When Yoga Meets CrossFit, It’s More Burn, Less Om
As a model working in South Africa in the early 2000s, Tracie Wright Vlaun started doing yoga along with her fitness regimen to help her deal with the mental toll that the fashion industry can sometimes inflict. “To let go of all the BS,” is how she put it. But she eventually wanted something “less Om-chanty,” and set about to create a workout that would blend poses into a more intense session.
By 2009, she and her trainer husband Chris Vlaun had devised a regimen that included entry-level yoga poses and bodyweight exercises grounded in the “fundamentals of ancient movement art disciplines.” Aeroga, the name of the duo’s high-energy workout offered at Florida’s St. Regis Bal Harbor Resort, is a seamless mix of power-based calisthenics set to a choreographed playlist that ranges among Adele, U2, Stevie Wonder, and Bach. It has taken off by word of mouth, attracting Miami tourists and a few athletes as well as the owners of the teams the athletes play for. “It’s going to kick your ass,” Chris Vlaun said.
Hybrid takes on vinyasa flow are the latest attempt to convince high net worth, Type-A guys that spending 60 sweaty minutes stretching next to beautiful, scantily clad women is a good idea. These riffs on the Indian art are more likely to resemble boot camp-style workouts, and classes come with such names as Hardcore Yoga, Core Power Yoga, and Cross Flow X, integrating elements of weightlifting, martial arts, Spin, and boxing.
At Set and Flow Yoga, a fusion studio in the shadow of the Hollywood Heights in Los Angeles, fitness director Eddie Guerra teaches a 60-minute heated class called Cannonball Yoga Sculpt that combines yoga poses such as Warrior 1 with kettle bell drills. “We gave it a catchy name that lets people know it’s inviting to people who work out, maybe they do CrossFit, but wouldn’t normally think of doing yoga postures to a hip-hop beat," he said. “It’s a mashup.” Guerra said that kettle bell drills coexist easily with yoga because the workout styles, based on breath and movement, are similar.
Yoga + Punching
BoxingYoga, which started in London in 2012 and has since expanded to Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco, and Johannesburg, uses a modified Ashtanga practice that integrates boxing technique—think, low lunges with wider stances to improve balance and mobility—with other Rocky-lite moves such as doing plank pose on your knuckles. “It’s a very physical practice,” said co-founder Kajza Ekberg, who has done private training with the Chelsea Football Club and Saracens rugby team in England as well as Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces.
There are actual punching bags at Box + Flow, which opened last November in downtown New York. The 50-minute barefoot classes begin with shadowboxing warmups, then shift to sessions on the bags with a high-energy Top 40 soundtrack, then a final session of yoga postures that ends with breathing exercises and a savasana. “It’s yin and yang, fire and water,” said founder Olivia Young, who trained for 10 years at Church Street Boxing Gym and practiced yoga for 15 before starting her own studio. “Yoga allowed me to open up and slow down. But I tend to be very high-energy, and I needed something with more adrenaline.” She cautions, however: “If you're looking to become the best boxer or the best yogi, this is not the right class.”
Is It Necessary?
Skeptics abound, of course. Adam Vitolo, who teaches Iyengar classes for Pure Yoga on New York’s Upper East Side, said a yoga session, properly done, should deliver a well-rounded workout by itself. “My perspective is that a lot of people hurt themselves in those classes, then they come to my class and learn about their bodies, then go back and are able to do them safely,” he said. Genny Wilkinson Priest, who teaches at Triyoga in London, agreed but also acknowledged the appeal of more physical workouts, especially for guys. “Yoga does have a reputation of taking itself a little bit seriously,” she said. “And these hybrids tend to be more focused on the physical. If you’re a runner, it's great for hamstrings, and hopefully they remind people that there’s a spiritual aspect,” she said.
“We got a lot of 'haterade' at first,” said Chris Vlaun. “But for guys who are making that billion-dollar deal, you can’t start off with the spiritual stuff. We just try to get them to focus on their breath.” Guerra put it another way. “This isn’t the only yoga you’re ever going to do. If you are able to bring more awareness to your breath, body, and have compassion for yourself, then why isn’t that yoga? It’s more contemporary, but that’s what’s been going on since it came to America. It’s not about whether we’re burning sage or playing esoteric music when you walk into the class.”
Five Classes to Try
You can choose between “Flow,” a 75-minute class, or the more intense, 60-minute, off-the-mat “Method” class from $35, or even private training customized to your own goals from $250. Available through V the Art of Wellness at St. Regis Bal Harbour, Esperanza Resort Los Cabos, and the Confidante Hotel Miami Beach.
Set and Flow Yoga, Los Angeles
“Cannonball Yoga Sculpt” is a 60-minute class heated to 95 degrees, from $25 per class or with a one-month unlimited membership from $80. Private training runs from $100 up. About 150 other classes are available on site, including “Barefoot Bootcamp” and a variety of heated and nonheated, more traditional yoga and Pilates classes.
The 60-minute classes are a “flow,” or continuously moving workout, that can be heated, depending on the coach or the venue. Available from $30 for a single class at multiple locations in the U.K., including 30 locations in London, as well as in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Berlin, and Singapore. Private training on request.
Box + Flow, New York
A warmup of shadowboxing on the mat leads to high-energy, off-the-mat sessions on a punching bag, set to a soundtrack of songs such as Fat Joe’s All the Way Up. Ends with a series of vinyasa flow poses that build off Chaturanga, or the low plank pose similar to a starting pushup position, and a variety of lunges and stretches before cooling down with pigeon and child's poses. One location (55 Bond Street) in New York, from $31 for a single class, private training from $125 per hour.
Exhale Spa, Bermuda
“Core Fusion Extreme” is more aerobics than yoga—shoes are required, for instance—but classes end with a savasana and the transitions between exercises include poses based on Mountain Climber. Available in 28 locations, including three in Miami, one in the Gansevoort in Turks & Caicos, as well as the recently renovated Fairmont Hamilton Princess in Bermuda.
(Corrects name of Set and Flow Yoga and fitness director title in 4th paragraph.)