I love trying new exercise classes. When I read about two recent additions to Maplewood, I was eager to experience them for myself. I was especially intrigued because, based on their class descriptions, they promised to somehow combine mindfulness with heart-racing moves.
My first stop was at Bodies In Motion on Valley Street. The studio has been around for 12 years. They offer unique group exercise classes and Gyrotonic Training. I was interested in the Niyolates class. Maplewood resident Rolin San Juan, founder and owner, created this practice.
According to the website, Niyolates "combines the dynamic poses of yoga, the explosive power of the martial arts, the grace & spontaneity of modern and ethnic dances and the stillness & concentration of Tai-Chi." I didn't know what to expect.
One of the first things that San Juan, who taught the class that I attended, had us do was acknowledge our neighbors. "Look around you. Smile at the people around you. Smile at the people who will be sharing your space." I thought that was a beautiful, albeit, unusual way to begin a class. Usually at fitness classes, everyone is very territorial and wants to secure their spot, not share it.
Michael Jackson began to blast over the speakers as San Juan began teaching. "Let go. Release the tension," he encouraged as we slowly began to move.
I stood in the back since I was taking a few photos of the class. And, I didn't want to make a fool out of myself. Looking around the class, made up of all women, I noticed a wide range of ages, shapes and sizes. There were certainly those who looked like professional dancers. They were mainly in the front. However, most of the women didn't look professional.
San Juan would demonstrate the dance steps repeatedly until the group seemed to get it. Then, he persuaded us to make it our own. "It's all about you,' he said. "You're making this too serious. Put a smile on your face. Your hips will move if you smile," he told the class as everyone laughed.
As we shimmed and danced to steps that were easy enough for me to follow, I realized that I was sweating and having a lot of fun. I was surprised when I realized that the hour was nearly over. San Juan began the cool down routine. He asked us to place our hands over our heart. He told us to embrace the moment, to breathe in the future and breathe out the past. He told us to ask for the things that we need, not what we want. Lastly, he told us to thank our neighbors. I walked out feeling light and energetic.
CORE Mind and Body, a Pilates and Fitness studio located on Baker Street, just introduced a class called intenSati. According to CORE, the workout "fuses high- energy aerobics, martial arts, dance, yoga, and strength conditioning with meditation, positive psychology, and quantum physics." Holly Raye taught the class.
Raye began the class by explaining that this class was "about taking the power of our thoughts and putting them into action." She also explained that the class would be taught with call and response. She would say an affirmation and we would repeat it.
This class was unlike anything I had ever experienced. While we did traditional fitness moves like throwing punches, we would simultaneously repeat an affirmation, such as "I am strong now." It felt a bit funny saying that out loud with a room full of people but at the same time it felt very empowering.
The first half of the class focused on cardio. We certainly got our hearts pumping by doing plies while chanting affirmations like "I want it, I want it, I really, really want it!" It was fun and I did build up quite a sweat.
We moved into lower body strength conditioning moves like squats. Again, we would repeat affirmations such as "I have the power to choose courage and confidence." We ended with a stretch series, which included yoga moves such as a downward dog and meditation. Throughout the class, Raye would keep us motivated by reminding us to keep our goal in mind. She also offered modified moves for those who were unable to perform the poses.
After the class was over, Raye explained that the routine and affirmations will change on a monthly basis. This month's focus is on Warrior, which is declaring your deepest desire and taking responsibility. June's focus will be on love.
I left the class feeling like I had a great workout, strong and powerful.
Judie Hurtado writes the Health & Fitness column every other week for Maplewood Patch and is a regular contributor. Judie has written for Time Out New York, Park Place, Trader Monthly, Relate Magazine, Palisade Magazine and Inner Realm, as well as numerous websites including sheknows.com and vitaljuice.com. You can usually find her trying the latest fitness craze or blogging at judiesjuice.wordpress.com.