Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Twisting your way to bliss, part 1

In order to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle, one must eat. Frequently. To balance out all that eating, however, there's exercise. And it can be fun! Finding the right exercise class takes some scoping out. Important factors to include are:

  1. The instructor. Is he/she encouraging or slightly judgmental? Does she/he clearly have favorites and only pay attention to them?
  2. The playlist.  Do the songs match the mood of the workout or do you want to cringe the umpteenth time you've heard "Moves Like Mick Jagger"?
  3. Continuity. Is this something you can actually see yourself sticking to? Do you find it enjoyable?

If the sound of lunges, burpees, crunches and flying pushups makes you cringe, as it does for me, you may get exhausted just thinking about the workout even before it begins.

I prefer the option of dancing myself silly (getting into shape is an added bonus). Zumba, Hip Hop, Belly Dance, African, Bhangra/Bollywood, and Yoga. These are all methods to fitness I revel in and if you're like me, you may want to de-stress/balance out all that yummy food intake with classes at these places:

M Dance Fitness has several locations in Midtown, Chelsea, and Union Square. All the instructors here are super nice and the Zumba and Hip Hop classes are equally fun and the best playlists (for Zumba) I've heard so far in New York. The three main instructors have their own unique style, but all are worthwhile talking. With her small frame and short haircut, Diana Dove puts me to shame when she teachers her hip hop class. I mean, yeah, I wasn't trained in it, but her movements are just so fluid that I'm jealous. The one class I took with Gina Masulla was high-energy too. And Misty's classes, instructor and owner, are always a good time.

While many Zumba moves are repeated no matter what class you take and who's teaching it, I've found I definitely like certain teachers' styles and playlists a lot more than others. Some classes mix in a bhangra or Middle Eastern song or something unexpected and that's usually great fun. Aside from the classes at M Dance Fitness, I quite enjoy the Friday night Zumba at Pearl Studios with Jessica from R.i.S.E. It's high energy and so fun. I sweat more than I have in awhile (partially because the room was super hot, but it was also a good workout). Her playlist my first class was great. It was all Latin except for "Rock around the clock" and included Danza Duro and some Shakira, winning choices in my book. The Monday night class with Julie gets you pumped too. She's a lot more peppy but not overly so and "Jai Ho" seems to usually be on her playlist, which I'm a big fan of. I'm not sure if it's because I've sweated so much by the time she gets 'round to playing it or because the song gets in my bones, but I always feel like I'm going to take flight when we dance to it.

These classes were much better than say the time I took an evening Zumba class at the New York Sports Club in Midwood and endured two country western songs. I have no problem with country music (well, good country music that is) but I feel like it just didn't fit. It's like the swing dancing to rap.

A trial class at M Dance Fitness is $15. The normal drop-in rate is $20 with class passes available for varying costs. Zumba drop-in at R.i.S.E is $16 at the door, $13 if purchased online.

Perk: Last time I checked, M Dance was looking for someone to stay at the front door at one of their studios and let people in in exchange for classes. Not sure if this has already been filled but check back. Many studios offer classes in exchange for volunteering at the studio.

I started taking classes at the D.C. location of Dhoonya Dance five or so years ago during college. I was searching for a space with a less competitive atmosphere than say GW University's bhangra scene/dance teams. I wasn't too keen on the Joy of Motion Bollywood/bhangra option either. I started off doing DhoonyaBasics and basically retook it four times in a row, sometimes with the same instructor, but always with new routines. I liked the idea of mastering something. No need to challenge myself. It felt nice to know what I was doing and not have to hide in the back of class. Then a few years ago, they added DhoonyaFit--an intense and fast workout. The first time I took it, I felt like I was going to pass out from being out of breath. But in comparison to other feelings I've had during/post some workouts, I decided this was something to continue. While it was fast-paced and challenging to keep up at first, it didn't make me want to cry like the thighs and tris class I attempted at Triomph Fitness in Park Slope. When Dhoonya expanded to NYC, I was not only ecstatic for the ladies I saw grow a small business into an awesomely marketed/visible dance/performance school, I was glad that if I moved, I could continue my dance education.

NYC Belly Dance with R.i.S.E
Wednesday night class was fun. I've taken belly dance classes before (and in Spanish too) and been confused. Especially about making figure 8s with your hips but now I get it. Instructor broke it down in away I understood. Something I can do with my hips and not feel limited by them or that they're too big. I know it sounds cliche to say, but knowing that you can indeed move in ways you didn't makes you feel a bit better about yourself. I'm an accessories girl, so the instructor having extra hip scarves for students to wear was so much fun.

I know yoga isn't dancing, but it's just as graceful (ideally anyway.) That's why I've included it here. There are so many yoga spots in NYC and Brooklyn, that I won't even attempt to go to all of them. Here are a couple I have gone to.

Yoga Vida's Union Square location is beautiful. The dark hardwood floors, big windows and crimson drapes are so inviting. I was lucky enough to have work off on a day when some classes were still going on and take the Friday noon Flow class with Amanda. She explained transitions very well and was supportive of students taking any modifications they needed (not like some other yoga instructors I've had who expect people to go into crazy bendy things without checking out their level of experience first). Amanda's playlist was so chill and unexpected: Alicia Keys, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, and Joss Stone (since the rest of it was so good, I won't discredit her for the inclusion of Joss Stone). Zoe's Flow class is pretty awesome too. I enjoyed her transitions and positive attitude.

Perk: Newbies can take as many yoga classes their first week for just $10.

YogaSole in Park Slope has an awesome, laid-back vibe, which is actually hard to achieve for studios in New York--at least you can tell the difference between a Manhattan and a Brooklyn studio. I recommend Merav as an instructor. She introduced me to this starfish pose I had never done before but found it a great stretch. This is very tranquil space, quiet. Classes weren't too big and there's no sense of competition here.

Perk: Drop-ins cost $15, but newbies can sign up for a deal to pay for 2 classes and get the third free.

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