I DON’T FUNCTION well at 6 a.m., so I was happy to start on my back on my yoga mat, eyes closed, brain half asleep. The lights in the room at Sol Yoga in Leschi were dim. Teacher Allison Barnes’ voice was soothing. I thought about how nice it would be to nap for the next 60 minutes.
I kept my eyes closed through the entire opening series — cat/cow, downward dog, a passive forward fold. I reluctantly opened my eyes for the yoga flow, which was still nice and relaxing. I was happy to breathe, do a few lunges and balancing poses and to sweat just enough in the heated room.
But about 35 minutes into the practice, Allison opened the front door, and cold air rushed in. She cranked up the music. She told us to fetch a weight.
This is what we were here for. It was time for the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) part of Yoga HIIT. In other words, time to wake up.
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Sol Yoga offers a combination yoga and high-intensity interval training class using dumbbells and medicine balls. The idea is to do some explosive, intense work to supplement a regular yoga practice (other studios in Seattle offer similar classes).
I have resisted combining yoga with other activities, a trend the past few years since yoga became mainstream. I love yoga. I like working out to loud music in a gym. I’m not generally interested in doing both in the same class.
But a friend told me not to think of yoga with weights as yoga; it’s weight training.
OK, fine. I’ll go.
We grabbed a heavy dumbbell and started with thrusters. We held our dumbbell at our chests with both hands, did a squat and then pressed the dumbbell above our heads. We worked 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off. Allison encouraged us to move as fast as we could while maintaining form. My legs and glutes protested. This ain’t yoga, kids.
We moved into another combination, starting with a plank and jumping quickly forward to a squat and back again to plank. We rotated that with dynamic squats, taking a wide squat, hopping our feet together and jumping back as quickly as possible.
By the second round of squats, my legs were burning and I had to keep reminding myself it was only 20 seconds.
Next up was mountain runners — running in place in a plank position — with an added twist and leg extension. We mixed those in with kettlebell swings using our dumbbells. This round wasn’t as bad, but my legs were now exhausted.
We closed our interval training with core work. By then, I was awake, but my body was done.
A great bonus when combining yoga with weights is the stretching built into the class. We did some hip and hamstring stretches before settling in for final rest. Ah, this is the reason to add yoga to a weight-training class, I thought before I drifted off.
I underestimated how fun it is to add interval training to a yoga practice. It’s not the same experience as a yoga class, although you will get the benefit of breathing and yoga poses. Rather, it felt like we did yoga to prepare our bodies for the conditioning work and to support ourselves afterward. Doing weights with yoga will elevate your heart rate, tax your muscles and, if you need some help waking up early in the morning, it will do that, too.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.