“Crushing it” at the gym becomes less cathartic when all you want is for everything to feel less crushing. “I think people have completely changed their relationship with working out [this year],” says Hollie Bloch, director of events and marketing at New York City’s East River Pilates. “It used to be an adrenaline hour and now it’s become a survival mechanism.” And as we head into 2021, Americans will look for new ways to use fitness as a balm for both body and soul.
“I’m seeing more emotional-based requests [for classes],” says YouTube’s most popular yoga instructor and Yoga With Adriene founder Adriene Mishler, who cites “Yoga for Loneliness” as her most-watched video of 2020. “We’re circling back to yoga being used as a resource in the same way that it was when I found yoga—as a tool for tending to your inner self,” she says. And she’s carrying this idea into the new year by focusing her annual 30 Days of Yoga program in January on connecting with your breath.
Yoga, which ClassPass says has seen a 25-percent increase in interest on the platform this year, is just one of a few gentler modalities that are gaining traction. Stretching is another method on the rise, with ClassPass saying it ranked among the top 10 on-demand activities booked during 2020 and workout app Aaptiv adding stretching classes to its offerings to meet increased interest. Cult-beloved sweatbox The Class by Taryn Toomey says its new hybrid Restore classes—which combine the brand’s signature fiery workouts with intensive stretching and meditation—have been so successful, the brand plans to expand its restorative offerings in 2021.
“People need an escape. They need to find safe ways to de-stress,” says Nike master trainer Traci Copeland, who leads yoga flows on the NTC app. “Realizing that we have to live with this [pandemic], we want to prepare our minds and our bodies for a certain level of uncertainty. I think that’s why we call it a practice. Practice so you can be ready again when and if things get worse.”
An area of growth to keep an eye on in 2021 is fitness offerings that more explicitly blend exercises for the body and mind. This year, Aaptiv added more sleep classes and walking meditations, while at-home fitness platform Mirror saw a 40-percent increase in demand for mindfulness content. The classes available on Open, a new digital platform launching in early 2021, combine physical movement with breathwork, meditation, and music in what it calls a “hybrid methodology…designed to strengthen the mind-body connection.” Wellness booking platform Wellset has seen such demand for this type of mind/body content, says founder Tegan Bukowski, that they’re creating tools to help fitness instructors pivot to include it in their slate of offerings.
Body alignment specialist Lauren Roxburgh is similarly blending her 2021 programming; her 11-week course, ELEVATE, which is “designed to strengthen and empower your body, mind, and heart,” launches in January. “2021 is all about becoming your own healer and finding more restorative ways to up-level your energy and stay calm in the chaos,” she says.
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