New Straits Times
Go with the Flow
This hybrid floor exercise class is challenging and invigorating, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
THE Flow class at Babel Fit in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur is the brainchild of trainer Marta. She combines elements of yoga, Pilates, tai chi and martial arts to create a series of floor exercises in a 40-minute session.
The moves are synced to music, with songs that are specific to portions of the workout. Flow is a low-impact exercise class — meaning no harsh movements — but it’s high intensity so you’ll get a lot of cardio action. The workout uses the individual’s body weight and is suitable for everyone.
My class starts with a song and the child’s pose position. It’s a yoga pose where we kneel on a floor mat with our torso on top of the thighs with the arms stretched out in front.
We continue to breathe in and out as we get on all fours to a downward dog position. “Keep your core engaged,” Marta says as I move a knee to touch my nose. It’s only the beginning and already it’s a full body workout.
Marta demonstrates and explains each move to the class. Like dance choreography, each step is followed seamlessly by the next. You don’t really count the seconds as you hold your position, but remain still just long enough to feel its impact before moving on.
The end of the first song signals the start of the next portion of the workout — balance. “It might be easier to be on the floor than on the yoga mat for this,” says Marta.
So we face the mirror in the forward fold position, with feet on the floor and torso bent close to the legs. The palms are on the floor before we move them upwards to the shin, then the arms go up towards the ceiling. The chest is up while the knees are bent, creating the chair pose.
It becomes a balancing exercise when one leg is crossed over the other. This is followed by the arms twisting in front of our face and I try to raise them higher towards the ceiling. When the leg is uncrossed, we dive with our arms forward and return to the forward fold position before repeating with the other leg.
The next song is more upbeat. It’s now the stretching portion and we start with a lunge. I straighten one leg as my other knee reaches my chest; I extend my limbs as much as I can. I twist my torso and look to the side, and create a circle with my arms. Then I get up into a forward fold and repeat with the opposite leg.
The stretching exercise continues for another minute before the song changes. I believe it’s now the Pilates element of the class as we lie on the floor with head and arms raised. But Marta warns, “We don’t want any tension in the neck. Use your upper body muscles.”
As the song gets faster, one leg goes up towards the ceiling. When the beat changes, the leg goes back to the floor and the other leg goes up instead. It becomes more challenging with both legs going up and down. The continuation of this exercise is having both legs up, while switching the movement of our feet between extending the toes or heel to the beat of the song. And when the song ends, we (gratefully) lower all parts of the body to the ground. Meanwhile, the basic position of the beast is to crouch down with knees and palms on the floor and the back straight like a table. The workout starts by extending the upper body forward without moving the knees. We end it as one knee reaches up to the chest before it’s pulled back, and the other knee goes in front in a continuous movement.
“A lot of shoulders, a lot of legs and a lot of action on the core,” says Marta. “It’s the hardest part of the workout.” It’s a bit like a dynamic push-up and it is less than four minutes long, but I think it’s long enough.
The rest of the class maintains the same motion of stretching, twisting and balancing in a continuous movement. It doesn’t look like much — the actions are much more subtle than if you are in a spin or High-Intensity Interval Training class — but there’s a lot of intensity, and it’s really challenging to do.
Some people dismiss low impact exercises as “soft”, easy and ineffective, but these workouts tap into your inner strength and work your muscles differently. In Flow, I find balancing to be especially tricky.
The last move is a tai chi step — Cloud Hands. Tai chi fits well into the class because of its long continuous motion, and it’s a gentle, calming move before we lie down on the floor mat in the corpse pose. Yoga classes usually end this way too, since it is relaxing and meditative, and thus calms the body as well as the mind.