I’m suspicious of workouts that don’t give the same kind of cardio buzz that running and plyometrics do, and I often write off these so-called softer exercise routines as unchallenging. The Nalini Method, however, recently put me in my place.
Started in 2003 by Rupa Mehta, Nalini combines Pilates, yoga, strength training and stretching for a dynamic workout. Ms. Mehta and her teachers incorporate ankle weights, dumbbells and lightweight blocks similar to those used in yoga into a fast-paced routine that ramps up the heart rate.
Ms. Mehta, 32, a petite Indian beauty, taught at Lotte Berk, a former studio on the Upper East Side that offered classes based on ballet principles. She named her program after her mother. And it’s safe to say that she doesn’t have students; she has followers. I went to a class at her space on the West Side of Manhattan, which opened in early May, and watched how the nearly 30 participants — mostly women and a handful of men — greeted her and staff members with enthusiastic hugs. While students knew one another, newcomers like me also felt at ease in what seemed like a welcoming atmosphere.
The class started with a series of upper-body and abdominal moves set to rap music. Students squeezed the blocks between their legs for an inner-thigh burn while doing biceps curls, shoulder presses and push-ups. They also held themselves in a plank position for one minute while quickly lowering and raising knees to the floor. Ten minutes into the hourlong class, and the bodies in the large and light-filled room were already glistening with sweat.
After the warm-up came moves on a ballet barre offered at three heights, to work thighs and glutes through rapid squats. Thankfully, the high-intensity exercises were interspersed with stretches and yoga poses.
Houston Vinson, 26, who lives in Clinton and works in the fashion industry, was part of the session that day and said that taking four classes a week over the past few years had helped him develop his 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame. “Within three months, I had definition in my chest, biceps and abs, which is a big positive change for a tall and skinny guy like me,” he said.
Ms. Mehta has two studios in the same building, on West 60th Street, and she plans to expand her space in the fall to include a cafe that will sell juices, organic prepared foods, like quinoa salads, and cleanses created by a nutritionist. Exercisers will be able to take their food to go or enjoy it on an outdoor patio. “I don’t want people to feel that they just have to take a class and run,” she said. “In fact, I hope they linger.”
Nalini participants can pay $35 for a class or become members with rates starting at $350 a month.
Though I’m not ready to give up the high of a good run, I am drawn by the mental and physical challenges of this workout.
Mehta has also written a book.
Of course, if you don’t live in NYC, this information may not be very helpful. Still, I wonder, how long until Rupa does an exercise DVD? Yes, part of her secret is the laser-like personal attention she provides to her students. And, that may not translate to a DVD. But, if she ever does one, I would check it out.