Yoga that Slims You Down

Can you torch major calories and get zen at the same time? I was eager to find out.

Michele Bender
Photograph: iStock

One of my pet peeves is when a super-slim celebrity swears that yoga is all she does to keep fit. Sure, yoga is a fabulous workout for the mind and body and I know it can help sculpt and stretch your muscles. But the women who say they owe their lean, mean, size-0 bodies solely to downward dogs and sun salutations can not be telling the truth. I went through a yoga-loving phase back in grad school and my body didn’t come close. (Though that was also my M & M loving phase.) Which brings me to why I rarely do yoga: though I love it, I only have a small window of time to exercise and when that time arrives I want to burn calories and really sweat. 

However, a new class at the famed Yogaworks studios called Yogaworks SLIM says it will give you a zen-based cardio workout.  “Yogaworks SLIM is based on high intensity interval training to help the body burn calories by increasing the heart rate with flowing movement and strengthen muscles while holding various postures,” says instructor Ruah Bhay. This sounded like the answers to my cardio or yoga conundrum. I could do both! Plus, the class description says its been proven to speed metabolism and aid in weight loss. Sign me up!
I was surprised when I walked into the studio and it looked just like a regular yoga class. There were rows of yoga mats spread across the room and my fellow students were sitting there cross-legged and barefoot. Traditional yoga props like blankets, blocks and stretching bands were also near-by. This must be a gimmick to lure all those people with New Years’ resolutions, I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Class started with us doing tough, tummy torturing ab moves that were anything but passive. Then we moved into some more familiar yoga moves like warrior I and II. Next, came one of the intervals – a fast-paced series of poses including chair pose, revolved chair pose to the right, chair pose, revolved chair pose to the left.

After doing this five times – yes, five! – I knew Ruah was right when she told us this sequence would burn excess fat and strengthen muscles. I could practically feel the calories melting away! Immediately after that heart-racing section, we held a chair pose for 10 very long deep breaths. In between the traditional vinyasa moves like plank, chatarunga, upward facing dog and downward dog, Ruah added push ups that had my arms trembling. We did this too many times to count, but I was glad when she took a break from that and went onto a few slower poses like triangle. I could barely keep up (though neither could several others in the room) and all of us were sweating (in my book, the sign of an effective workout). Class ended with some amazing yoga stretches and my favorite, savasana, a.k.a. corpse pose. I left feeling calm and centered, but also like I’d gotten a good workout. Proof of that came the next day when my legs, arms and abs were really sore. I’d finally killed two workout birds with one stone! Maybe you can get slim from yoga alone.
Right now the class is offered only NY and is coming to LA studios soon. But thanks to the new Yogaworks Body Slim DVD (www.yogaworks.com), you can get a cardio-zen workout in the comfort of your own home!

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