I recently started taking Zumba dance classes as a cardio workout in addition to yoga. I have been enjoying them so much that I find myself more motivated to go to a Zumba class than a hatha yoga class lately. (Granted, given all the yoga training I've had, I can easily do a yoga sequence at home and that is often my preferred yoga unless I am doing hot yoga or Kundalini yoga.)
People have been proclaiming (and debating) for years that Zumba is a "fad." The American College of Sports Medicine did not include Zumba in its 2014 top fitness trends. Yet, I find it hard to believe that Zumba is somehow on the endangered fitness species list, seeing as the Zumba classes I attend are extremely popular. Yes, more women do Zumba than men (like when yoga started as a "trend"), which may explain why some folks are writing it off. (One fitness instructor writes that her Zumba classes are her most highly attended classes in 22 years of fitness training.)
Yet, the appeal of Zumba can be universal and likely to not diminish in the way that, say, something like Tae Bo did. Tae Bo is a sort of martial arts hybrid. I tried Tae Bo using their home videos, and I wouldn't mind trying it again, but other things captured my attention. I had figured if I was going to do martial arts, I might as well do a "real" one.
I love to dance, however, and Zumba gives me a way to dance that is relatively safe and good for my health. When I was younger, my "dance exercise" consisted of going to night clubs and raves, and the joy of the dancing was often overshadowed by horrible aspects of the scene - long lines to get inside, creepy guys hitting on you, and drugs everywhere. I'm a good free-form dancer but I am not a trained dancer - so I am not interested in ballet or anything that requires real dancing skills.
For many, the idea of being able to dance your way to fitness is quite appealing - it's fun and doesn't feel like so much work. I would highly recommend Zumba as an addition to a regular yoga practice to round out your exercise program.
Now, for a while I did try to do more "power yoga" and flow-style yoga as my cardio, along with bicycling and swimming. But you know what? I'm tired of doing sun salutations. I'm tired of Sun Salutations A, B, and C. If I never did another one in my life, I might not miss it. I am sick to death of Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Downward Dog. I have suffered from various forms of yoga burnout for years, yet often pushed myself to go to class because that's what I was supposed to be: a yogi. I did yoga. I was supposed to do yoga and love it.
Taking Zumba has been a bit liberating. It's new, it's different. Granted, in five years maybe I will be sick of some aspects of it - like the ubiquitous "single, single, double" dance move. But I like that it's not only varied in its movements but gives you the freedom to interpret them in different ways. Even in yoga flow classes, I always felt like I was trying to conform my body to the specific posture, whereas in Zumba I have some freedom to be loose and expressive.
This may also be why I enjoy Kundalini Yoga so much - it can be so much less predictable than regular yoga.
Zumba beats power yoga for calorie burning:
I'll give you another very good reason to supplement your yoga practice with Zumba - Zumba actually burns more calories than power yoga. Here is why:
“If we look at the heart-rate monitor strips from the Zumba fitness session, they kind of look like interval workouts, going back and forth between high intensity and low intensity,” says lead researcher Mary Luettgen, M.S. “Because of that, with Zumba you burn a lot of extra calories compared to a steady-state exercise like jogging.”
This is why, for me, I am going to drop any "yoga guilt" I might have for preferring Zumba class to hatha flow right now. I go to Zumba for cardio. I am doing yoga for strength and flexibility now. Yoga doesn't need to be everything for me anymore.
"Dance yoga" is probably inevitable:
All that said, one of these days we might actually see more dance combined with yoga.
Shiva Rea has attempted to bring dance to yoga with her Yoga Trance Dance practice. I actually trained with her to learn how to teach it. I love it, and it's very awesome to do. But unfortunately, for whatever the reason, it has not caught on with regular yoga studios. It is hard to find a class, and when you do find one, they tend to be long, drawn-out special events done once per month at most or just once in a blue moon.
Zumba, on the other hand, is a lot easier to find. You'll usually find classes in your local gym. If it's not called "Zumba" it might be a Zumba knock-off with a different name.
It is probably only a matter of time before the marketing geniuses at Zumba, Inc. figure out a way to incorporate yoga and Zumba. I'll be happy to try the class when it's available. Right now, however, they are busy pushing Zumba Step, which I haven't had the guts to try yet.
Here are some tips on trying Zumba:
1) If you don't like your teacher try another one. Zumba teachers have vastly different styles and music. They don't always play Latin music and often play other dance hits.
2) You're going to stumble and miss the steps when you start out. That's OK. Nobody is looking at you. They are busy trying to get the steps right themselves.
3) Start off easy - don't start jumping around unless you feel ready to do so. If you need a less stressful workout, then step, don't jump. If you want to burn a lot of calories, jump a lot and you'll definitely feel it.
4) Zumba can conform to your fitness level. I have been in classes with young energetic women dancing alongside older, overweight women. The young women jump around like crazy while the older women dance in a lower impact way. This is what is great about the practice. It is flexible.