Something for Everyone
If you haven't thought about Spinning before, perhaps you should. More important than the tabulated sweat factor are the cardio benefits Spinning brings to a yogi's regimen. "I have greater awareness about the capabilities of my body," says Daniel. "Plus, I'm stronger, have more energy, and just feel good." Most Spinning classes last 45 minutes, but because of the workout's intensity, cyclists get their heart rates soaring within minutes; a 130-pound woman can burn about 500 calories during that time.
At first glance, yoga and Spinning appear to go together like Oprah and Howard Stern, but they actually complement each other. "They're a perfect yin and yang," says McGee. "They both allow you to go inside of yourself in an interesting way." They're also the ultimate balanced workout in that muscles get strengthened and stretched, your mind goes on a calming inner journey, and your heart gets a fierce pumping.
Physically, many of the tenets of indoor cycling mirror those of yoga. Staying centered and grounded is paramount, whether you're on the bike or the mat. Just as most asanasfrom Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) to Sirsasana (Headstand)require energy and movement radiating from your core, Spinning at high revolutions with little resistance requires a solid sense of balance, beginning from your lower back and abs. (Throughout our workout, Daniel reminded us to lift up from the abdominals and to keep them engaged for maximum support.)
Similarly, both require a solid sense of body position and knowledge: For the most efficient cycling, you need to know how to engageand feeleach muscle in your leg, just as you need to know how to "spiral" out your thighs in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). The energy level in both classes is similar too in that they begin low and then build to an outburst.
Perhaps the most important physical trait Spinning and yoga share is the use of the breath. Sunny Davis, a North Carolina-based instructor who holds Yoga Spinning clinics for instructors around the country, realizes that Western athletes may not be as accepting of nontangible concepts like "proper breathing eases effort," so she has her students wear heart rate monitors while Spinning. She introduces them to the power of pPranayama through a simple exercise of counting how many cycles of breath (inhalation and exhalation) they observe per minute. Not surprisingly, when they breathe correctly their heart rates go down despite the fact that the workload may go up.
"Somebody came up to me after a class and told me she took the class knowing she was going to hate it," Davis says, "but then she saw the numbers on her monitor go down and realized what a powerful tool correct breathing could be. That drove it home for her."
The personal focus inherent in concentrating on the breath is representative of the inward attention required by both practices. When you practice yoga in a class, the teacher suggests a pose and you listen to your tight muscles, aching joints, and flexible tendons to realize how far you'll be able to take it. In Spinning, the instructor tells you where you're going and how hard to go, but the image you see is ultimately drawn from within and you work at a comfortable pace for your body.