NEWS May 31st, 2010

By Joshua Freeman

Revving up your yoga cycle

Workout combines the cardio of a spin class with the discipline of yoga

So I’m taking Spynga class.

Exercise and I have been somewhat estranged for the last while. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go check out this new craze firsthand.

The one thing I know for sure is that this class combines two hard things — yoga, which I last did in 2006, and spinning, which I’ve never done.

The brainchild of lifelong friends Sari Nisker (a yogi) and Casey Soer (a cyclist), Spynga aims to maximize the benefits of both spinning and yoga by combing the two. A hit at their first location at Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue since opening in 2007, the pair have set their sights on opening a new location in Vaughan.

“We want to make sure we can replicate the culture in another location,” says Soer, explaining that the pair is currently attempting to grow their brand, even fielding inquiries from potential franchisees (there’s a licensed Spynga studio in Cleveland).

In the meantime, the only thing going through my head as I glance the artsy interior of the Bathurst and St. Clair studio is the title of that brilliant movie I didn’t understand, “There will Be Blood.”

I go upstairs, sign in, and get changed in the curtainy change rooms — they feel more like a sultan’s chamber, actually. I find a bike and Sari comes around to help me get it adjusted. I’m clearly the straggler in this group, but I get up in time to start moving my feet on the pedals in anticipation of the coming instructions.

And we’re off.

Spynga, as Sari has described it to me, is the embracing of a full body workout. She and Sari first thought to combine spinning and yoga while both living in New York.

“We put it together kind of by accident,” says Sari. “Casey was taking me to her spin classes and I was taking her to my yoga classes.
We started to feel different. We started to see differences in our bodies. Not only were we increasing our cardiovascular fitness, but we were gaining a lot of strength.”

Their signature Spynga Flow class, which I’m taking today, combines 25 minutes of spinning with the same length of yoga and is the perfect combination so that neither spinners, yogis or total newcomers will be intimidated, says Casey.

In the studio, Sari starts us off at an easy pace. She’s taking care of our mental attitude at the same time — something about focusing on our hearts and allowing in more love.

The music is louder and more intense than I would expect for a class that promises to address my spiritual needs, but Sari does a good job of weaving the music into the journey.

Donning a Madonna-like headset to amplify her voice, she walks the rows of bikes, inciting us to go faster, keep at it and to push hard.
My balance is a little wobbly and I think I might fall off my seat.

Sari comes by, notices and suggests I lower the seat a notch. I gladly oblige.

Much better.

The chandelier lighting changes throughout the session, going from mild sunset to very dim, an unexpected change, but a nice touch that definitely lends something to the mood.

After about 20 minutes, my legs are screaming (wuss, I chastise myself) and I’m pretty glad to have the excuse of needing to grab a couple of pictures. I hop off my bike, my legs steady as heated rubber and walk carefully over to my bag to grab a few shots.

I miss only the last few minutes before everyone dismounts and we all find our places on the floor mats.

Time for the yoga part.

I quickly discover I was kidding myself if I thought the yoga component was going to be some relaxing mind-walk. Many of the poses push just as hard as the spinning. However, it’s less intense. The music is calmer and I find it easier to move according to my breath than to the ‘go-go’ mantra of the spinning.

As we lie on our backs with our eyes closed at the end, focusing on cleansing ourselves of air pollution and bad energy, I feel two hands rub an enticing scent on my shirt. I check off four out of five on my sensory inventory — not bad.

The class ends, everyone claps and then leaves.

I’m surprised to discover I feel good. In fact, I feel great! I had almost forgotten that exercise could make you feel this way. It was hard work, but I feel calmer, energized and a little more flexible.

According to Sari, Spynga can take care of your complete fitness requirements. I’d believe it, too. That one session got me feeling all kinds of muscles, many I’d forgotten I had. For a beginner, she recommends two sessions a week.

The pricing at Spynga reinforces the total fitness idea. At 18 bucks a session, it’s not cheap, especially if you’re going several times a week. At $140 for a one-month unlimited membership, the rates are comparable to the membership fees of other high-end fitness centers across the GTA.

Few other facilities provide a similar ambiance or leave you smelling so nice. For those curious about either spinning or yoga, or exercising by the light of mood-tone chandeliers, this is worth a try.