I would say that it’s most similar to FlyWheel, except for the fact that you’re assigned to a team and the teams are racing each other. If that isn’t really your jam, you don’t have to buy into the whole team/race thing and can just ride your bike instead, but if you are Tonya Harding-level competitive (hi neighbor), then you will love this place.
Tbh, I’ve only done the barre classes here, but Exhale is not your average barre class. It’s really f*cking hard and well worth the price. However, if you’re not down to shell out the money you were going to spend on a new fall jacket, you’ll love the new client two-for-one special for $37! As a writer, I was taught to write what I know, so I’m only going to talk about the barre classes, but this place also offers cardio and yoga classes.
The actual workout at Exhale is really great. Thankfully, there are no little inflatable balls that you’re somehow supposed to balance on your joints while tucking, micro-moving, or whatever else you do in other barre classes. The only equipment you use at Exhale includes a resistance band, weights, and sometimes a TRX band-like strap that’s fastened to the barre. You will most definitely be shaking by the end of the class, but it’s very much worth it. I bought a 10-pack of barre classes and noticed a serious difference in my arms and abs, which is something I never thought I’d say.
I will never not LOL at this studio’s name, but they have a fab new member deal that makes up for it. One class is $34, but they’re offering two classes for $28! Either they’re really bad at math or really generous. This place offers three types of classes, all of which take place in a 50-degree studio. I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, that sounds les mis!” And it is for the first few minutes, but you actually get a way more effective workout in the cold than you do in the heat because science. (And because you’re not sweating like a grease monkey—my less science-backed opinion.) Whether you choose a HIIT, Slide, or HIIT + Slide class, you’ll definitely feel the brrrn (sorry, I had to). By the way, HIT uses battle ropes and weights for total body strength and conditioning, Slide is a low to mid-impact class focused on light resistance training and lateral training on the Brrrn Slide Board to improve balance and core strength.
5. CorePower Yoga
For the mother of all deals, CorePower offers a full week of yoga classes for free. In other words, seven free yoga classes. Back when I lived in Atlanta, my apartment was above a CorePower, so I did the free week, and after the free week, I ended up purchasing an unlimited membership and went nearly every day. CorePower’s free week is definitely a gateway to spending a ton of money, but it’s so worth it. This is a hot yoga studio, which offers a great workout that also feels very relaxing. Like most yoga studios, they offer a variety of types of yoga classes that range in difficulty, but my personal favorite is the Yoga Sculpt, which is just a regular flow, but with weights. Look, no one is neutral about hot yoga since you either love it or you’d rather die than be stuck in a hot room for an hour, but if you do enjoy Bikram, you will definitely like CorePower.
Tbh I felt like I was training for the f*cking Marines when I took Orangetheory, but I did it for the free class they offer new clients. There’s an OT on like, every block in every city, so if you haven’t noticed this place exists, I don’t really know what to say to you other than be just a little bit more observant? If you’ve walked by them a million times but don’t understand what they are, allow me to explain. To me, OT is a less intense version of Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s high-intensity interval training, but you won’t feel like you need to chop all of your limbs off because they ache so badly after a class. There’s a treadmill section, a floor section, and a weights section, so if you’re into that, definitely sign up because your first class is free, so why not? Plus, apparently you’re still burning calories even after you leave because the exercises are designed that way. Something about the orange fat-burning zone…or something. Look, I was focused on not dying in class, not learning.
If you like boxing, you will like Overthrow, especially because you get a class free when you buy your first one! More importantly, the workout is really good. Most of it takes place on a heavy bag, but there’s also some light sparring and, of course, a miserable ab workout toward the end. Why must all boxing classes force us to do ab exercises after we’ve spent all of our energy beating the sh*t out of a 100-pound bag? Anyway, Overthrow’s bag section is really intense and you will def need a nap afterwards. First, the instructor will go over the basic punches and then assign each one a number so that he can quickly make up combinations for you to use on the bag. Ever heard the phrase “1-2-punch?” That comes from boxing! 1 is a jab and a 2 is a right arm cross. These are things you’ll learn at Overthrow. So the combinations are obviously a little more challenging than two punches at a time and they are absolutely a workout. During the last few minutes, it becomes very clear that everyone is dead, but not before sparring and abs!
Images: GRIT BXNG; gritbxng, swerve fitness, exhalespa, brrrn, corepoweryoga, orangetheory, overthrownewyork / Instagram
If you’re like me, going to the gym is as rare as a monogamous Kardashian couple: it just doesn’t happen. The main reason I don’t go to the gym, though (aside from being a lazy piece of sh*t), is that I’m terribly embarrassed by my lack of athletic ability. Three minutes on a treadmill and I’m heaving over the garbage can. And don’t even try me with weights. I’d be lucky to get five pounds off the ground. And SoulCycle? I nearly crapped my pants doing that. Never again. But, admittedly, I do need some form of physical movement in my life. It’s pretty upsetting that I can’t go up a flight of stairs without feeling faint. I am told that’s like, bad for you?
Basically, I need a workout that won’t make me super short of breath, which led me to yoga. I mean sure, yoga can be hard (especially if you’re sweating all your water weight out in a 94-degree studio), but it doesn’t kill me the same way that a Barry’s Bootcamp class would. Which made me wonder: is it too good to be true? Can I do yoga every day and still get the summer body I’ve been putting off working on since…summer 2014? I spoke to personal trainer and owner of Frame Fitness in Toronto, Melissa Bentivoglio, about whether or not we can trust yoga as a main form of exercise.
I need a trainer who will understand that I want to be fit without breaking a sweat or being uncomfortable in literally any way
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) September 3, 2019
Is Yoga A Real Workout?
Yes, but it’s not as simple as that. The point of Yoga is to focus your energy on specific tasks, poses, and flows. According to Bentivoglio, different types of Yoga work your body in specific ways. “The forms of Yoga can vary from physically demanding and vigorous Power Yoga to meditative and Restorative Yoga.”
For example, in a Vinyasa class, if it is instructed in a rhythmic, continuous, and intense fashion, Bentivoglio notes, “it can certainly elevate the heart rate to be considered a form of aerobic exercise.” In slower-paced Yoga classes, though, Bentivoglio says, “there could be more focus on holding isometric poses, which focus more on strength building.” These are examples of less traditional cardio workout circuits, but nonetheless, still a form of exercise.
How Can You Make The Most Of Yoga As A Workout?
So apparently lying in child’s pose and
napping meditating for an hour doesn’t really make the most of utilizing Yoga as a workout. Who would’ve thought? Bentivoglio suggests taking classes based on what you would like to focus on. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing. All components of yoga can benefit your health. “Strength training is a key component of health and fitness. Building lean muscle mass helps burn more calories at rest, even if you are not perspiring profusely. Cardio is also an important form of exercise as it improves cardiovascular health,” says Bentivoglio.
Even if you’re not profusely sweating, you’re still getting a lot out of your time. If you want to take a cardio-centric route, that will help benefit your heart health. Pick the type of class that focuses on a part of your body or health that you really want to improve on. Yoga isn’t a fix-all sort of exercise (does that even exist?) and it takes time to work out each part of your body through a variety of flows and methods.
What Is The Most Common Myth About Yoga?
“The most common myth is that you have to be flexible to do it,” says Bentivoglio. If you’re like me and can’t touch your toes, this is a huge relief. “Some forms of Yoga require a greater amount of stamina and power than they do flexibility. But the benefit overall of Yoga is that the more you keep at it, the more flexible you’ll feel yourself become,” she adds.
It won’t happen all at once, so don’t try to do the splits when you’re six shots deep and really want to show off—you’ll just end up with ripped pants and a torn ACL. Patience is key, which is f*cking annoying, because who likes to wait for anything nowadays, but I guess that’s better than the StairMaster, so I’ll take it.
How Can Beginners Get Started?
First, you need to identify what you want to achieve. Pick an end goal, and then find the types of Yoga that help you best work towards that. It doesn’t need to be the same thing every week, but finding a routine and pattern will reap the benefits much quicker. Bentivoglio explains, “if one would like to start doing Yoga to alleviate stress and anxiety, meditative Yoga could help by calming the mind by combining poses with breathing and mantras.”
Meditative combines breathing with calming poses and mantras. If flexibility and strength are your goals, hot Yoga could be a good place to start. If you’re looking to just start with the basics and then find your footing, Hatha Yoga is the way to go. Overall, beginners should start off slow then build their way up to more high-intensity classes like Vinyasa.
What Are Some Apps For Practicing Yoga?
If you’re like me and still having some anxiety about actually being in a room with other people, apps are super useful. Here are some of Melissa’s favorites for different types of flows:
Pocket Yoga: Good for beginners who want to practice yoga and learn new poses. There are also pre-set flows that you can try out.
Universal Breathing: A fantastic app that helps you focuses on breathing. It’s a great way to alleviate stress, headaches, and lower blood pressure, among other things.
Asana Rebel: Provides Yoga workouts that incorporate both strength training and cardio-based poses and flows. Their sessions can last about 30 minutes and are structured in a very effective and fun way.
So it seems like, yes, Yoga can be a legit workout, provided you are realistic about what you want out of a class and you choose the right class based on your fitness goals.
Images: Yayan Sopian / Unsplash; showerthoughts / me.me; betchesluvthis / Twitter
The one thing I hate almost as much as public displays of affection is people who never shut the f*ck up about how much they work out (you know who you are). Like, we have eyes so we get it it, you’re fit! The thing is, I also work out a lot, but I keep that sh*t to myself and pretend that all I do is eat pizza and binge SVU marathons, and just happen to have toned arms. Like, Emily Ratajkowski does that and she seems to be doing just fine. Even though she famously and allegedly doesn’t work out, her incredible body indicates otherwise, so like…what’s the deal here? Anyway, for those of you who want to get swole for the Soho House pool or the Coney Island beach (see ya there, homies), these New York workout classes are a must. They are hard enough that you’re actually doing #werk, but not so hard that you feel like you’ve just joined the Marines.
Full disclosure, I mostly spin because I need the most effective cardio to rid my body of evidence that I eat cheeseburgers more than once a week, so there may or may not be more than one spin studio on here. However, because I’ll give anything a go, as my sex injuries can attest, I’ve tried almost every workout class New York has to offer. Here are my favorites.
The Monster Cycle
I love SoulCycle as much as every other Pumpkin Spice Latte-loving betch, but since my favorite instructor left me to open London’s first Soul, I had to look elsewhere for my dose of spin. TBH, I refuse to go to FlyWheel because my Tanya Harding-level competitiveness cannot handle the scoreboard situation there, so I headed to The Monster Cycle in Soho, and let me just say, I f*cking love this place. It’s adorned with hardcore S&M decor, which definitely made it feel really welcoming (lol, kidding).
In all seriousness, this place has a v specific vibe (S&M/goth), but it’s so cool and everyone who works there is actually incredibly nice, which I wasn’t expecting considering the mannequins f*cking upside down in a harness hanging from the ceiling is fully a thing in the reception area. Ok, so you go downstairs to the studio where there are no assigned seats, so get there early otherwise you will end up behind a pole in the back. No thx! Two things set this place apart and will keep me coming back forever. The first is the fact that there are two giant TV screens on either side of the instructor and the screens project the music video of the song that’s playing, which is really helpful because they give me something to think about other than how much my legs hurt. The second is that this place literally always has flash sales. This feels really refreshing, considering every other New York studio just wants to make sure I won’t be able to afford to send my future children to college. The amount of calories you burn depends on your intensity. So when Demetre tells you to turn the knob to the right and sprint, you should, because there is potential to burn 400-700 calories in the 45 minute class.
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?DROPPIN’ BANGERS LIKE ITS HOT? New choreo out today ?? Come eff this one up with us!! Tag a friend & follow us – we’ll pick 5 lucky peeps to win a free class! Wanna learn this choreo? Peep our IGTV for a step-by-step guide ? ? Tempo – @lizzobeeating ft @missymisdemeanorelliott ? @tacobell_dsl . ? @sonnyjaye #305fitness #makesweatsexy
The only reason I tried this place is because it’s three blocks away from my apartment. 305 is a f*cking dance party, y’all. If you follow their Instagram, you’ll notice that every single instructor has an incredible wardrobe and can dance like they’re about to be hand-selected for Coachella performances by Queen Bey herself. I was initially nervous to try 305 because I’m a good dancer, but I’m truly horrible at remembering choreography—which is probably why my dance career ended in 10th grade, but whatever. It’s fine. I’m fine. Here’s the thing: 305 requires zero memorizing! PRAISE F*CKING BE! Katie is my fave teacher and she is like a tiny blonde ball of energy who can make a really accurate siren sound with her mouth. I’m sure you’re wondering why that tiny detail is important, and it’s because she makes that sound when it’s time to switch sides, turn around, get low, or what have you. 305 isn’t dancing like, pirouette and leaps, it’s like high-intensity Miami-style club dancing. Wow, cool, that’s the whitest thing I have ever said in my life! No wonder Miami club dancers always have bikini ready bodies because you can burn up to 900 calories per class. My point is, it’s fun dancing that requires you to give absolutely no f*cks if you want to enjoy it. Highly recommend, especially if your dance floor moves need a little face lift.
Not all barre classes are created equal, and that is a fact! When I used to live in Atlanta, I lived above a Pure Barre, so I got a membership because it was convenient, but I literally took a class five days a week for three months and looked the exact same on day one as I did on day 90. What’s that about? It about the fact that barre classes generally focus on toning rather than calorie burning. The average barre class burns 250 calories (along with your ability to walk for the next week). Anyway, I was skeptical to try any other barre classes after Pure Barre, especially really expensive ones in New York. Then I tried Exhale and may never be able to lift my arms again because this class is werk. Exhale is no joke, people.
So if you’re looking to half-ass a workout class during a fatal hangover to make yourself feel like you’re at least kind of doing something, don’t go to Exhale. It is so f*cking hard (in a good way) that I brought a male friend who, until that day, thought barre classes were too easy for men, and he is still sore. The moves are really hard. There’s one where you lay on your side with your legs bent toward your chest and you lift and lower your top knee while keeping your feet together. Sounds easy? Try it right now and you’ll see what I mean. So, yeah, that was really hard, but then they’ll come around and tie a resistance band around your legs. Fun! Then they’ll put a weight in one hand and ask you to side-crunch as you lift your top knee. All I gotta say is, Exhale barre classes hurt so, so good. I’ve been going for about two months now and I think I can see the beginnings of an ab crack! Goals met!
If you don’t want to switch from the bag to the floor or whatever else, Hit House is a straight Muay Thai kickboxing studio. So, what the f*ck is Muay Thai? Muay Thai directly translates to “Thai Boxing,” and the class consists of jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, kicks, knees and elbows. You’ll get your own personal bag (or bishop) and you’ll get to attack it to the rhythm of your favorite hit songs right now. This class takes the intensity of a kickboxing class to the next level, which inevitably means more calories are burned. Women usually burns 762 calories while men typically burn 888 calories during an hour of Muay Thai, so you don’t need to feel guilty for finishing that pint of Ben Jerry’s alone or an entire bottle of wine. And, as an added bonus, you’ll probably feel like a badass after almost an hour of beating up a punching bag.
If you don’t like hot yoga, just stop reading now because it feels like it’s at least 400 degrees in any given Y7 class. As you can see, I like v basic types of workouts, but I like going to non-basic studios that do something to set themselves apart from the millions of other workout places in this godforsaken city. Y7 is three sets of flows that each include three sub-flows. The first is slow, the second is one breath per movement, and the third is flow on your own. So what sets Y7 apart? You’re not flowing to the soothing sounds of birds in a forest. Instead, the instructors play hip-hop. YES! Lastly, there are no mirrors and it’s pitch black save for a candle in each corner of the room. Yes, the darkness and lack of mirrors makes it a little harder to balance, but personally, I like the no mirror/darkness situation because I don’t feel self-conscious. Also, not to be the most annoying yogi ever, but not being able to see yourself forces you to just focus on the poses instead of the ungodly shade of red your face is. Another thing I love about Y7 is that toward the end of class, there’s a little strength push that usually involves some sort of ab workout. The pushes are literally never more than two minutes, so that motivates me to just do it instead of half-assing it until it’s over. As the instructors say, “You can literally do anything for two minutes!” I mean, not true, but you can definitely hold boat pose for 120 seconds. And if you can push, it’s worth it: women can expect to burn around 350 calories and men 450.
My good friend Gigi Hadid got me into boxing. I KID, Gigi and I do not know each other, but if Gigi Hadid looks the way she does from boxing, then bury me in the ring. This could be the case because boxing burns around 400 calories per hour for women and 500 for men. Now, as far as boxing workout classes go, Overthrow is the opposite of Rumble in that it’s not ~trending right now~ and never will be because the instructors don’t give a sh*t if you Instagram your heart out at the Bleecker Street studio. Overthrow is legit boxing, though. After you get your wraps on, you head downstairs to a large rectangular ring that’s almost littered with heavy bags tethered to the ceiling via chain locks. The first half of the class is you beating the sh*t out of the bag and the second half is sparring with either your friend or a stranger. Bring a friend if you feel awkward about hitting someone you’ve never met. Before the bag part begins, the instructor turns the music off and tells everyone what the different types of punches are, which are all referred to by numbers. That way, he can say a bunch of different numbers really fast and you can correspond with the right punches. Am I Rocky? Honestly, maybe. The music is so loud that you get so into it and start beating the actual f*ck out of the bag and it feels so good. Like, I may just quit my job and become a professional boxer now.
Want to work out, but don’t want to break a sweat? Head to brrrn. But don’t get it twisted: these classes will still kick your ass, even if you’re not drenched afterwards. Why? Unlike most other fitness classes that crank up the heat to make you think you’ve gotten in a better workout, brrrn takes the opposite approach. It’s the first fitness studio to operate at temperatures below 72 degrees, which gives you benefits like burning more calories and working out more efficiently. There are three different types of workout classes, all 50 minutes long and conducted at 50 degrees: hit, slide and hit + slide. The hit class is a high-intensity class that incorporates battle ropes and a dumbbell circuit series for a full body strength and conditioning workout. The slide class is a mid-impact class that consists of core exercises and a cardio slide board series which aims to increase balance and core strength along with a full body conditioning. The hit + slide class is most definitely a high-intensity class which includes the slide board, battle rope, and a dumbbell circuit series for a full body strength and conditioning workout. It’s proof you don’t have to sweat to get a great workout in.
Box + Flow
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If you can’t decide whether to take a high-intensity boxing class or low-intensity yoga class, head here. Box + Flow is the first class that allows you to do both, splitting your time between boxing and yoga. The 35 minute “box” portion of the class is first, then you move onto the 15 minute “flow” portion. It’s great because many workout classes give you, like, three minutes to stretch, which as we all know from trying to walk after an interval running class, is not enough. The yoga portion of the class really gives you the ability to stretch and center yourself after punching for over half an hour. As for the calorie count, a person usually burns between 300-450 calories in a 30 minute boxing class and burn 80-120 calories in 20 minutes of yoga. Taking into consideration the 35 minutes of boxing and 15 minutes of yoga, you could expect to burn 410-615 calories total. Not bad for a two-in-one workout!
The entire class is done on top of a megaformer machine they like to call “Sweatlana.” Ever heard of her? The class itself consists of “50 minutes of high-intensity, low impact, slow and controlled movements.” You can burn 500-700 calories per 50 minute megaformer class so don’t let the slow, isolated movements fool you. Every workout sequence starts with a plank, squat or lunge to strengthen your whole body, and ensure you can’t walk so when people ask why, you can say “it’s from Solidcore.” #Ad, and suddenly you’re an influencer. They offer beginner, fully body and muscle-specific workout classes so you can go whether your body type is “works out, “works out but definitely eats dessert,” or just “eats dessert.” It’s the holy grail of pilates classes being that they define themselves as “pilates-intensified.”
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We all know the struggle of going into a fitting room, trying on an outfit, and only seeing the burger, fries, and ice cream you devoured last night. The struggle is real. You convince yourself in that moment that you need to workout. Fhitting Room is a workout studio that ensures you’ll get that killer mirror selfie next time you’re in the fitting room. Is that why they call it that? I have no idea, but it works. Its classes consist of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts, like every other workout class in America nowadays, but for good reason. Speaking from experience, this class will kill you—but like, in a good way. You will get a good workout, and you’ll likely learn moves like snatches, cleans, and other kettlebell movements you can use at the gym on your own time, or in other fitness classes. They also offer small classes at certain locations (10ish people) so you can get all the personalized attention and none of the intimidation of a big class.
Images: overthrownewyork, y7studio, exhalespa, 305fitness, themonstercycle, brrrn, hithouse, boxandflow, solidcore, fhittingroom / Instagram
Nicole Moore co-founded The Center Method (TCM), a one-stop studio for mind body self-care. As a certified Clinical Psychologist and licensed yoga instructor trained in Vinyasa, Sculpt, and Yoga Bar, Moore has created an all-encompassing wellness center and community to bring personal development and health under one roof. Through the combination of psychotherapy, bodywork, body movement/awareness, mindfulness, yoga and meditation, Moore has made it her mission to help bring people of all ages find human resiliency from within.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety and anxiety attacks, I know how scary and uncomfortable the stress response can feel in the body. We feel anxiety when the “fight or flight response” (a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a real or imagined threat to survival) is activated. The “attack” affects the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the involuntary responses including heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, lightheadedness, and feelings of being flushed or warmer than usual. As you perceive a threat, the amygdala (often referred to as the “lizard brain” or “reptilian brain”) tells your autonomic nervous system to prepare to run or fight for your life. Your heart rate and breathing quicken, and your “spidey senses” (the ability to sense imminent danger) activate. The parasympathetic nervous system is what slows the fight or flight response and activates your body’s “relaxation response”, which is essentially the exact opposite reaction to the “fight or flight” response. It is your conscious ability to encourage your body to release signals to the brain that slow your muscles and organs down and increase blood flow to the brain, which produces a calm, relaxed feeling in the mind and body. There are many techniques you can learn to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system to rapidly reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Here are my go-to approaches to address the symptoms of an anxiety attack.
The challenge many of us face in the midst of an anxiety attack is the struggle to reestablish control of our body and mind. Physical activities that lead to a greater sense of self-mastery (e.g. martial arts, boxing) may affect your belief in your ability to reach goals and self-efficacy. This leads to lower levels of anxiety through the trust and knowledge of your physical ability to handle potential threats, real or imagined. Boxing requires focus to coordinate the mind and body, which brings you into the present moment and distracts the mind from ruminating thoughts. Boxing builds self-confidence and self-esteem through a sense of achievement. Added benefits of going to a boxing gym can include finding a community and a sense of belonging.
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old moving meditation that elicits the relaxation response through the synchronization of breath and movement. Breathing is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that is both voluntary and involuntary; controlled breathing can regulate the stress response. Yoga is a systematic practice of movements developed to evoke harmony in the mind and body. A few yoga poses that calm the nervous system are:
- Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana), which reduces anxiety and quiets the mind by drawing your energy down.
- Expanded-Leg Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana), which brings fresh blood to the brain, allows the heart to rest, and calms the mind.
- Forward-fold (Uttanasana), which stimulates blood flow to the brain and calms the nervous system.
- Cross-legged pose (Sukhasana), which provides a stable position for meditation, and calms and settles the mind.
Dance…like no one is watching. If you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack, or feel the tingles of anxiety seeping through, turn on some upbeat music and move your body! Not only does this release body tension, but it also helps shift your focus from worrisome thoughts to being in the present moment. Dance can quickly influence emotions, mood, and attitude because of the intrinsic relationship between the body and mind—what happens to the body can affect the mind and vice versa.
Walking (and other exercise) triggers the release of endorphins, which creates a positive feeling in the body. To help ease the psychological pain and discomfort associated with anxiety, take a break, and put physical and mental distance between you and the environment which may be adding to the stress. Anxiety is fear of the future; walking helps get you outside of your thoughts to bring your focus back to the here and now. Studies show that walking in nature can be beneficial for stress and anxiety relief, but even if you live in an urban environment, a 15-minute walk may be just the thing you need to get your mind off the worry. Focus on the present moment by observing the environment around you: enjoy the fresh air, notice the sound of your feet as you walk along, window shop, listen to the birds, feel the breeze on your face, etc.
Bonus: Four Square Breathing
It’s not an exercise, but nonetheless it’s an important technique that can work. Four Square Breathing can be used when you need to quickly cool down the mind and body. Intentional deep breathing calms and regulates the autonomic nervous system with immediate results. It also focuses your energy on the task at hand to minimize rumination and brings your awareness into the present moment. Here’s how:
To begin, exhale all the air in your lungs.
- Inhale deeply through the nose for the count of one, two, three, four.
- Hold the breath for one, two, three, four.
- Exhale through the mouth for one, two, three, four.
- Pause at the bottom for one, two, three, four.
Repeat the cycle four times.
I’ve been lucky to experience the grounding, calming and refocusing effects of practicing each of the aforementioned exercises. While these activities have greatly helped me to reduce and control anxiety, and I recommend trying each of them due to their proven benefits, it is most important to find the form of physical exercise or mental practice that best aids you personally in overcoming general anxiety as well as anxiety attacks. Though it can be an arduous path to finding what form of relief best suits your needs, it is worth investing the time and energy to safeguard your emotional health.
Images: Form / Unsplash; Giphy (5)