One of my favorite parts of writing these class reviews is it gives me an opportunity to be completely, and often painfully honest about the shape I’m in and my physical conditioning. What I’ve found is each class has a very noticeable and distinct effect on my body and how I feel afterwards. Never was that more obvious than after taking part in the Equinox Fitness Flow Play Yoga class.
Flow Play is the gym’s signature yoga class and one of the more popular classes they offer. Designed by the owner himself it was created, like many yoga classes, to work with the body and mind. My class was held at Equinox’s Lincoln Park location on Sunday morning with Cat Aldana, an experienced yogi and ex dancer. The gym is one of four Equinox locations in the Chicagoland area with other Chicago gyms in the Loop and Gold Coast and a suburban location in Highland Park. The Lincoln Park gym offers a number of Flow yoga classes throughout the week, but the only Flow Play class was the one I was attending.
The class started at 10:00am, which for me on a Sunday may as well be 7. I had gone out the night before and while I knew I would be heading in for a yoga class the next day, Saturday night braid wasn’t going to concern itself with Sunday morning brain. Needless to say I was running a little late Sunday and was far from full mental capacity. The yoga class was on the third floor of the three story gym in a dimly lit yoga studio. Aldana told me the gym wasn’t heated, but the popularity of the class did more than enough to raise the room temperature to the perfect spot for a good morning sweat. I made it just in time to grab a mat and block and set up somewhere in the back where I couldn’t embarrass myself too much.
This was my third yoga class, my second without weights. The first thing I noticed about Flow Play that was different from my previous yoga class was there was much more movement. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t exactly doing jumping jacks, but the slow and steady movements and stretches kept the class always going forward. The lights stayed dim or off for the full hour and fifteen minute class, something I must admit I was very thankful for. I wasn’t surprised to see the popularity of this class, given the time and location. However I was pleasantly surprised at the demographics that made up my Sunday morning group. I was far from the only man in the class, and from what I could tell I wasn’t the only beginner either. Ages spread from the low 20s to late 30s roughly and a wide spread of experience level. The three girls and one guy that made up the foursome around me clocked in at just about every level.
I was sweating pretty much from jump street. What would have been a day’s worth of hangover was being drained from my body one stretch at a time. My body was running the gambit emotionally from “what in the world am I doing here” to “I can’t believe this actually feels good.” Aldana talked slowly and softly throughout the class, giving brief demonstrations and allowing the class to feel for what was comfortable. Whether it was the slow recovery I was going through or maybe a little learned flexibility over this time period I actually felt like I finally understood what my body was doing. Even with my limited knowledge of yoga terms Aldana’s explanations were making sense and I could feel what she was describing.
I felt bad for the people around me, as I often do in classes like this, because I was sure I didn’t exactly smell like spring flowers. Fortunately for both me and everyone else in the class, the studio and for that matter the gym is designed with the intention of circulating the air to a point where smells never get the chance to permeate through a room.
While the class lasts for a little over an hour, the actual yoga stretches probably take up a little more than 50 minutes. Both to start and finish the class Aldana had us doing very slow easy stretches just to warm up and cool down the body. The class finished with my favorite stretch of all time, the gravity stretch. While I’m sure that’s not the actual term, it’s what we always called it growing up. For all intents and purposes it is really just laying on your back with arms and legs extended letting the body come back down to earth while centering the mind. Maybe the latter was the most important part for me. After sweating out the toxins of the night before it felt amazing just to “be” with no need to push or press the body.
Equinox’s Flow Play class was seemingly packed for the same and inverse reason as the Corepower sculpt class. Whereas the sculpt class was full of people getting in one last workout before the weekend, Flow Play was everyone coming back down (or in my case “recovering”) from the weekend and preparing for the week ahead. Honestly, it was exactly what I needed. By the time I made it home it was right around noon and I couldn’t have been more relaxed. The weather outside was crap, the brutality that is every Monday morning was just around the corner and my jeans still had pockets full of drink and late night burrito receipts, but none of that mattered. Had I taken almost any other of my classes on a Sunday morning like this one it probably would have been troubling. Fortunately Aldana and the Flow Play class managed to loosen the body while relaxing the mind all without making me subconscious of my inability to reach my toes.
Listen, I get that yoga isn’t for everyone. Hell, most of the time it really isn’t for me either. I need to be moving to feel like I’m really getting a workout. Granted, Flow Play did give me a nice burn in the gut and surely stretched, strengthened and lengthened both leg and arm muscles; but it wasn’t my typical workout. You will never find me as a regular in a yoga class and the only way I would be called a “yogi” would be with strong sarcastic undertones. With all that said, you would have to be completely dense to think that yoga couldn’t help an athlete of any kind improve their body. I’m not saying do it 5 times a week, or even weekly if it doesn’t fit a certain schedule. But finding time to get in a yoga class is a great way to work the body from a different angle and center the body once again.