October 26, 2011


By Carina Storrs
If you are wondering what an "Inner Warrior" class is, you are probably not going to get much insight from Google. The hits I got talked about mindfulness and tracking your inner and outer energies. When I showed up for a free trial class last week, I was fully expecting to meditate.

Meditation it is not. The first half of the class we did flow yoga, which sounds breezy and relaxing, but really involves moving between some pretty challenging poses such as the plank and rock star—so much moving, in fact, that our teacher told us to stack our yoga mats at the back of the room out of the way.

At the end of all the flowing, I was ready for some cool-down and breathing exercises. But that was only the warm-up. During the second half of class we faced our "Warrior," punching and kicking our way through combinations inspired by martial arts styles such as capoeira. We ended with a block and a grunt, not a Namaste.

For the types of people to whom this sort of exercise fusion appeals, it could be great, says Mark Mirabelli, MD, assistant professor of orthopedics and family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in Rochester, N.Y.

But I'm not sure if I am one of those people. I get my mind around one type of movement per class and have a hard time switching gears—either we are flowing and posing or we are punching and dancing (hey, it works in Zumba!). It’s like those restaurants that cropped up around New York City that had a Chinese menu on one side and Latin on the other. I like to commit to a hemisphere.

If you are reading this and thinking, "But wait, this is for me!" here are five reasons you should disregard  my opinion and get your Inner Warrior on.

It's hard to find something bad to say about yoga
It is low impact, good for joints, improves flexibility, and strengthens your core—but it is not much in the way of aerobic fitness, says Dr. Mirabelli. Supplementing it with martial arts could boost your heart rate. But Dr. Mirabelli says martial arts probably won't give you a sustained high heart rate like jogging, swimming, and Zumba do, so you should not make Inner Warrior your only serving of cardio.

Switching styles might keep you interested
"It might be hard for some athletes to make that transition between slow breathing and up-tempo martial arts in one session," Dr. Mirabelli says. But switching it up like this is "completely OK to do." If you enjoy mixing some punches in with your downward dogs, it could be a great program. (I took a class at a local Equinox gym. Check your local branch for class schedules.)

I might have spoken too soon about this class not being meditation
It's not smack-you-in-the-face mindfulness with breathing and focusing, "but it promotes awareness of yourself and your mind," Dr. Mirabelli says. Flow yoga is a "slow pace that allows you to take time to think," he adds. So if you think meditation could help reduce your stress, so too could Inner Warrior.

It's a good fit for pretty much anyone
There are not many groups of people or health conditions for whom an Inner Warrior workout would be inadvisable. Yoga is great in general, although Dr. Mirabelli recommends a slower style than flow yoga for people who have stiffness (such as those with arthritis) or mental problems such as anxiety. The martial arts component can be demanding, so older people should make sure they have good heart-health and don't have joint injuries before starting.

Martial arts can be a blast
The best move was this kind of sweep-lunge-side kick. I could absolutely use this to defend myself against a band of capoeira ruffians in a Brazilian alleyway while also looking like a backup dancer in You Got Served.

Bottom line: I want to try more of this martial-arts-inspired dance. But next time I'll take separate classes for my "Inner" and my "Warrior."

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