Pilates helps balance the core, and yoga helps with overall balance, so it made perfect sense to physician Erin Bakanas to participate in both at the same time.
“Yogalates” is a hybrid exercise routine created in 1997 that combines the upper-body motions of Pilates with stretches and balancing techniques from yoga. The classes incorporate yoga flow moves such as “sun salutation” and classic Pilates exercises such as the “hundreds” sit-ups. Sometimes they blend in one exercise; for example, starting on one leg, walking the hands down the standing leg to the floor, then moving forward to a “downward dog” position, holding the pose and moving back up.
A doctor of internal medicine and associate professor at Saint Louis University, Bakanas, 50, knows the importance of staying active and being loose. She took up yoga eight years ago to alleviate back pain and started practicing Yogalates three years later when her gym, the Simon Recreation Center on the SLU campus, started offering it. “I find it really helpful for balancing training,” she said, “and it does build muscle strength.”
At 5 feet 9 inches tall and 168 pounds, Bakanas estimated she burns up to 400 calories an hour doing Yogalates. Yogalates also can alleviate the aches and pains she sees among many patients who come through her office. “To stay flexible is something you consciously have to work on when you get older,” she said.
Although there are do-it-yourself Yogalates workouts to practice at home, Bakanas advised doing the routine in a studio. “It’s one thing to buy a DVD, but you don’t have someone to correct your positions,” she said. “It’s nice to have an instructor to perfect you.”
Bakanas does Yogalates twice a week, paying $50 for a six-week session as a member of the recreation center. Bakanas said her center membership is reimbursed by SLU, which offers wellness initiatives for employees who use the gym facility regularly. The gym provides yoga mats, and though the center has Pilates machines, her class doesn’t use them.
The sessions usually last an hour, beginning with a “centering” time of two minutes to three minutes and ending with a “savasana,” or relaxing component, done in the “corpse pose” and lasting up to four minutes. During those times, Bakanas can focus on her breathing, allowing her to de-stress. “(It’s) an hour set aside for me,” she said of the sessions. “It can be a great technique for anyone in a stressed situation.”