I’m Here to Shed Some Light on Why so Many Fitness Classes Happen in the Dark

Photo: Getty/WestEnd 61
If there's one aspect of working out that I dislike (well, two if you count sprinting on an incline), it's people seeing me. When I'm in workout mode, my face is red like a ripe tomato, I'm nonstop dripping with sweat from every pore of my body, and my flaw-covering makeup has without-a-doubt melted right off. So I'm not looking my best, even though I may feel amazing.

That's precisely why I'm partial to working out in the dark. It's not a novel concept—if you think about it: so many boutique fitness studios set their workouts in dark rooms. There's candlelit yoga, dark spinning classes, boxing in the dark, and even dimly-lit boot camps. While that may come with the concern that you'll whack your head with weights or punch a person instead of a bag, don't worry—it doesn't have to be pitch black in order to reap the benefits of working out in the dark. (And let's be honest, for safety's sake, it never is.)

"A major benefit of practicing [yoga] in the dark is removing the element of comparison or competition," says Amy Apgar, yoga instructor and teaching manager at Y7 studio. "The candlelit room encourages you to focus on what your own individual practice feels like rather than what it looks like, or what anyone else in the room is doing."

So in the world of yoga, darkness helps to turn your focus inward, which enhances yoga's inherent goal of quieting the mind. At the same time, it keeps you from trying to imitate the uber-bendy acro-yogis that populate your social media feed. "Because our classes are held in dark, candelit rooms, our teachers don't demonstrate the physical poses—instead, they give incredibly detailed verbal instruction," says Apgar. "This allows the students to locate and engage the proper muscles in each shape, and allows you to connect to your own body much more efficiently."

"[Working out in the dark] allows you to connect to your own body much more efficiently." —Amy Apgar

And the benefits if darkness don't end at yoga, either. "What's the first thing you want to do when you want to set a mood? You adjust the lights!" says Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble Boxing, who notes that harsh white studio lights have never been "a vibe" for him. "The lower lights force your pupils to dilate and focus more intently on what you're doing, letting those predatorial instincts to kick in."

On top of that, darkness eliminates an intimidating atmosphere. "The low lights make everyone feel welcomed. You get all the energy amplifying the benefits of working out with a massive group of hard-working, like-minded people, but will never feel intimidated or judged," explains Neiman, who adds he even dims the lights if he's working out at home.

Another boxing studio, Shadowbox, also serves up their sweat sessions in the dark. "The experience we've created at Shadowbox is meant to serve as both a physical and mental escape," says Kelli Yapp, Shadowbox instructor and director of brand product. "It's a space where everyone can come not only to get an incredible workout, but also rid themselves of any mental run-around. The dark room allows boxers to lose themselves, in a way—you're not concerned about the people around you." And so, in turn, you focus on your own body and breath, which leads to a more cathartic, empowering workout.

Similarly, in a spinning class, the dark lets you avoid competition and to completely let loose. "Working out in the dark allows you to push yourself extra hard," says Samantha Manheimer, President at Cyc Fitness. "It’s completely judgment-free, so you can really focus on your workout rather than on how you look, and what the person next to you is thinking. At Cyc, we find that riding in the dark lets you really lose yourself in the music, and dance on the bike like no one is watching." My fave thing, personally.

Intrigued? Next time you're in a dimmed studio, embrace the vibe and get your sweat on, without paying attention to anything else around you. Adds Apgar: "It's a beautiful opportunity to go inward—the darkness facilitates that intimate connection with the self." All of these perks, plus no one else being able to see my sweaty self? Yes, please.

Oh, and while you're sweating, be sure to look into the importance of mobility fitness training. And here's how to use a foam roller for all different workouts

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