Build Abs with Ripped Yoga

 

Holding the Warrior 2 pose with weights is more tiring than it looks. Photo: Jazelle Hunt

When the goal is to get shredded quickly, yoga is probably not the first fitness option that comes to mind. But Ripped Yoga makes a strong case for reimagining the possibilities.

Ripped Yoga uses hand weights and crafted pose sequences to blend core training, strength exercises, and yoga flows. It is less about traditional poses and spiritual growth and more about physicality. The usual elements are still present, though. The dim studio smelled of lemongrass. A mellow soundtrack began at Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” and ended with ambient sounds of the shore. There was ample time in the beginning and end for quiet introspection.

Class warms up the core with undulating stretches and deep breathing, then moves into a sequence built around standard sun salutations, still with a focus on breath. Then a few high, low, and side planks are slipped in. Some deep lunges. Leg lifts. Suddenly two provided (but not obligatory) hand weights are bookending your Warrior 2 pose. Breathing, though it doesn’t ever quite quicken, becomes a much less obvious thing to do. Sweat starts to seep, rolling through a continuous flow that only stops when holding a pose (or when break is stolen). The weights are added and subtracted at seamless intervals; no jarring transitions interrupt the focus. Light enough to be fluent in their comings and goings, the weights are heavy enough to add distinct challenge to the poses.

Ripped Yoga’s vibe, instruction style, and core movements feel like yoga; there’s modifications for everything, there’s no pressure, judgment, or obligations, and all the buzzwords like “intention,” “practice,” and “Child’s pose” are there. But there’s also the slow and definite burn and a certain level of laboriousness to remind everyone that it’s called “Ripped” yoga for a reason.

“It’s definitely core focused,” says class instructor Dan McAnally, who has been teaching yoga for eight years. “You will have a stronger core and lower back muscles because everything, all movement, stems from there. After just a couple sessions you’ll start to see you can hold poses longer.”

Though it’s akin to power Vinyasa, this class demands more than that from arms, abs, obliques, and backs. For example, the Warrior 2 had always been an empowering yet easy, favorite. Not so much while clenching five-pound hand weights at proper shoulder height, palms upward, holding the pose for endless moments. Ripped Yoga builds and chisels these muscles faster than other yoga styles.

Amy Elizondo, who has been taking the class for a little over a year, agrees. “I think with the incorporation of the weights and also the repetitions you tend to see the effects of strengthening much more quickly. I was only doing it once a week, and with that I could see a difference.”

The flow moves at a steady pace, and poses aren’t really explained, so it’s helpful to have tried yoga before. However, you don’t need to be a regular practitioner or aspiring yoga guru to appreciate the class or keep up. During the final block of core work, for example, some participants held a Bridge pose (what might be known as a “hip raise” elsewhere), while others held a Wheel pose (resembling a doubled-over Slinky). As another example, when it was time to plank everyone had the option to hold the high plank, or lower themselves slowly into a low plank for three breaths, or do something entirely different and more comfortable. It’s all pretty accessible.

“As a guy who’s not flexible and doesn’t do yoga often, this class isn’t intimidating,” says another yearlong participant, who wished to identify himself only as Billy. “Dan does a good job engaging everyone, it’s never too crowded, and I never feel lost and like I need to constantly look around to know what’s going on.”

The instructor himself is also an important part of the accessibility. McAnally leads with a “hakuna matata”-like attitude. He begins each class by asking for pose- or area-of-focus requests and reminding everyone to relax and participate on their own terms. Occasionally he will go around the room and rub a tense shoulder or correct a pose, and he seems to genuinely care that participants are getting something out of each class, regardless of what that “something” is on a personal level.

Ripped Yoga “is about vibes, and feelings, and strengthening your practice. It’s total body workout, but it’s still yoga,” McAnally says. “There’s breathing, relaxation … we try to incorporate something for everyone. You feel free on the mat.”

VIDA Verizon Center (601 F St. NW) offers Ripped Yoga on Tuesday from 7:35 to 8:35 p.m. (with Dan) or Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Call 202-393-8432 for more information.

Or try it at VIDA Metropole (1517 15th St. NW) on Sunday from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. Call 202-588-5559 for more information.

Sculpt DC (950 F St. NW) offers a similar class, “Sculpt 360,” on Monday at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday at 6:45 p.m., Friday at 1:00 p.m., Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Call 202-885-9550 for more information.

And if you’re willing to travel to Glover Park, CorePower Yoga (2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, #105) offers a heated, more advanced version of this concept twice a day, seven days a week (with three classes on Tuesday). Call 202-733-5726 for more information.