A new style of fitness class is popping up on schedules at gyms and studios, and it doesn’t have “intensity” in the name. In fact, it’s not about sweating or burning calories. These classes are all about restoring the health of your body and mind.
“People are working out harder than ever in and out of the gym, and with that, the body craves a more active type of recovery that studios and gyms are starting to cater to,” explains Charlee Atkins, a master SoulCycle instructor and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “Everybody suffers from muscle tightness, knots and pain associated from those two. People generally want to stretch but don’t know how to do it on their own, therefore a class is most efficient.”
And it’s not only stretching. You may find gentle yoga, self-myofascial release, mobility and alignment classes or sessions that combine a few techniques, as well as meditation and mindfulness practices.
Everyone can benefit from these classes — even, and especially, if you tend to only sign up for something that leaves you drenched in sweat.
Here are 10 reasons you should hop on board this trend, stat:
You’ll reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
Foam rolling post-workout has been shown to help exercisers recover from muscle fatigue and soreness faster and improve muscular performance. If you can’t get to a foam roller class before or after your usual workout, doing it anytime helps increase range of motion and blood flow, helping your muscles recover faster.
You’ll make gains faster.
Faster recovery and better performance mean you’ll reach your fitness goals faster, explains Kim Delgado, group program director for San Francisco’s Studiomix, which offers a foam rolling class and yin yoga.
You’ll prevent injuries.
As if that weren’t enough, all of those benefits add up to a lower risk of injury, Atkins says. So don’t neglect those active rest days.
You’ll reduce tension – even when you don’t work out.
Self-myofascial release classes like Atkins’ Le Stretch™ at New York City’s SoulAnnex targets the parts of the body that are most commonly tight for everyone from athletes to desk warriors. And it’s cheaper than a massage.
You’ll move more efficiently – not only in the gym.
“We move through our activities of daily living and don’t pay attention to what we are feeling,” Delgado says. “One can experience greater awareness of their body and what they’re feeling” in restorative classes, she says. And that will help you avoid injuries wherever you go, whether that’s doing HIIT, taking a hike or walking down the sidewalk.
You may sleep better.
“When done at night, [restorative classes] can help combat insomnia,” says Atkins, adding that she’s had some of her best nights of sleep after her class.
You may feel happier, too.
Restorative classes help bring down your heart rate and blood pressure, and having less tension and more mobility means you hurt less — so you may find yourself feeling less stressed, more patient and even smiling more, Delgado says.
You may increase gray matter.
Researchers have found that meditation and breathwork appear to increase gray matter in areas of the brain that help regulate emotion, compassion, coordination, learning and memory. “By doing [restorative practices], you are able to be a better creator and problem solver, read people better and connect with them in a more meaningful way,” says Sarah Silvas, co-owner of Earth Yoga Boulder, a yoga teacher who also trains other teachers to lead restorative yoga sessions.
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You may change your belief systems.
“One of hardest practices to engage in is to slow down your breath, connect with the theme [of a restorative class] and see how that theme is potent in our life,” Silvas says. But as you continue to take restorative classes, your mind and body will feel safe being still, and you’ll begin to notice your own patterns and belief systems — and change them if they don’t serve you, she adds.
You’ll learn how to get all these benefits yourself.
No matter what style of restorative class you take, the techniques you learn are things you can incorporate into your daily routine, Atkins says. And any equipment you may need — a foam roller, lacrosse ball, yoga strap, etc. — is all fairly inexpensive. (Read: You have no excuse not to do this!)