My Other Yoga: 3 Ways Orangetheory Fitness Strengthened My Yoga Practice

Are you a yogi looking for inspiration off your yoga mat? Yoga Journal’s Editorial Producer Bee Creel hit the tread running with Orangetheory Fitness and found a new way to get in touch with her heart.
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Bee Creel (center), with Coach Bethany Welch (left) and Orangetheory Indoor Rowing Consultant, Josh Crosby (right).  

Bee Creel (center), with Coach Bethany Welch (left) and Orangetheory Indoor Rowing Consultant, Josh Crosby (right).  

It’s 6:50 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in Manhattan, and I just finished teaching my first yoga class of the day. A year ago, I would’ve made a beeline back to my apartment and straight into bed. But today, just like most days, I’m headed to Orangetheory Fitness on 39th street to work out. Even though the workout is different every time, I always know what I’m getting myself into.

What Exactly Is Orangetheory?

Picture a rectangular exercise studio, jam-packed with fitness equipment: half of the room is filled with treadmills and rowers, and the other half contains weights, risers (like the kind used in step aerobics classes), and TRX straps. The room is illuminated with a dim orange light and along each corner of the room are flat-screen TVs. In the beginning of the class, you’re given a heart rate monitor, which ends up being your compass for the entire hour-long class. On the TV screen, you can see the number of calories you burn as well as your heart rate—in addition to the calorie-burn and heart rates of everyone else in the class.

Now, I’m a yogi through and through—conditioned to avoid comparison—and so I’m not a big fan of competitive workouts. But there’s something about seeing these number-filled boards that excites me. In fact, during my Orangetheory workouts, my heart rate is my main motivation. (And if I’m honest, I’m checking my numbers against the others’ in the room, which helps motivate me to stay focused and to really push myself!)

See also My Other Yoga: The Class by Taryn Toomey

Finding My 'Flow' on the Treadmill

Before class starts, I set up my heart rate monitor on my upper arm. The heart rate monitor is linked to the TVs throughout the room so that no matter where I am during the workout, I can monitor my heart rate—and use that number as a benchmark to push harder or scale back. Each class is typically split in two groups: the first group begins on the treadmills and the second group begins in the weight-lifting section. The treadmill portion of the class is about 25 minutes of intervals, with everything from endurance to speed training. The weight-lifting portion of the class involves full-body exercises using the weights, TRX, and the rower. I like to start on the treadmill first, since I find it’s the hardest to get through. But once I’m a few minutes in and start to feel (and see!) my heart rate spike, I do everything I can to keep it there. My mind loses its initial focus on how much further I have to go, and I start to home in on how I can calm my breathing while still keeping my heart rate at a consistently high level.

You know that feeling you get when you are flowing through a yoga sequence effortlessly with the breath? That’s what it feels like when I find my groove on the treadmill. I’m in it. I’m in sync with my breath. And I’m flowing.

3 Ways Orangetheory Helped My Yoga Practice

Although these cardio- and strength-focused Orangetheory classes are vastly different than the asana classes I teach and take, I find that the mind-body connection I’m inspired to have when I’m sweating it out on the treadmill and powering through the strength routine is as present as it is when I’m flowing through my vinyasas. Once my heart rate monitor fires up, my body is my guide. And while yoga has always put me in touch with my breath, connecting with my heart in the way that I do during Orangetheory classes inspires an incredibly deep connection to my entire body.

As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I’ve been able to take what I learn in the Orangetheory studio and put it into practice on my mat. Here’s how: