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God Is in the Deltoids

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Physical benefit Your grandma could handle Goldstein’s day hikes, but the Survivor-type endurance tests demand, and build, peak physical fitness.

Spiritual benefits “I’ve sat in some services and thought, ‘I just want to get out of here,’ ” says Jamie Skog, a 20-year-old student who took part in the Boulder expedition. “Goldstein teaches you that God is everywhere, not just in a synagogue.”

Shamanic Earth Dance
The instructor Parashakti Bat-Haim, 29, a former modern dancer trained in shamanism by Native American elders.

Where it meets Yoga studios including Be Yoga (two hours; $15) and Healthy Yoga (five hours; $35). Once a month, Bat-Haim leads a ceremony at an all-night alternative-movement marathon called Body Temple, where participants number in the hundreds (locations vary; $40). Bat-Haim also does house calls for private clients ($125 for 90 minutes). “Have you ever heard of the Heinz family?” she says. 212-501-3760 or parashakti.org.

Religious affiliation/philosophy Bat-Haim grew up in Tel Aviv but doesn’t consider herself connected to Judaism—or any specific religion. She describes herself as spiritual “in the universal sense.” “Earth Dancing,” she says, “is a way to get connected back to the body, soul, spirit, and God.”

What it looks like Martha Graham meets blindman’s bluff. Class begins with a multigenerational mishmash—everyone from 15-year-olds who arrive in rave gear to an elderly pair of regulars from Queens—standing in a circle, holding hands, and giggling nervously. Dressed in a white blouse and flowing white skirt, Bat-Haim and four assistants stand in the middle. Bat-Haim holds a roll of burning sage leaves in one hand and a black-and-beige owl wing in the other. She belts out a series of “Hey ya” tribal chants that sound like the OutKast lyric. Velvety blindfolds are handed out. As her D.J. (and boyfriend), Fabian Alsultany, spins a selection of tunes he calls “National Geographic on acid,” the blindfolded participants start dancing. As they whirl about, Bat-Haim instructs the students on “shaman’s breath”—two inhalations through the nose and one long exhalation out the mouth to rid themselves of “mental and physical blockages.” They don’t stop for an hour—or six, if it’s one of Bat-Haim’s intensive workshops.

Physical benefits The two-hour-long sessions give a good aerobic workout. The six-hour jobs are an all-out endurance test.

Spiritual benefits Being blindfolded, says Doug Larson, a 26-year-old health counselor from Jersey City, “you can hit your fears head-on and look at your soul.” He’s also partial to the shamanic breathing. “You get a high from it. It lifts you to a spiritual place.”

Liquid Strength
The instructor Elizabeth Story, a sculpted blonde who has been teaching fitness classes and modeling (she was on a Jogbra box) for fifteen years. Story was raised Presbyterian, but as she got older, she lost interest in organized religion. In her classes, she says, she tries to help people, especially women, feel good about their bodies. “Bodies are miracles,” she says. “Look at what your body can do!”

Where it meets Crunch, multiple locations (Mondays at 9:15 a.m., Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.; $24, free for Crunch members). 212-769-7136 or liquidstrength.com.

Religious affiliation/philosophy “Hyper Zen” is what Story calls it. Gyms like Crunch are apprehensive about overt religious overtones, hence the focus on bodies, not Bibles.

What it looks like A Method-acting workshop with hand weights. Each participant (most are refugees from spinning and yoga) has the usual pile of weights and body bars. But instead of merely leading students through drills, Story turns the activities into role-playing exercises. Wielding their body bars, the students become ancient warriors. Or they paddle up the Amazon, focusing intensely on each stroke. The movements are slow, methodical, and purposeful, the music soft and wordless. The idea, again, is to enter the realm of the spiritual through deep concentration on the physical (Story likens her method to Transcendental Meditation). Or perhaps this explains the appeal: “Your mind is so consumed with your task,” says Story, “you forget your body and you don’t feel the work.”

Physical benefits Roughly approximate to a body-sculpt class, accentuating the core and the butt.

Spiritual benefits “I’m a spiritual thinker,” says Elena Caffentzis, a 31-year-old speech therapist who attends Liquid Strength twice a week. “I was raised Greek Orthodox, but I feel like God is in everybody. What I feel when I’m in this class makes me appreciate what God gave us. I’m in awe of who invented us.” So much the better, Caffentzis says, that if in the process of being awed, “my clothes are bigger. And the class really works your glutes.”


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