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Yoga and weights? Rap to downward dog? Sure sounded like oxymorons to me. Until I gave Sculpt Yoga a whirl at Corepower Yoga in St. Paul last week. I'm a big fan of strength training and so was thrilled to find this unusual gem to recommend to fellow fitness fiends.
I've taken yoga before. You know, poses, soft and thoughtful music, soothing words about breathing the light.
"This is not your mother's yoga class!" yogi Nora Byrne told me.
That's for sure. This was not zen-like. It pushed me. I felt strong, laughed a lot and even shook a little bootie -- yes, in yoga!
"It's a hoot," admitted Patrick Craigie, who started teaching at the center in October. "I laugh in every class." Still, he admits the class is kind of "strange. This style is definitely a different school."
My class was taught by a svelte, toned yogi named Tobi Lynden. She warmed us up with ritual downward dogs that burst into "chaturanga dandasanas" (translation: hoist heinies high in air, then swoop low into a plank pose with bent elbows). Repeat. A lot. All this in 90-degree heat, which kept us supple as Beyoncé cooed over the speakers and kept spirits bouncing.
Beyoncé ? In yoga? Is that really allowed?
Soon we grabbed our dumbbells, pairs of 3- to 10-pound weights for each of us, and worked out to the beat, alternating squats and leg lunges with dumbbells thrust to the ceiling. We moved into a one-legged "tree pose" while pulsing dumbbells behind our heads, with elbows locked by our ears.
I felt my triceps and balancing leg burn stronger.
That's important. We lose 2 to 3 pounds of muscle mass each decade after age 35, unless we test our muscles. This definitely did.
We struck the elegant Warrior II lunge with our arms open wide, weights in hand. Ever hold your arms straight out? With a two-liter bottle of soda in each hand? Keep that mental image, because that's sure what it felt like.
At least Jay-Z sent us a little rap love.
Next to me, Kelly Larson, a third-grade teacher with a killer tattoo on her ankle, liked the vibe. "I feel it in my upper arms and shoulders. I like it, but it pushes me really hard. I have very little upper-body strength," she said after class. "Straight weight training doesn't work for me, but this does. It has the flow."
Like me, Larson is new to the funky concept of strength-training yoga. It offered a cool blend of traditional yoga poses, strength training and the pulsing, energetic music of an aerobics class. It's effective. Not quiet.
While we used weights for the upper-body work, we used our own body weight to challenge legs, hips and glutes. We lunged, we dipped and hoisted weights high. At one point we pulsed through 20 squats as Roberta Flack wept "Killing me softly" into our ears. We squatted, pinned our elbows and moved our dumbbells together and apart 'til the burn arrived. "I love this!" someone yelled, without irony. I think it was me.
But then I got a little worried when my fellow yogis suddenly groaned en masse. Lynden had just announced, "Get ready: We're doing triangle pushups."
Such wimps, I thought smugly. Lynden just wanted six pushups followed by six biceps curls. No biggie.
But then Lynden demanded seven pushups followed by seven biceps curls. Then eight pushups and eight curls. Then nine and nine, and then 10 and 10, and so on. Whatever happened to truth in advertising? The class cheered when she stopped. Cheering? In yoga?
We went back to the triceps pulses with 10 pounds. "See how much our bodies can handle. You go for the 3-pound weight and you don't need to," she shouted.
To make sure our legs got their $17 worth, Lynden led us to "The Twist," jogs in place, invisible jump ropes, and one-legged hops. Gloria Gaynor's voice rang through the room with everyone shouting/singing, "I will survive!" as we sat on our butts gripping weights to chest and leaning back to twist right and left. We did situps, raising the weights high during the lift, when suddenly we were on our feet again grooving to Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean."
An hour later, we cooled down enough to finish with a nice two-minute nap called "shavasana" as coaches came around and rubbed our heads and shoulders.
What bliss. I'll definitely be back.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725