Three years ago, my dear husband, who can ride a bike down the windiest of roads with his eyes closed, bought me a basic get-around-the-neighborhood-bike so we could take leisurely rides down to our local taco spot for Sunday breakfast burritos. I enjoyed the bike, but not the traffic. I was terrified to ride in the street. I’d seen cyclists hit by cars before and my paralyzed mind could only fixate on the possibility of that happening to me. As you might have guessed, that bike has been sitting in our back storage for the better part of those three years. I refuse to let it go, though, because of my genuine love for biking and my (possibly delusional) notion that one day I will hop on it without a care in the world and ride into the wind without hesitation.
I wondered what could fulfill my yearning for that adrenaline rush that is distinct to the rhythmic cadence of cycling, sans the element of impending injury and death? Answer: spin class, with (of course) a twist of yoga. Lotus Kitty Yoga and Spin in Studio City is known for its hybrid fitness classes, one of which is the increasingly popular spin + yoga combination. Thirty minutes of sweat-inducing spinning followed by 30 minutes of stretching was a combination that piqued my interest and got me nervously giddy. I had to try it.
Smiling Faces: I arrived 15 minutes early and peeked in the workout room as the front desk staffer was checking me in. In one half of the room, I saw four rows of bikes lined up, all facing one bike set up on the podium for the instructor. The other half was an open space with yoga mats already laid out. Before class started, the instructor, Shannon, saw me in the lobby and introduced herself with a warm smile, instantly putting me at ease and making me glad I came to her class. She made sure she set up a bike for me and showed me how to adjust the seat and put my feet in the toe cages. She prompted me to hop on and as soon as I sat down, I felt like I was five feet up (it was only really a few measly inches). I was afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of not being able to get back on the thing! I looked to my right at the gal next to me, who seemed like a comfortable regular. I asked her where the bathroom was, then expressed my concern that I wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike properly. She smiled and whispered, “Go–I’ll help you get back on if you have trouble!” For me, a yogi who is used to having both feet planted firmly in the ground, she was my own spinning angel.
Move With the Music: The class started out with a slow warmup, with us pedaling to the rhythm of the semi-chill song filling the room. I wasn’t feeling much of a sweat until we were told to “add more road,” which translates to “crank up the resistance dial on your bike to make it harder!” I felt the burn – partly because of the resistance, but hugely because of Shannon’s song choices. She would say, “Listen, listen to the cadence in this song and pedal to the rhythm…1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4…” Her voice had such a soothing, relaxing tone to it that I actually tuned out and only heard the soft whirring of my bike in unison with the beat. So this is why people get addicted to spinning, I thought. It’s the perfect combination of zenning and sweating buckets at the same time. Now that’s bang for your buck!
Maternal Instincts: My favorite part of the class had to be the instructor’s personal attention to the newcomers – myself and one other gal. The other 10 students in the room – all women – looked like spin veterans as they constantly reached down to crank the resistance a tad higher every few minutes, drenching their clothes without huffing a single out-of-breath. They were no-nonsense and wore Eye-of-the-Tiger expressions as they went into second (standing up off the seat) and third (leaning forward off the seat and holding the furthest handlebars) positions with grace. Shannon walked over to us, sat on the bike in between us, and demonstrated how our form should look when getting into second and third. She watched us and corrected us with a gentle yet authoritative manner–one that I can only describe as maternal. For that hour, I felt like I was being taken care of and in a safe space to learn and make mistakes.
Leave It On the Bike: Intermittently, between switching songs and alternating from sitting to standing on the bike, Shannon would instruct us to “push it,” meaning cycle as fast as you possibly can for a set number of seconds. “Leave it on the bike!” she’d yell over the music, pumping even more adrenaline into the room. This is hard!, I mouthed to my spin angel on the right. She laughed, and then I laughed. My legs were fatiguing and sweat rolled down my face and arms, yet I was enjoying every part of the pain. The bike goes nowhere, but wringing out frustration, anger, and energy (surrounded by loud music and sweaty people) definitely gets you somewhere by the time you dismount the bike.
From Spin to Stretch: After hydrating, we hopped off our bikes, removed our socks and shoes, and stood on our yoga mats. Shannon came over and turned on a much more mellow and soothing soundtrack to bring us down from the heart-pumping session we just had. Our poses were a mix of sun salutations and stretches focusing on the back, since we’d been sitting in position on the bike for a good while. It was just what the body needed after spinning – a refreshing lengthening of all those muscles that were so taut from all the “pushing” moments just a few minutes prior. While we were finishing our final twist, I turned my head back and my gaze fell on the bikes. Already, I was ready to get back in the saddle and ride again.
Would you try yoga spinning? What other hybrid classes have you done?
Also in I Tried It: Intermittent Fasting (+ Why You Should Too)
Photo: Tracey Chang