Rare is the yoga class where you put on a sweatshirt before going through Sun Salutations, but I clearly wasn't in any regular yoga class as I piled on a fleecy layer to absorb some sweat before Down Dog. My quads were already shaky, my headband soaked, and my throat begged for another gulp of waterand we hadn't even hit our mats yet.
Despite my healthy glisten (and inner exhaustion), I pulled off my shoes and sweaty socks, shook out my legs, and stood in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), ready to begin the second half of a Yoga Journey class. Also known as Yoga Spinning, this new trend of classes combines yoga and indoor cycling, an Ironman-worthy workout in which students pedal through an instructor-led, visualized ride on stationary bikes.
A few years ago, Noll Daniel, a Spinning teacher and yogi, taught Spinning and yoga classes back-to-back in a New York City gym. Some of his students would double up: sweat through a 45-minute Spinning class, then towel off and strike poses for another hour. "The asanas seemed easier since we were already warmed up," says Daniel, who has been teaching yoga for 15 years and Spinning for four. He suggested a combination class to the manager at Chelsea Piers, the New York City club where he teaches, and Yoga Journey was born.
Putting the Pedal to the Mental
Although each instructorusually a yogi with an interest in aerobic activityindividualizes the class format, the basic structure of the classes remains consistent. A combination of stretching, breathing, and cardio work, the warm-up can be done either on the bike or the mat. Helen McGee, a private instructor in Napa Valley, California, favors beginning with the full Sun Salutation series, then moving on to some more challenging poses like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) and Balancing Prayer Twist, a variation of Utkatasana (Chair). "When you get off the bike, your legs are usually pretty wobbly," says McGee, "so I like to do the challenging stuff first."
After students generate some warmth, the ride begins. Usually set to New Age music or sounds from the Caribbean and Africa, the journey involves a series of hills, flats, and sprints, created on the bike by increasing or lowering the front wheel's resistance and in the mind by visualizing the road ahead of you. Again, the instructor's personal preference determines whether you climb Mount Everest or sprint for the Tour de France finish line. McGee prefers to focus on developing endurance and strength, while Daniel led us through some challenging interval work. After about 30 to 40 minutes of Spinning, students dismount, stretch, do a few more asanasDaniel had us use the bike's handlebar for balance during modified versions of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) and Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose)throw on the aforementioned sweatshirt, take off their shoes, and roll out the mats. About 40 minutes of different asanas follow; most, like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose), focus on stretching hip flexors, quads, calves, and other cycling-specific muscles while simultaneously slowing down the heart.