Beliefnet
Reprinted with permission of the author

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When you manage to snag an hour to exercise, do you choose to burn optimal calories with cardio activities, strengthen your muscles with weights, or take time to simultaneously stretch and unwind? Why not accomplish all three goals in one workout?

The ancient practice of yoga improves strength, balance, and flexibility, but many folks complain that it doesn't give them a real, fat-blasting workout. On the other hand, Spinning--a high-energy indoor bike class--burns a whopping 450 to 550 calories per 40-minute session, but doesn't soothe the savage beast, enhance stretching techniques, or sculpt bodies. Savvy instructors have realized the benefits of both exercises and combined the two into a hybrid called "Yoga Spinning."

In both yoga and Spinning, instructors help participants become more aware of the integral link between their minds and bodies.

Although the two forms of exercise may seem at odds, they actually have many similarities. In both yoga and Spinning, instructors help participants become more aware of the integral link between their minds and bodies by verbally guiding them through changes in workout intensity, focusing on different parts of their bodies, and providing calm support and encouragement. Yoga Spinning teachers have a strong foundation in yoga instruction and then become certified in Spinning, says North Carolina-based instructor Sunny Davis.

"Throughout class, we help members become more in tune with their breath, their aerobic capacity, and their muscles by saying things like, 'Envision your body grounded from the waist down and allow your upper body to flow from your shoulders' or even 'Imagine your head lengthening toward the sky to improve your posture,'" says Davis. These verbal cues can also prevent exercise injuries and stall workout boredom.

A Yoga Spinning class ranges from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the teacher and location, and begins off the bike with a series of yoga postures performed on mats. (As a rule, you do this section wearing athletic footwear, unlike regular yoga class, where you are barefoot.)

This pre-bike yoga warm-up focuses on a series of deep-breathing drills and forward bends, similar to the start of most yoga classes. The preparatory poses gradually progress to more active yoga moves that not only get you warmed-up for the bike, but strengthen and stretch the upper body--arms, chest, and back--an area that tends to get short shrift in the pedaling-based Spinning class!

"After our heart and muscles are warmed by 15 to 20 minutes of yoga, we hit the bikes and start Spinning for 30 minutes," says Napa Valley-based instructor Helen McGee. "We tend to play New Age and eclectic world music--lots of drums and natural rhythms--during the Spinning section in order to maintain and promote the mind-body mood. We play no music during the yoga sections in order to concentrate on breathing and relaxing."

After gradually lessening the intensity of the ride, the instructor leads you off the bikes and onto the floor for yet another 10 to 20 minutes of yoga. Participants return to their yoga mats and remove their shoes and socks. "The end segment is dedicated to slowing our hearts, lungs, and muscles, and returning to stillness. Some instructors may light candles, chant, or lead meditations to help the rejuvenation process," says Davis. "But we don't want it to be too far out for exercise novices or for people who don't ordinarily practice yoga."In fact, this earthy, athletic class is the perfect exercise combination because you simultaneously grow strong, burn fat, and relieve stress. "When you walk out of the room," says Davis, "you'll feel more energized and more in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and especially your body. You'll be able to face all your daily drama from a much calmer perspective." Not to mention burning hundreds of calories in the process.
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