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Yoga hit classes combine two different fitness styles

Some Wilmington yogis are incorporating the cardio benefits of high-intensity training to their yoga sessions bringing a whole new element to the ancient practice.

One such class, offered by WILMINGTON YOGA CENTER, is based on yoga poses, but practitioners also get a healthy dose of strength and cardio training.

The class follows high-intensity interval training (HIIT) principles. You do short bursts of intense exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery. For example, after warming up, there are multiple repetitions of a pose or exercise, such as mountain climbers (knees to elbows), for four minutes. That’s followed by rest before launching into the next set of exercises, maybe holding an air squat while working the smaller muscles. If the exercises aren’t strenuous enough, participants can increase the difficulty by adding weights.

The result is an intense workout that raises the heart rate and sculpts muscles.

“Yoga HIIT is a melding of yoga and the gym,” says HEATHER METZLER (left) , who teaches the class at Wilmington Yoga Center. “It’s also a great complementary practice (for women who do only cardio). As women age, they need to do more than cardio. They need to do weight-bearing exercise.”

HIIT workouts are the multitaskers of exercise regimes, according to avid exercisers. It has placed in the top three fitness trends since 2014, reports the American College of Sports Medicine. People like it because they get substantial results in a short amount of time. HIIT has been shown to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and insulin sensitivity. HIIT workouts can also reduce abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass. And, they burn more calories than traditional workouts, especially after the workout.

While applying HIIT to yoga is relatively new, it too is gaining adherents. In addition to the above, you can gain a couple of other important benefits when doing yoga HIIT. Unlike most HIIT workouts, which target your fast-twitch muscles, yoga HIIT also strengthens your stabilizer muscles. In addition, yoga HIIT, like in traditional yoga classes, connects you to your breath and ends with meditation.

Students also appreciate the mindfulness of yoga HIIT. With it, though you work hard, you’re encouraged to listen to your body and slow down or take a break if you need to.

“The class is challenging but doable,” says CHERIE DESCHENES , a yoga HIIT student. “You can take it at your own pace.”

Also, as with all yoga classes, the instructor keeps a watchful eye on the students’ forms and offers adaptations for the poses and exercises. The class is so adaptable that everyone from yoga newbies to seasoned practitioners can do it. That’s especially true of Wilmington Yoga Center’s class. Metzler, who inspires her students to do more, gives multiple versions of the exercises and ensures they’re done correctly.

“Heather is wonderful about offering options,” DesChenes says. “It’s like having a personal trainer but in a small group.”

Though yoga HIIT has only been offered there for a couple of months, it’s already gained a coterie of dedicated students. Many take the class twice a week, which Metzler recommends to see results.

“I’m getting stronger in class, and I don’t get as winded as when I started,” says TORRI WINSTEAD . “I’m stronger in my everyday activities, when carrying groceries or picking up my dog.”

Another advantage is that people can get a great workout in such a short time.

“It’s very convenient,” Winstead adds. “I can take the class on my lunch break, work hard, get back to work, and not feel rushed.”

Add to that the upbeat music Metzler plays, and you get a yoga experience unlike any other.

With all this emphasis on cardio and strength training, you may be wondering what happens to that feeling of peace and relaxation that typically accompanies a yoga class. Well, it’s a little different in a yoga HIIT class. You may not leave the class all loose and Zen-like, but you will be energized and ready to take on the world – or at least the challenges of the rest of the day.


To view more of photographer Megan Dietz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.

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