Feature Article - March 2007
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Running the Trend Mill

The ever-evolving workout world

By Emily Tipping

The mind-body connection

The IDEA Health & Fitness Association announced in November 2006 that almost 15 million people participated in a yoga or tai chi class at least once in 2005. And ACE reports that the mind-body connection will continue to dominate fitness programming in 2007. It seems we're all searching for something.

"The whole mind-body thing is exploding," Vance said. "People can do it on into their older years, stop pounding on the floors. You can still get your heart rate up, but not beat up your body."

Young said that the Medical Fitness Association has incorporated mind-body fitness. The Cox Fitness Centers won an award for mind-body fitness and relaxation programming, and the hospital incorporates healing touch, energy healing and other holistic services.

"That's the future of fitness," Young said. Young looks holistically at fitness. "I think we're fantastic about offering a huge range of services, so when you come in, you're set up with everything—not just a milkshake bar and a personal trainer."

She added. "I think people are begging to get their spirit back. People are going nuts about cleansing, and I think it's just a way to get back to their spirit. A physical therapist said to me today, 'I have a 15-year-old kid as my student. Can I get him into your tai chi class?'"

Yoga in particular is popping up in various forms in fitness clubs across the country—whether it's pure hatha yoga or some hybrid combination of yoga and Pilates, yoga and cycling, or other exercise programming.

"I think especially in the fitness environment, we're going to see more growth in yoga classes," said Beth Shaw, president and founder of YogaFit Inc.

But in a fitness club environment, yoga—with its Sanskrit names for poses and its chanting—can seem intimidating to those who've never inverted their body into a downward dog. That's why Shaw developed her program.

She began practicing yoga in 1989 and earned several certifications, but when she started teaching at clubs in Los Angeles, she realized that yoga was not completely suited to the health club. The bright lights, colder rooms and varying fitness levels of her clientele led her to create her own yoga style, combining traditional western-type fitness moves like squats and sit-ups with yoga poses.

To make yoga less intimidating for beginners, YogaFit encourages accessibility and modifications and options for the different poses. "We teach the people we train to really emphasize that, and also the essence of YogaFit, which is breathing, feeling, letting go of judgment and sharing with students continually during the class, asking them to ask themselves, 'How can I approach my own yoga practice from a good place mentally?' The essence is not to compete, but just to enjoy my own body and be in my own space," she said.

Fitting yoga into your fitness club is another matter entirely. "Yoga in the fitness club—and that's something we've been teaching people how to teach for over 12 years now—promotes challenges for the instructor," Shaw said. "You're always getting new people into your class. The instructor has to be well trained in teaching to a variety of levels at the same time. They also need to know how to do the options and modifications."