10 Unconventional Summer Workouts to Break the Yoga Monotony, Reviewed

Drumming. Trapeze. Belly dance. "Surfing" on an urban roof. I tried some outside-the-box fitness classes that feel more joyful than judgmental and torturous.

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Photo: Courtesy of Aerial Arts NYC; SURFSET NYC (Getty Images)

Summer is the season of sweaty skin, fresh baskets of cherries, and being relentlessly shamed into having a “beach body.” The streets are teeming—at least here in New York City—with people in crop tops or Alo yoga unis traipsing back and forth from Corepower yoga or pilates or whatever other feminine-branded workout du jour, all touting the message that our torsos as they exist just won’t cut it this or any season.

Here’s my issue: Studios trying to sell the dream of an impossibly thin body can also turn those who’d like to sweat in peace away from basic movement altogether. Movement and fitness should be considered a pleasure, not a duty, but so many conventional group workouts just feel like torture—especially for someone who’s not already “in shape.”

Of course, I wish all the leisure, rest, and laziness in the world to those who want or need it, myself included, and acknowledge that “movement” looks different for everyone. But as someone dealing with chronic bouts of depression, I am too easily inclined to just waste away in my cave. I need those endorphins to live, and not just from shame-filled classes that only serve to make me feel worse. So I embarked on a three-month quest to explore some weird, outside-the-box exercise options that don’t actually feel like work and may even—forgive me—spark joy. Here’s what I found.

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