Add Pilates and yoga moves to a traditional fitness base to help participants train in a different way.
The popularity of yoga and Pilates has spawned several fun and effective fusion offerings. This particular class, “Mindful Fusion Fitness,” uses “traditional” fitness-based exercises as the foundation and then layers on Pilates moves and yoga postures. This approach allows instructors and participants to begin with familiar exercises and then mindfully progress into moves that may be new or unfamiliar. The design trains strength, balance and flexibility in a conscious manner. The beauty of this class is that there are many ways to blend the exercises and layer on repetition and rhythm changes to challenge participants. The variations are endless, but the following sample will get you started.
Mindful Fusion Fitness Details
format: body-mind group strength, balance and flexibility class
total time: 45–60 minutes
equipment needed: yoga mats
music: energetic instrumental music for Pilates and yoga is a great choice
Section 1: Introduction (3–5 minutes)
Borrowing an ideal from yoga, this section sets an intention for class. You can either create a teaching focus or educate participants about a training principle and carry the theme throughout. For example, your teaching focus might be “breathing education.”
- Teach how to breathe fully, with even inhalations and exhalations.
- Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing from seated position.
- Transition to child’s pose and “move the breath” into back rib cage.
- Practice feeling the flow of breath in the body. From hands and knees, move through cat/cow (spinal flexion/extension), linking breath with movement.
Section 2: Mindful Warm-Up (7–10 minutes)
In this set, you warm the body through a progressive series of movements that encourage full range of motion and emphasize the class theme. The warm-up takes the spine, pelvis, shoulders and legs through a range of mobility exercises.
- From kneeling position, transition to standing by stepping feet up to front of mat; fold into supported forward bend. After a few moments, stand up into mountain pose.
- Stand with feet parallel and hip width apart. Flow through rhythmical squats with arms reaching overhead as you stand and down as you bend (8–16 reps).
- Perform modified sun salutation. From mountain pose, inhale as arms reach overhead; exhale as you bend into squat, bringing hands to thighs. On an exhalation, tuck pelvis under and flex spine. Stay in squat and inhale as you lengthen spine. Exhale and roll up to standing. Inhale as arms reach overhead; exhale as arms come back to sides. Repeat 3–4 times.
- Come back to mountain pose and do alternating full arm circles as if you were doing the backstroke in swimming. Encourage spinal rotation. Perform 8–16 repetitions each side. Transition into right-leg lunge position to prepare for lunge series.
Section 3: Standing Integrated Fitness and Yoga Movements (15–20 minutes)
As you flow from the warm-up into this section, begin to place movements from fitness and yoga into fluid sequences to challenge strength, balance and flexibility. Include a lunge series, a squat series and a balance series.
- Lunge Series. Begin with stationary lunge on right leg. Use up-and-down 4-count rhythm as you do 8 repetitions with back leg bent. Transition to high lunge with back leg straight (hold for 3–5 breaths) and then progress to warrior 1 (3–5 breaths). Open arms and hips out into warrior 2 (3–5 breaths). Transition into plank pose and then downward-facing dog. Repeat on opposite side.
- Squat Series. Begin with “traditional” squats (8–12 reps), then hold in chair pose for 3–5 breaths. Transition into mountain pose to prepare for balance series.
- Balance Series. From mountain pose, lift one knee to single-leg balance. Hold for 30 seconds. Extend leg out and in while maintaining good posture (4–6 reps). Move into tree pose; hold for 30–60 seconds. Transition into plank pose and then downward-facing dog. Repeat on opposite side.
Section 4: Floor Integrated Fitness, Yoga and Pilates (15–20 minutes)
From the floor, include movement sequences in kneeling, prone, seated and supine positions. The movement series includes spinal flexion, extension and twists.
- Plank Series. Begin with set of push-ups (8–12 reps). Hold plank position and perform Pilates leg-pull front (4–6 reps each leg). Transition into prone position.
- Prone Spinal Extension. From prone position do set of back extensions (4–6 reps) followed by modified Pilates swan move (upper-body extension, followed by lower-body extension; repeat 3–5 times). Press back to child’s pose to recover. Transition into downward-facing dog and then seated cross-legged position.
- Seated Spinal Flexion. Move into staff pose and then forward bend. Hold for 40–60 seconds. Do a series of spinal stretches (3–4 reps) followed by Pilates roll-ups (3–5 reps). Then, lying on the mat, do a set of abdominal curls (8–12 reps). Move into alternating single-leg stretches (8–10 reps, total). Finish with roll-up to seated position and transition to butterfly pose.
- Seated Twists. From butterfly come to staff pose. Bend one knee and place foot beside opposite knee to move into seated spinal twist (hold for 3–5 breaths). Repeat on opposite side. Move legs out to shoulder width and perform Pilates saw exercise (3–5 reps each side). Roll back on mat and lie supine.
Section 5: Stretch and Relaxation (5–10 minutes)
The final stage of class encourages static flexibility and relaxation through a series of passive and active stretches. This is an opportunity for participants to relax and calm the energy flow in their bodies. Finish this section with corpse pose or progressive relaxation techniques. Teach participants the importance of recovery.
- Move into supine hamstring stretch (right leg) with left leg extended. Roll up as if you were climbing the leg. On inhalation, hold; on exhalation, roll back to mat and bring leg deeper into stretch.
- From hamstring stretch, move leg to right side for lateral stretch.
- Bring leg back to center, bend it and go into spinal twist by moving right knee across to left. Extend right arm to side and look over right shoulder.
- Repeat first three progressions on left side.
- Come to supine position. Completely relax and spend 4–5 minutes in corpse pose. After relaxing, roll to right side and push yourself up to seated position. Finish class with some full breaths and a departing message of intention.
Helen Vanderburg was the 2005 IDEA Instructor of the Year, the 1996 IDEA Program Director of the Year and the 2006 and 1996 Can-Fit-Pro Presenter of the Year. She is the owner of Heavens Fitness and Fusion Fitness Training in Calgary, Alberta. Find out more at www.helenvanderburg.com.