Sexy and Spirited

Gone are the days when fitness classes addressed only the physical body. Times have changed, and men and women of the 21st century crave spiritual sustenance as much as they yearn to take a break from the ergonomic chair and computer screen and break a sweat. Enter yoga — the Eastern practice that’s become a Western phenomenon. It’s a tension-busting, fat-burning, strength-building social gathering, a workout-wear fashion scene, and a way of life for millions.

Up in San Francisco, that hotbed of many a New Age trend, fitness instructor Meredith Medland made waves when she began teaching Naked Yoga, a class taught completely in the nude. Medland’s intention was to emphasize sexual freedom and healing, and to encourage students to get in touch with their sensuality. Medland is a certified body worker and fitness instructor whose personal background includes an unplanned teen pregnancy, followed by years spent in a corporate work environment where she struggled to manage a biological tendency toward obesity. Now living a healthy, active lifestyle, she’s determined to help others connect to the pleasure of living fully in their bodies.

Last year, Medland moved from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, where she has begun tailoring a new class for the Santa Barbara Athletic Club. Her creation, Sexy and Spirited, is a one-hour workout incorporating yoga, dance routines, and improvised movement. Throughout the class, Medland encourages what she calls “radical self-expression,” inviting students to get in touch with their inner impulses and even take her place on the podium to lead segments of the workout. Part nightclub thrusting, part group therapy session, it’s a unique way to address the hungers of both body and soul. “The class is going to be as big as Jane Fonda’s first workout series,” Medland predicted, “because it offers connection, community, transformation, fitness, rest, renewal, and release.”

Men and women of all ages and abilities are welcome to the classes, which are currently scheduled for the fourth Thursdays of the month: February 22, March 22, and April 26, from 7 to 8 p.m. Call Diana Zapata at 966-6147 x239 for more information, or visit  — Elizabeth Schwyzer

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