By Dorene Internicola
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pairing indoor cycling's intense, calorie-busting cardio workout with yoga, the mind-body practice of stretching into inner peace, may seem like a mismatch but fitness experts say it works.
Whether it is called Yoga Ride, Spin to Ride or Cycle Yoga, the two very different activities complement each other to improve fitness and flexibility.
Cycle Yoga classes at The Spinning Yogi studio in Lakewood, Colorado, follow the typical format: first spin, then stretch, according to owner and instructor Patsy Juarez.
"Cycling is so cardio-vascular intense," said Juarez. "We do that for a half hour then change gears, stretching out the things we tightened up."
One 60-minute class, she added, incorporates cardio, flexibility and strengthening elements.
"The first (part) gets your heart rate going so you can jump into yoga quicker," she said. "It feels like a full body workout in an hour's time."
And the transition to yoga is quick and involves moving to a different room and easing into an easy yoga pose.
At Crunch, the national chain of fitness centers, New York City-based instructor Taj Harris said slowing down music in the yoga room smoothes the transition for its Yoga Ride classes.
"Because spinning is so one direction, muscles get overused and tight," Harris explained, adding that yoga poses ease the muscles and improve strength.
And the combination class is suitable for cyclers who may be unfamiliar with yoga.
"You're not going to get those crazy, advanced moves," Harris said. "But if you're spinning consistently, at least five times a week, I would incorporate a yoga ride class at least once."
Shirley Archer, author of 12 fitness books including "Weight Training for Dummies," believes indoor cycling and yoga are a natural fit.
"Yoga, with its emphasis on deep relaxation, restores balance after the stimulating aerobic efforts of cycling," said Archer, who plans to teach the class at Revolutions Cycling studio in Jupiter, Florida, later this month.
She said the yoga postures should specifically address muscles that were challenged in cycling.
"Muscles that are used should be stretched; muscles not used, strengthened," she explained. "The instructor may guide participants to stretch specific lower body muscles used during the cycling workout, such as hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and calves."
When Jessica Matthews, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and a certified yoga instructor, taught a Spin-to-Yoga class, she adjusted the yoga to the spinning.
"It wasn't just to pair the two," said Matthews, who is based in San Diego, "but to focus on specific areas of the body."
She said while splitting the class 50/50 between bikes and yoga mats might appear unusual, it worked to introduce the benefits of yoga to cyclers.
"Having the yoga allowed them to focus on flexibility, hips, and posture alignment," she said.
Diehard yogis, however, tend to be less satisfied with the class.
"People who have a strong yoga practice tend to have a more negative perception of classes like this," Matthew said. "My stance in teaching group fitness is that it offers people opportunity to dabble in something new."
Juarez said another benefit of fusing two classes is that it makes workout time fly.
"No boredom in these classes," she said. "You are done before you know it."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Doina Chiacu)