Thanks to its ancient roots as a spiritual practice, yoga's got soul-searching built in, even if it does burn calories at the same time. But it's not the only instance.
Inner reflection and spiritual conversions are also happening in fitness studios. And New Yorkers are increasingly spending their Sunday mornings lunging for self-love and cycling for reasons greater than a smaller dress size. (Lululemon highlighted the fitness-spirituality phenomenon at its event last fall, The Gospel of Sweat, held inside Riverside Church.)
"A workout is a great time to soul search, because it naturally uplifts your spirit," says IntenSati founder Patricia Moreno. "When we're in a challenging workout with the intention to grow physically and spiritually, then we can change the way we relate to challenges not just in the gym, but in all areas in life."
Ready to offer up a plyometric prayer? Here are five spiritual workouts that aren't yoga... —Lisa Elaine Held
Photo: Brian Delmonico teaching Circuit of Change
Yoga poses sneak their way into this mind-body boot camp, which also features martial arts techniques and workout moves like lunges. Not to mention some shake-it-all-out shamanic dancing.
Founder Brian Delmonico says that sweaty workouts are the perfect time to focus on inner life, and the reason starts with endorphins. "We use endorphins to create a flow of energy (vibrations), and this flow picks up momentum the more consistent we are with our workouts, thus opening more positive frequencies for us to visit," he explains.
"The physical will get us to the actual 'workout,' but the spiritual practice will trigger happiness, push us much further then just the physical could do alone, open us to change, and enhance all areas of our lives." Amen to that.
An IntenSati class can sound like a church choir, with self-love affirmations shouted rhythmically by participants as they squat and punch. The method, which combines dance, martial arts, and conditioning moves, has a cult-following thanks to its promotion of healthy body image, goal setting and achievement, and happiness that starts in your soul.
But if you don't buy in, you won't get as much out of it, says Patricia Moreno. "What makes a workout spiritual is the conscious intention for it to be so, along with the willingness to look honestly at ourselves and feed our soul."
Her term for what you'll achieve with IntenSati? "Thinner peace."
Photo: An IntenSati flash mob, www.WashingtonSquareParkBlog.com
No, we're not including this insanely difficult HIIT class because you'll probably use the Lord's name in vain during a high-knees sequence.
It's because before (and when) the going gets tough, founder Adam Rosante has participants call on their inner purpose and strength as a means to make it through class—and later, life. It's the boot camp version of yoga's "set an intention."
"I encourage and coach everyone to find what I call their 'Why Power.' It's an attachment to a higher purpose that's going to motivate you to do the work that needs to be done when you just don't feel like doing it," he explains.
If you can get through a torturous round of burpees, you may also find the courage to be kind when it's easier not to be.
Founder Rochelle Schiek calls her method—which combines yoga, dance, and sensual movement—"a shift in consciousness through movement."
It's a just-for-women workout that's all about embracing your inner power (Qoya is a tribal word for "queen"). And like Kundalini yoga, she has series devoted to specific objectives: Expand Your Ability to Receive or Releasing What No Longer Serves Us.
Throughout, Schieck, who teaches in Los Angeles and leads retreats, guides you towards loving your inner self by discovering the strength and beauty in your body. And instead of feeling gauche, the hip gyrating to pumped-up tunes by candlelight somehow feels freeing and feminine.
Photo: A Qoya retreat, www.facebook.com
Cycling meets life coaching in SoulCycle classes (it's call Soul for a reason), where flickering candlelight encourages a reflective vibe, and the positivity-powered workout can feel like a sweaty séance.
As participants pedal on the beat, sometimes with the direction to close their eyes, instructors shout out inspirational mantras, hitting topics like being present, setting intentions, and figuring out how to live your life as the best version of yourself.
Their spiritual-fitness mission makes devotees of riders, who proudly wear the brand's popular clothing emblazoned with positive words and phrases. And SoulCyclists don't just call the ride their workout, they call it their therapy.
Photo: SoulCycle on the High Line, www.facebook.com
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