High-intensity training is getting a mindful makeover, and you’re going to want to clear some headspace for this. Thanks to a few fitness renegades, yoga studios aren’t the only group fitness classes that are baking meditation into their exercise regimen. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself in savasana the next time you hit the barre or amp things up at your HIIT class.
Holly Rilinger, Nike master trainer and Flywheel Master Instructor, launched a new class at Studio B in New York City called LIFTED earlier this year. A mix of HIIT and meditation, Rilinger’s class is designed to train your mind the same way you train your body through positive thinking. By being present and thoughtful in your cardio strength training, you’ll be able to develop a deeper connection between your mind, body and spirit. Rilinger coins this as “The Joy Factor.”
“In the past year meditation has changed my life. It’s given me the headspace I need to handle most things that come my way. It gives me clarity and peace,” Rilinger says. “We all have busy lives. That one hour that we give ourselves for our workout should be precious.”
Meditation to HIIT Reset
To help reinforce the idea that you need to truly be present to make the most of your workout, Rilinger starts her LIFTED class with a short meditation. “The first meditation is very much about leaving our day at the door. There will be chaos in our minds, and thoughts will pull us in all kinds of directions,” Rilinger says. Once you’re in the right headspace, lifting, jumping, running or whatever the task ahead is arguably done with more care and may yield better results.
“We’re not sitting on a cushion with our eyes closed. We’re moving.”
Adam Rosante, founder of the People’s Bootcamp and C9 Champion Ambassador, also opens his classes with a meditation to help his students unlock the motivation and concentration they need to get through the workout. “By quieting the chatter in the mind, you can hyper-focus on the present,” Rosante says. Why inject zen into a bootcamp, though? “Doing this under physical stress improves your ability to do it elsewhere. Say, when you’re in a heated argument with your significant other,” he says.
But the meditation in Rosante’s class isn’t what some people might expect. “We’re not sitting on a cushion with our eyes closed. We’re moving. The key is syncing the movement with the breath to bring you into the present moment, while prepping the physical body for exercise,” Rosante says.
Even yoga studios across the country are re-evaluating their meditation practices. Savasana, which is usually the last pose in every yoga class, is a natural state for meditating, but the trainers at CorePower Yoga have taken it to the next level by also including it in their cardio and sculpt classes.
Unlike other yoga classes, meditation at CorePower Yoga encourages you to be an observer of yourself, says Chelsea Jasin, fitness trainer and manager of operations at CorePower Yoga. “We love to use empowering mental mantras in intense classes to help us stay invested and focused on our own self development. Our fan favorite is ‘Yes you can!’”
Mindful Meditation: The Many Moving Parts
“Meditation provides the appropriate focus and mental stamina needed to keep breath flowing.”
If you’re new to meditation, remember that the experience is different for everyone. While some people are able to quiet their minds and focus on breathing, other people are immersed in their thoughts — and that’s OK. You can focus on the different intricacies of a pose or movement, and that can be considered meditation, too.
“Meditation is not the absence of thought. We cannot stop thinking,” Rilinger says. “We can, however, become more aware of our thoughts.” And consider this: “When we bring attention to our bodies as we move them, we simply move better. We move with intention and move through proper range of motion,” she says.
Building Mental Stamina
On the other hand, mindful meditation can also help reinforce positive self-talk during a challenging workout. Jasin says meditation reminds us that the pain and discomfort you feel during a workout is temporary.
And because your mind and body are deeply connected while overcoming the mental and physical obstacles during a workout, you’re also training how your body reacts to other life stressors.
Rosante explains, “When any endeavor you face in life gets difficult, our minds have a tendency to run away or convince ourselves that we should quit.” But meditation forces you to look at things differently and manifest real-life miracles: “If you stay present, you’re able to push past those self-perceived limitations. It’s transformational.”
You’ll bring attention to your breath as well, which is essential during exercise. “Meditation provides the appropriate focus and mental stamina needed to keep breath flowing,” Jasin explains. “With a consistent meditation practice, you can be just as calm in a seated position as you are doing a burpee.”
She recommends taking five deep powerful breaths each time you feel like giving up. Those breaths give you time to reset your frame of mind and help you push through. “If I can commit my mind to the fact that this movement or this burn is temporary, then I may be able to control my body to last longer,” Jasin says.
Taking the Zen With You
You might not always be able to focus during a meditation at first, but it will get easier each time you sit down to meditate. Start small by meditating for 10 minutes a day. “Training our minds is very much like training our bodies. It takes discipline and repetition. When we focus on anything, we are able to give our best efforts,” Rilinger says.
After 35 minutes of exercise, Rilinger rounds out her class with a second meditation. Your heart rate will be through the roof and your breath heavy, but your thoughts are more focused than when you first walked into the room, Rilinger says. “The last meditation is blissful. The workout is over. Endorphins are pumping through your body and it’s easier to sit in the moment and breathe it in. I call this bottling it up so we can take this feeling with us into our day and use it when we need it,” Rilinger says.
Mindful meditation can also be used as another way to practice gratitude for your body and the work it has done. Rosante does a closed-eye meditation to mindfully let go of all the tension in the body. “The class is hard,” Rosante says, “and it was your body that completed it. It’s important to acknowledge that and be proud as hell of it.”