Core Energy Flow
150 Central Park S.; single class, $30
Think Pilates meets yoga meets general calisthenics—but on speed. Set to the sounds of everything from U2 to remixed Nina Simone, the majority of the class focuses on building heat through constant motion. Expect to break a sweat within the first twenty minutes as you flow from a downward-facing dog to lots and lots of push-ups. There’s an emphasis on upper-body strength in the beginning and “core” building toward the end. A meditative cooldown ties everything together, letting you channel some of that heat into pure relaxation. One hour.
David Barton Gym
30 E. 85th St., 215 W. 23rd St.; nonmember, $30
A buffed-up Pilates that works your core and strengthens your … everything else, set against an unusual backdrop: The place has the industrial, edgy look of a nineties music video (or a set from Rent, or a Fritz Lang film), with orange klieg light pouring in from the windows. Holding a small weight, you go through lengthening exercises—twisting, contorting, reaching, rotating. The positive mental effects and correct breathing are central concerns, and “exhaling the negativity” is encouraged. Afterward, you’re sweating, you’re shaking, you’re slightly delirious, but you’re not exactly relaxed. 45 minutes.
‘Open’ Jivamukti Yoga
Jivamukti Yoga School
841 Broadway; $17
Each Jivamukti class incorporates a set of specific vinyasa poses. In this one, the teacher was Dechen Thurman—son of Robert, brother of Uma—who lectures nonstop, often forgetting to count breaths during poses. He still manages to draw dedicated followers who must like his Eastern philosophy, because they have to listen to it for the first twenty minutes and during pranayama breathing at the end. You won’t sweat much, but it feels legit, even inspired—if you’re looking for some stretching with your sermon. Jivamukti’s new studio marks a major step up from its former flagship on Lafayette Street. The best benefit of the bright and airy space: You can watch the rental mats being cleaned in machines. 95 minutes.
117 W. 72nd St.; single class, $27
For those not addicted to it, spinning is one of the mechanized horrors of the modern world—the loud music, the yelling, all that furious pumping away at the stationary bike. Soul Cycle, a clean, neighborhoody place, aims to take the edge off it with soft touches like candles and a giant, wall-size photograph of an open road. Plus the instructors give helpful Pilates-influenced advice on breathing and engaging the abdominals. You’ll get a good workout, but how much it helps you relax will depend in large measure on how much psychic benefit you derive from rock anthems like John Waite’s “Missing You.” 45 minutes.
Breathing for Life
Reebok Sports Club/NY
160 Columbus Ave.; nonmember, $35
While you lie on your back on top of a yoga mat and a blanket, the lights are dimmed and instructor Kathy Yates patiently talks you through a series of subtle—possibly too subtle—inhales and exhales. The idea is to draw your attention to how the way you breathe is affected by moving into different positions (knees to one side, child’s pose) and how the way you move is affected by the way you breathe. The work is purported to do a lot of things like improve posture, flexibility, and endurance, but most of all it made us sleepy, if slightly bored. Two hours.
Multiple Equinox locations
equinoxfitness.com; nonmembers, $35
A mild body-conditioning class performed in bare feet with a focus on keeping your shoulders pulled back and your heart “open.” Class begins with a routine march in place done with your hands resting over your heart. Next comes a combination of basic yoga poses (downward dog, warrior one) and Pilates exercises (teasers, hundreds) requiring a good level of balance, flexibility, and arm, leg and core strength. Deep meditative breathing comes at the end, and when it’s over, you will leave feeling more energized than peaceful, and even a little sore. One hour.
49 W. 23rd St.; single class, $20
It’s hard to get a truly aerobic workout from a Pilates class unless you’re advanced enough to flow quickly from move to move. After twenty minutes of core work on the Reformer and another twenty on the Cadillac (two standard pieces of Pilates equipment), the last third of this class is all about intense interval training to make sure you sweat. Everyone gets a “jump snap,” a newfangled ropeless jump-rope apparatus (it looks like the two handles without the rope in between) that allows rusty jump-ropers to experience the sensation (and the workout) without getting tangled and twisting their ankles. Four (long) minutes of jumping are followed by four (longer) minutes of core work on a mat. After several sets, your abs are worked and your endorphins are flowing. One hour.
Rainbow Meditation & Abs
404 Lafayette St.; nonmembers, $24
The main mission of the class is to attack your abs in every conceivable way (i.e., crunches, bicycle, side plank). Then, with the burning in your core still fresh, you sit up against a wall with your legs crossed and your palms facing upward for some guided meditation focusing on a specific chakra—the day we went it was the third chakra, the one in your solar plexus, a.k.a. your abs, or close enough. Since the color yellow is associated with that chakra, in order to engage it, we were told to inhale and exhale “yellow” energy into the studio, into the gym, and out into the city streets. A slightly wacky cooldown, but we bought it. 45 minutes.