More Les Mills musings

Recently, I met a co-owner of a local gym who is interested in bringing me on to teach yoga. It’s a really nice place with an intimate, community feeling. They participate in a system of group fitness classes that is Les Mills-esque, but not quite the same. While yoga is not included in the “system”, the owners are committed to keeping it on their schedule for the 9 or 10 dedicated yoginis who attend regularly.

First of all, I really admire this location for realizing that these group fitness systems address the needs of most, but not all, gym-goers. This particular gym strives to meet the needs of those who are left out. I think that seems like a place where I would enjoy teaching.

Second of all, she told me briefly about the other fitness classes they offer, one similar to Les Mills’s BodyFlow. She mentioned, with a bit of surprise, that her yoginis don’t generally attend this other class.

Why is this? I was not at all shocked that the quiet yoga community in this part of Illinois is, like me, resistant to other more mainstream fitness classes that include touches of yoga. These “yoga hybrid” classes seem to follow a recipe of yoga, pilates, tai chi, meditation, all wrapped up in a mind-body package.

My only experience with BodyFlow wasn’t a great one. I left feeling like the person who wrote the class had seen some asanas in movies or on TV and threw them intermittently into a pilates class, without really understanding the postures. The weird dance-like quality of the tai chi portion is probably offensive to tai chi practitioners, as well. The class definitely lacked a focus on modifications and safe alignment. The music was too loud and the poses way too challenging for people with limited fitness and flexibility. And, the instructor offered to let us SKIP the relaxation. Sigh.

It just seems that if yoga is your “thing”, you shy away from classes like these. Maybe for the same reasons that esteemed literary critics generally don’t join book clubs, and wine connessiours don’t drink Arbor Mist. It’s like a distilled version of your art form. It makes sense to me, but not it a way that I could pin down, without making it sound like we are all superior yoga snobs.

What about you, readers? Do you enjoy “yoga hybrid” classes? Do they feel cheap and narrow-minded to you, or do they do the opposite and open up all sorts of new ways to view poses?


(photo from


9 responses to “More Les Mills musings

  1. The BodyFlow was actually what got me into “real” yoga. I still do it on occasion, when it fits into the schedule better for me and I really need a yoga-esque practice. I guess it’s a good way to package it for the masses, but some things (like an instructor SINGING ALONG into her mic during class) just really make me run for my Moksha studio.

    • That’s true – I wish someone would do a study to see if a lot of people try yoga classes after participating in BodyFlow for a while.

  2. I do enjoy yoga hybrid classes actually and I teach them too, but I’m not a fan of “institutionalised” classes of any kind like the Les Mills BodyWhatever classes. There are too many rules really.

    When I talk about hybrid I probably mean that not all the postures are classical – I mix in Pilates and strength training. I don’t think this is the same as BodyFlow though (the instructors of which are not usually yoga trained so the postures won’t feel like yoga I guess).

    To me anything is yoga as long as it is practiced with breath, awareness and mindfulness and I think that tens to be lacking in corporate classes.

    • Very interesting – I’ve never tried a class that’s “hybrid” ish that isn’t one of the scripted classes. The script is the part that really gets to me. When every moment of the class is written for you, you have no time to go help a student or offer modifications for something that isn’t working.

      • My studio owner (Moksha, but was initially trained in Bikram) told me that Bikram teachers also have an actual “script”- the idea is any Bikram class you take ANYWHERE is identical. Weird.

  3. Hi Jamie, I have never tried these types of classes, although they’re offered at my gym. I am also a bit resistant to classes mixing all and everything including yoga.
    But as I’ve never been to these classes maybe I’m a bit prejudiced against them. Actually I have a couple of days off work coming soon, and after checking my gym’s schedule I see there’s a class that I could go to, maybe I’ll check it out and get back with a proper opinion :-)

  4. I’ve never tried any of these classes and to be honest, I’ve never heard of them! They offer Nia classes at my local yoga studio…is that kinda the same thing? Anyway, I really like how you phrased “watering down an art”. That is a nice way to think of it. Not snobby at all. We are passionate about yoga for a reason and I don’t think we should be ashamed of that. Sounds like you have found a great place to teach!

    • That’s funny, because I have never heard of Nia! BodyFlow is the big one around here, another one is called Centergy. Those are the two I know of that are scripted. Part of me thinks it’s better to have some exposure to yoga through these classes than no exposure at all, but it seems like they ask people to go straight into advanced poses which isn’t always realistic.

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