This year, resolve to do something different than trying to stick to the same workout routine that hasn’t stuck the last three years you tried it.
“It’s a new year and you are reminded that you’ve got a new opportunity to reconnect with some goals that you probably already have,” said Becky Nickerson, owner of Infinity Yoga Atlanta. “The ancient yoga texts tell us that our souls, our deeper selves, are infinite … but there is this mortality on the other side that our bodies have. They are finite and we do need to make goals for them so we can pursue more joy in our lives and less fear.”
One way to do that is hitting the yoga mat. But if the traditional namaste isn’t your style, Nickerson’s studio offers hot Infinity Flow and vinyasa yoga classes, which take place in rooms between 85 and 95 degrees.
“You’ll get a good sweat going,” Nickerson said. “I always bring a towel and water and make sure I’m hydrated. I usually look like I went swimming.”
Nickerson advises students to have a basic knowledge of poses before registering for hot yoga.
“Not that they’re really hard, we’re just moving through them really quickly. So when the instructor says we’re going to Warrior II … you already know the general geography of the pose,” she said.
Hot yoga encourages the body to stay hydrated. Intense sweating invites increased water consumption, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adequate water stabilizes body temperature, lubricates joints and helps rid the body of waste. Nickerson said added benefits of heat include ease of flexibility, allowing people to go deeper into their poses.
The style developed from Bikram yoga, a sequence of 26 postures done in a 105-degree room, Nickerson said. Bikram yoga originated in a hot, humid town in India.
“That series is the same every time you go. There’s no music; it’s very regimented. Whereas in our style of class, we offer modifications and options so if somebody wants to go add in some handstands along the way, they can; or if someone wants to take a little break and do Child’s Pose, no one is going to judge them,” she said.
Infinity Yoga Atlanta offers classes for all levels, including two hot yoga options for those with a basic knowledge of positions. It operates three studios in Dunwoody and Atlanta’s Brookhaven and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods. For schedules and registration information, visit infinityyogaatlanta.com.
Resolve to revolve
The truly non-traditional Pole Fit classes offered at Moreland Avenue studio Dance 411 offer Atlantans a chance to explore a new style of dance while building strength and completing entire body workouts — all while revolving around a stationary pole.
“People don’t understand that pole is a sport,” said Christian Taylor, director of women’s programs for Dance 411. “It did start out as an entertainment kind of industry. Everything was about entertaining, and then people saw how much strength it took to actually do certain tricks and just to climb a pole.”
Compared to other dance fitness classes like Zumba — which Dance 411 also offers — Pole Fit is an entire body workout.
“You’re going to learn a couple tricks, learn how to be a little sexy, but you’re going to go home and in two days you’re going to be sore,” Taylor said. “Say for instance we do a toe-touch. You think of a toe-touch in cheerleading, it’s with both your legs coming up; you touch your toes and come back down. In this class you do a toe touch, your arms are wrapped around the pole so you’re going to be using your biceps and triceps. And then you’re going to pull your body upwards, so then you have to suck in your core at the same time. You’re going to lift your legs around the pole, touch your toes [together] in front and go back down.”
Despite the stereotypes of young, slender women being the primary target market for pole fitness, options are available for all. There are men in classes, the average customer age is 30 to 45 and there’s even a class for curvier women.
“Even at an older age, your body adjusts to the pole differently, but you can still do it,” Taylor said. “There are a couple of ladies that come in here and they say, ‘You’re skinny. You can do it because you’re skinny.’ I show them a video of one of my students upside down on a pole and they’re like, whoa. I’m like yeah, you can do this.”
Justin Draper, director of client services for the studio, said even though pole fitness doesn’t always click as something men can do, there’s an entire male division in pole and acrobatics competitions, and most of the pole professionals with Cirque du Soleil are men.
“You’re going to work different muscles in different ways once you start to manipulate your body in different ways around a pole,” Draper said.
Dance 411 offers both Pole Fit drop-in classes, where people pay per class, as well as 10-week series that works up from the beginner level all the way to Ph.D. and culminates in a show for family and friends.
“By the end of level six you’ll be doing some aerial tricks and it’s a lot of flexibility working,” Taylor said. “For drop-in classes, you’ll learn a few tricks, we’ll warm you up and you learn a dance routine to take home.”
Drop-in Pole Fit classes are offered at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays this month at Dance 411. Additional pole classes and series sign-ups are also available. For the most up-to-date registration and price information, visit www.dance411studios.com.
Get fit to fly
For those who resolve to take their 2017 fitness goals to a new height, aerial arts classes are offered at several Atlanta locales. At Inspire Aerial Arts in the Amsterdam Walk shopping center, aspiring Peter Pans can fly high on fabric, rope and hoops while challenging their entire body.
“It’s a type of fitness that combines dance, gymnastics, some yoga-type stuff and of course, lots of pretty fabrics,” owner Kimberly Sende said. “Aerial is the thing that consistently challenged me and always kept me wanting more, but at the same time kind of tricked me into being in shape so I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh God I have to do 10 more reps of this’ and ‘Oh my God now I have to work on legs.’ I could just go and spin and twirl.”
A typical aerial class begins on the floor with arm and leg warm-ups, followed by somersaults. That’s a pose where aerial artists wrap their arms in the fabric hanging from the ceiling and flip back and forth, Sende said.
Inspire Aerial Arts offers classes for kids from 7 to, well, an undisclosed age — the oldest class member right now is in her 60s. For the first few classes, artists take hammock classes, where they learn different poses with the fabric tied in a knot, allowing themselves to build strength to support their body weight over time.
“Then we’ve got fabrics classes, which is the stuff where you have two separate pieces of fabric and you learn how to climb and you learn how to spin and drop from the air,” Sende said. “We’ve got aerial rope classes which is kind of like the gym rope that most people had in high school … We’ve got aerial hoop classes, which is a big round metal hoop that you make shapes in and you can climb on top of it or be below it.”
Ian Cias of Atlanta began classes last year, shortly before his 50th birthday. He said not only did aerial arts help him overcome his fear of heights, it changed his body completely.
“Nothing, and I’ve been working out in the gym for years, has never gotten my body this fit as this has, because it works everything and all at once,” Cias said. “It’s not just one thing like at the gym where you concentrate on one thing. Here, you use every part of your body for silks.”
His favorite poses include one where the artist holds the silks open and flips upside down, ending up looking like a butterfly, and the Iron T, a pose where only the arms are wrapped in the fabric, holding the body in a “T” shape over open air.
T Maehigashi of Tucker, another Inspire student, works almost exclusively on rope.
“Rope is more dynamic movement,” he said. “Silk is more, you look pretty and you look graceful, and I can’t do anything looking graceful at all like the way the female body moves. So rope, you can do swing and more dynamic looks. That’s probably more suited for me.”
He said aerial provides a challenging workout because instead of repetitions, the whole body is engaged at once, attempting to nail a move the way an instructor showed it.
“When you accomplish some move that you thought you’d never be able to, for instance the invert [an upside-down pose], that’s a great feeling and you want to move onto the next move,” Maehigashi said. “When you have some certain obvious goal … every time you try to do that you are working out a lot of muscles where you never knew you had.”
Sende said there’s no particular level of fitness one must have to start aerial classes. All that’s needed is willingness.
“Depending on how fit you are, things may or may not be more difficult for you, but there’s always something you can do,” Sende said. “Our fabric will hold 2,200 pounds. The beginner classes don’t really require that you hold yourself up in the air, but you have to be willing to try.”
And for those who think aerial is “too girly” for them?
“I’m busting my ass every time I come up here,” Maehigashi said. “If they think this is girly, you come up and climb that.”
Inspire Aerial Arts offers both drop-in classes and private lessons for aerial fabrics, hoop and rope throughout the week. For the most up-to-date registration and pricing information, visit www.inspireaerialarts.com.