The intersection of mindfulness and fitness — and where to find it in NYC

By Former Agent

The world of wellness is ever-changing as people seek out new routes to the ultimate state of well-being. What was once “eat your vegetables and get some sleep,” has become a more holistic approach. In 2018, the wellness community has shown us a few new trends to consider adopting — cryotherapy, CBD oils, actually thinking about your digestion versus your diet — but one topic has been coming up again and again, and has finally made its way into the mainstream marketplace: fitness versus mindfulness.

To say that we’ve been ignoring the mental health side of the fitness industry wouldn’t be strictly true. There’s been evidence for years that a regular exercise routine can boost your mood and help your concentration, but it has only really been in the last decade that researchers have been able to pinpoint more seriously how and why that is. According to one research review from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, evidence suggests that aerobic exercise has the ability to improve a person’s cognitive function while resistance training can enhance a person’s executive function and memory. This is an unbelievably cool finding. However, it is not the heart of the revolution in the way we think about the mind-body connection in 2018.

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In fact, today it’s all about the other side of the proverbial coin. Rather than using physical activity to fuel the brain, mindfulness practitioners and trainers alike are advocating for using your brain to fuel your physical activity. And, when you put down the weights for a second and think about it, it actually makes complete sense.

Consider going to a yoga class, traditionally a practice with a high mind-body connection, and ignoring your breathing. Without proper breathing, it becomes incredibly difficult to stay on pace with the flow of the yoga practice itself which puts the person practicing at risk for injury or muscle strain. This new addition to the way we think about the mind and the body as one truly brings wellness full circle.

Around New York City, there are plenty of fitness hot spots that are perfect places to bring your mind and your body together into one seamless workout that leaves your heart beating and mind focused. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite workouts for focused muscle work and mindful practice, just in case you’re in the market for a new space to feel the burn and radiate good vibes this fall.

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Down in Two Bridges (around the corner from 10 Rutgers), yogis of all levels flock to the Sky Ting Chinatown residency. To walk into a space like Sky Ting’s is to walk into a space of mental freedom. The studio — at this and all locations — is brightly lit, white and coolly minimalist. When your yoga instructor asks you to clear your mind, this is the perfect space in which to do it. Classes here are soft and instructors are knowledgeable and ready to adjust your position for the deepest pose (and most muscle work!). Beyond offering classes for all needs (beginner, pre-natal, etc.), Sky Ting boasts a rotating schedule of events and retreats into their seasonal offerings — things like sound bath sessions and Intro to the Ayurvedic Life Sciences. If you’re looking for a gentle body-mind workout, Sky Ting is just the thing.

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Does yoga interest you but feel inaccessible against your rise-and-grind mentality? If so, Y7 Williamsburg has just the thing for you. In hot yoga, you typically hold your asanas (poses) for longer so your muscles have time to relax. Not so at Y7. Here, it’s all about the flow and that flow is set to an ever-changing soundtrack of hip hop tracks past and present. It’s the ultimate fitness example of how opposites attract. Dark rooms lit only by candle focus your mind at the same time as you’re guided through serious flow segments of body-weight muscle work. By the end of class, the word Shavasana has never sounded so peaceful. (PS — it’s just a few minutes from 321 Wythe).

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In Bushwick, Loom Yoga Center delivers a more traditional yoga experience, but does so alongside other offerings that bring your body and mind into alignment. Classes like aerial pilates sit alongside Thai bodywork, dedicated meditation class and rigorous ‘strong yoga’ to offer a smorgasbord of wellness options for everyone that walks in the door.

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We know we’re offering up a lot of low intensity muscle work on this list so far, so if you prefer to work quick and work hard, consider popping over to Switch Playground. With two locations on either side of Manhattan, Switch Playground may not seem like your average center for mindfulness but hear us out. This workout is unlike other high intensity interval training (HIIT) you’ve probably ever been to. It consists of anywhere between 20 to 40 different ‘stations’ in each class. You have one instructor and a set of trainers to help you as you work your way around the stations. There’s a live DJ. So where does the mindfulness come in? You only have two minutes at each station. It’s a fantastic concept, really, for bringing the mind and the body together in a new way. Anyone can focus on anything for only two minutes. For that amount of time, when you do a squat, you focus on doing the squat well. When you do a push up, you focus on the way your arms hold you in position. Plus, hey, they offer a great intro deal to newbies to get you started. What could be better?

With all that said, there is no right or wrong type of class for boosting your brainwaves alongside a good workout. The key is to focus on what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Pay attention to your posture. When instructors say ‘suck your tummy in’ listen and hold your body accountable with your mind. Your muscles will hurt more, sure, but your brain will than you for taking the time, and down the line your muscles will follow suit. There’s never been a better time to treat yo’ brain and body as one.

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Photo Credits:
1) Photo by Yayan Sopian on Unsplash
2) Photo by Angelos Michalopoulos on Unsplash
3) Image courtesy of Sky Ting |
4) Image courtesy of Y7 |
5) Image courtesy of Loom Yoga Center |
6) Image courtesy of Sporteluxe |