If you’re tightly wound like me, yoga offers relief from multitasking-filled days, but it’s no replacement for a cardio workout. How do you get Zen and burn calories in one class? The latest yoga trend—athletic yoga—could be the answer. These classes pack some heat, literally—all take place in heated studios—and figuratively—imagine what it’s like to try warrior pose with five-pound weights. While testing out local examples, I used Polar’s FT40 heart rate monitor ($180 at polarusa.com) to see how many calories these classes really torch.
Yoga Sculpt at TruHarmony Yoga
Calories burned 573
Beyond the 95-degree heat, brace yourself for a loud yoga class: militaristic instructions and gum-smacking from the front of the room, on top of blasting Lady Gaga. Luckily, if what you’re seeking is simply calorie burning, you can count on achieving your goal. From the get-go, my heart races through the rapid-fire flow of yoga stances, with barely enough transition time to check on form. After tacking on the body bar and free weights, I’m panting as if I’ve logged some serious mileage. Indeed, by the end of class I feel physically spent, but also emotionally drained and looking forward to a glass of wine to relax.
Yoga Sculpt at CorePower Yoga
Calories burned 464
If you can get over the Starbucks-quality of this sprawling yoga franchise (it has more than 40 locations nationwide, and the instructors tell students to smile during class), you’re in for a killer, even calming, workout. After perfecting the poses (think chair pose, warrior and updog) in the first portion of class, we revisit them with light and medium free weights. A relentless core workout offers welcome time on the mat, which is followed by a quick bout of plyometrics (quick, powerful movements such as high knees and running in place). Brace yourself for the occasional “jiggle off that fat” shout-out from the instructor; in general, the positive reinforcement message is loud and clear.
Yoga Bootcamp at Chicago School of Hot Yoga
Calories burned 434
After about a 20-minute warm-up of standard, moderately slow vinyasa flow, this boot camp kicks into high gear. No weights are involved, but the rapid sequence of push-ups, squats, sit-ups and plyometrics makes for a tiring cardio workout in a 90-degree room with 25 percent humidity. (Bring lots of water.) The end-of-class savasana is just long enough to unwind and “come to center.”
Baptiste Vinyasa at Om on the Range
Calories burned 270
Compared to every other class, this one is as gentle as can be (even the heat, at 94 degrees with little to no humidity, is easier to take). Instructor/co-owner Beth Range Kiely continuously walks the room, readjusting and offering support blocks to make sure we don’t strain our bodies. Plus, the slow but fluid pace allows for time to center my attention. The most “fitnessy” element: a brief core workout toward the end of class right before the inversions. I barely work up a sweat, but the next day I feel the burn in my legs. Bonus: It’s actually relaxing, too.
Place a towel or skidless mat such as Yogitoes’s version ($64 at yogitoes.com) over your yoga mat to avoid slipping on your sweat, says Chicago School of Hot Yoga’s yoga director Jessica Carlin. Dampen the areas where your hands and feet land on the towel (front and back) for added traction—your towel will better adhere to the mat.