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Cardio Workout, Positive Psychology

MINNEAPOLIS - If anyone had asked me if there was such a thing as aerobics for yogis, I'd send them packing with a lecture about dippy oxymorons. But that was before last month, when I tried Lisa Van Ahn's IntenSati class at the Calhoun Beach Club in Minneapolis.

The New York hit is spreading across the states; there are two instructors teaching it in Minnesota. So when my buddy Lynn Nelson invited me, I pounced. Nelson's been going since September and swore it was fun. Then she warned me that there would be lots of yelling. Yelling?

Sure enough, Van Ahn belted out positive affirmations that we echoed throughout the class, which proved to be part aerobics, part yoga, part martial arts, balance work and crunchy-granola feel-good talk.

According to IntenSati creator Patricia Moreno, Sati is designed to be a high-energy cardio workout threaded with themes for mindfulness, positive psychology and the law of attraction. Moreno invented this mind/body/cardio blend after struggling to control her weight. Now she's teaching other instructors nationwide. At full intensity, participants burn 600 to 800 calories per class. Want to know how? Check out

In class, Van Ahn warmed us up while chanting, "This week, who are you becoming?" ... "I take responsibility for my thoughts. I take responsibility for my actions," and "Every day, in a very true way, I co-create my reality."

My first reaction? This class is nuts! But then, I got it. Each movement had a name or phrase. There really was a pose called "responsibility." Who knew?

Van Ahn wasn't nuts. She was using the rhythm of the words to cue a sequence of movements. It proved brilliant and effective. And because we moved at a decent, but not frantic, pace, the 60-year-old grandmother in the back of the room was able to keep up with the 20-year-old in front.

We started by moving prayer hands above our heads, to the forehead, chest and up again. That morphed into thrusting hands way up in the air, then down by our feet, up in the air, down by our feet. Cool Indian music blended with the simple rise and squat exercise as we chanted, "So as above. So is below."

Wait a minute. I was breathing harder and cracked a sweat.

"I am becoming ..." said Van Ahn while bolting us into a V-step march with arms extended upward. "All I want to be!" we said while jogging and clawing for the sun.

"I feel my joy!" was belted to jumping jacks.

"I feel my power" (deep plie and rapid air punches).

"It feels so good" (pump arms toward ceiling, wall, floor and wall again).

"I am on fire!" (fast dips while thrusting arms toward ceiling, then floor).

The class had a really nice structure. The moves were simple at first and progressed with simple phrases that helped you remember which movement came next. The music's tempo was just right, slow enough so the moves could be learned without struggle.

And the names of our movements proved really cool: "greatness," "fearless" and "grace." They involved jester-like bows, forward lunges and elegant arabesques.

The first part of the class got our heart rates up and the second part worked our lower bodies and tested our balance with one-legged poses that melted into lunges and kicks that worked our quads.

"I never heard of this type of class, but I like it," said Stephanie Yue Hang, a new mother who had just moved to Minnesota from Beijing with her family in January. "This is a little bit more like yoga but you burn a lot of fat, which is really good."

Maryann Evander has been taking Sati since September and she still isn't sure how to describe it. Evander wasn't looking for Sati and frankly never heard of it until she stumbled upon it last fall when it replaced her usual cardio class at Calhoun Beach Club.

"I was like, Hey! Who moved my cheese?" she said.

"It took me the longest time to get into (Sati) but I kept coming, and one day it was like someone switched on a light. I got it. The cardio sneaks up on you because it doesn't seem that hard at first. But then you sweat. I like the yoga and balance work, and I like the affirmations, but I was slow to warm to that. Calling out things in class is not really me. So I lip-synched for a while, until it was working for me."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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