An expert weighs in: “The deep breathing that’s central to Dahn yoga expands the diaphragm and the lungs’ air pockets, which helps to invoke the relaxation response,” says Matthews of the American Council on Exercise. “That’s one reason this practice can reduce stress and mental tension and may even help you deal with anxiety and depression.”
The verdict: This workout reminded me of a massage: a little bit of digging deep and a lot of tension-releasing aahs. You walk out after class feeling blissful and energized.
Challenge rating: 1 (out of 4).
Best if . . . you are bored with the same old, same old cardio routine, are motivated by competition and don’t mind having others watch you work out.
What it’s like: Each session of these fast and furious boot camp–style workouts is unlike the previous one: Different exercises, equipment, goals and muscles are emphasized. The class I attended, held at an indoor soccer field, started with a cardio session that included running with knees high, doing laps carrying 14-pound medicine balls on our shoulders and crawling around the field like Spider-Man. Then Colin, a local police officer who moonlights as a CrossFit instructor, hit go on a big red stopwatch, and the “athletes” (as we were called) sprang into action for the workout of the day. As quickly as possible, we did reps of kettlebell swings, overhead presses and pull-ups—all movements that engage a lot of muscles, including those in the core. When we finished the routine, we each yelled “Done” so our time could be recorded on a giant whiteboard. It was a noisy, encouraging crew. The entire group gathered around the athlete who finished last and cheered as she pushed out her final reps.
An expert weighs in: Expect a high--calorie burn. “CrossFit and other hard-core workouts like P90X activate a lot of muscle groups and keep you moving with minimal rest,” says Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist and director of continuing education at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. These kinds of sessions can burn as many as 15 calories a minute—about 50 percent more than you can expect from your run-of-the-mill weight-machine routine.
The verdict: As someone who gets a thrill from running in races, I got really pumped up by the competitive, rah-rah atmosphere. Just make sure you don’t let an enthusiastic instructor goad you into doing more than your body can handle.
Find a class: Some CrossFit programs operate in gyms, others in athletic facilities. To find an affiliate in your area, enter your location at map.crossfit.com.
Challenge rating: 4 (out of 4).
Best if . . . you’re burned out on Pilates but still aiming for a dancer’s body.
What it’s like: These low-impact classes use ballet barres to help you maintain your balance as you alternate reps of tiny, controlled toning movements with stretching. The goal is to produce the long, lean musculature of a ballerina as well as a tight, uplifted butt. At the Figure 4 barre class I took at Pure Yoga studio in New York City, an essentially easy exercise—such as a tiny leg lift—was repeated and repeated, with the instructor guiding students into subtle changes of position until they got what’s known as the barre shakes, signaling that the muscles are working in overdrive.
An expert weighs in: “Although these classes are low impact, they tone muscles just as well as the higher-impact activities that many of us can’t do anymore,” says Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3, based in Portland, Oregon.