While forward-thinking workout machines are more popular than ever, a back-to-basics (but better) movement is also taking place, with workouts that require nothing more than a rectangle of (cushioned) space and an amazing fitness instructor.
We’d identified seven such innovative workouts coast to coast. Each one is totally unique, but they all get in cardio, toning, and usually spirituality, with some combination of yoga poses, heart-rate-jacking jumping or dance, and old-school moves like planks and push-ups. All sans props.
And the benefits to simplicity may be deeper than you’d imagine. “What I’ve found is that it allows me to access more of the mind-body connection being just with my own body,” says Taryn Toomey, creator of The Class in New York City. “It’s just you and your body creating this burn and this fire that could completely transform you.” (She’s got a point: I found it hard to escape my exhaustion and at times kinda longed for the “distraction” of a kettlebell.)
Also, it’s portable. “No matter where you are, you have all you need to work every part of your body,” Toomey says. No weights, bands, or balls required. Here are seven of-the-moment mat workouts (in alphabetical order) to try now. —Lisa Elaine Held
BodyART at Crunch
European fitness phenomenon BodyART was originally developed as a healing tool, but founder Robert Steinbacher soon realized it had greater exercise implications. The method is based on principles of yin and yang and combines elements of yoga, Pilates, dance, and Tai Chi, and Crunch presents it in way that adds in even more emphasis on intense cardio and strength-training. So you’re doing lunges, squats, and mountain climbers—but in a fluid way that feels almost like a therapeutic flow. www.crunch.com
Founded by Bizzie Gold, Buti classes combine “yoga, tribal dance, and plyometrics,” which means you’ll find yourself flowing through traditional yoga sequences but adding in jumping and rhythmic dance intervals, including sexy booty shaking and hip gyrating. You’ll get sweaty and out of breath, fast. The brand opened its first studio in Santa Monica last summer, and its classes are also offered at gyms across the country, as well as online. www.butiyoga.com
Circuit of Change
This popular New York City studio and method was founded by former gymnast and Ironman Brian Delmonico. It melds yoga, martial arts, and familiar workout moves (like jumping jacks and tricep pushups) into a playful flow that includes fast-paced cardio, strength training, and spirituality. Rolling, kicking, boxing, and jumping are all involved, as is a kind of hippie shake-it-out dance, which you can try, or at least observe, while smiling the whole happy-making time. www.circuitofchange.com
Pilates Summer Series (Partner Listing)
Super instructor Robin Long of The Balanced Life has teamed up with Athleta for a series of free online Pilates workouts. The Pilates Summer Series is designed to help you improve your head-to-toe strength, tone, and flexibility—even if you’re nowhere near a fitness studio. Each workout video targets a different part of the body—abs, legs, upper body, (beach) booty—and the videos are just 5 to 10 minutes long, so you can squeeze in some hundreds before work. Or hey, during. The Pilates Summer Series
Not even Toomey herself quite knows how to explain her workout to those who haven’t experienced it, but “mindful, sculpting cardio filled with breathwork” comes close. It’s a push-you-to-your-limits class that combines yogic philosophy with boot camp athleticism. Not to mention lots of stomping and shaking to clear what Toomey refers to as physical, mental, and emotional “sludge.” Currently offered in a New York City studio at Downtown Dance Factory (and on Martha’s Vineyard this summer), it’s a go-to class for hip Tribeca moms, including Naomi Watts and fitness influencers. www.theclasswithtt.com
CrossFlowX at The Movement
Created by Strala Yoga star Heidi Kristoffer, this brand-new class at brand-new New York studio The Movement is like your yoga flow drank five Red Bulls (or a more natural equivalent, obviously). With the music blasting, you’ll flow through sun salutations that come with strength-building poses like handstands and jacked-up planks, and segues for (a lot of) plyometric jumps. Not to mention Kundalini-inspired muscle-burning repetitions, like 108 fast squats with arms outstretched—to Bastille, of course. The best part: In spite of your sweat-drenched self, Kristoffer’s bubbly happiness will rub off on you before class ends. www.themovementfitness.com
Deep EXtreme at Equinox
Created by Robert Steinbacher (who’s obviously a mat-workout innovator as the creator of BodyART, too), Deep EXtreme is a barefoot exercise in endurance in a six-foot space. Or however long your mat is. It starts with slow stretches and then moves into rhythmic heart-rate-boosting movements (like squatting with arm swings and curtsy squats while tapping the floor), plank variations galore, push-ups, and pulsing lunges. All with an emphasis on breathing to the beat (cardio trance dance anyone?), which helps you make your way through to the rewarding savasana at the end. www.equinox.com
Los Angeles yoga instructor Ryan Orrico originally started offering Maha Burn as a marketing tool to call attention to his “regular” Maha yoga classes, but when three times as many students showed up to take it (compared to his other yoga classes), he decided to make it official. The class is like “if yoga had a baby with CrossFit,” he says, and involves a tough yoga flow punctuated with core work, strengthening, and cardio conditioning—in a hot room. Orrico says the class’ popularity has soared because his students feel like they “get it all in” in that hour. It’s now also offered in Newport Beach (and this summer in Tulum) and he hopes to get five to seven teachers offering it by the end of the year, with more to follow. www.mahaburn.com
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