When you find yourself doing the impossible, just look up past your yoga mat and you will find Mitra Hooshmand, motivating you to the next step.
Mitra Hooshmand, neuroscientist, and creator and Editor in Chief of ScientiFIT teaches UCI students that science is the answer to improving their health.
Creator of CardiYOGA—which will soon be re-branded as MIxxYoga—Hooshmand introduces all levels of yogi in a class that targets physical strength, mobility and psychological focus.
Her website, ScientiFIT evaluates scientific findings in fitness and nutrition, and makes recommendations for a healthy lifestyle in a way we can all understand.
She brings the science to us. Hooshmand says that data collected by scientists like herself can be “lost in translation.” She found the tools to build that bridge between the lab and daily health.
This eight year yogi takes the same approach to her workout class CardiYOGA. This fusion of fast-pace cardio, anaerobic Pilates, and Vinyasa flow yoga poses makes working out a positive prospect for a busy college student.
As a post-doctoral fellow, researching for the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurolgoical Disorders, Hooshmand has the answers to a clear head and energetic body.
In her freshman year at UCI, Hooshmand started out in medicine when Philosophy minor courses steered her toward neurobiology.
“It still feels like I will never stop learning in the field of neuroscience,” Hooshmand said.
As a third year Middle Earth R.A., Hooshmand dragged her residents to the ARC when it had just opened in 2000.
UCI remained her home as she graduated undergrad and leaped into UCI graduate school.
Into her second year in graduate school, Hooshmand broke through the walls of doubt that had silently been closing in on her throughout college.
The threat of anorexia had taken hold of her for four years. Although she wasn’t nutritionally deficient, her view of her weight and body was psychologically distorted.
“One day, I just woke up and realized that it doesn’t match up in a scientific way of thinking,” Hooshmand said.
The science saved her, and with no intervention, Hooshmand overcame the dangerous cycle. She learned that by denying her body food actually slowed down her metabolism, making her body gain more weight anytime she did eat.
“That was the day I stopped stepping on the scale and I have never weighted myself since,” Hooshmand said.
Hooshmand found her balance in yoga classes as soon as her mind was clear and she was dedicated to a healthy lifestyle. During the past eight years she has collected a wealth of yoga poses to teach her students.
After testing CardiYOGA out with the scientists in Gross Hall, she worked with John Halsey, fitness and facilities program manager at the ARC to start a night class. His receptivity to this unconventional form of yoga allowed Hooshmad to introduce CardiYOGA to UCI students in Spring 2012.
Wherever she travels, she finds a yoga class in that city and learns a new yoga modification to integrate into her own improvised routine.
CardiYOGA is fast-paced, so for college students whose minds are on going a million miles a minute, the cardio aspect of Hooshmand’s class is a plus.
Because of it’s pace, there is no time to think. If you have a worry on your mind, for those 50 minutes there’s no way they are going to come to your head.
“The one principle that has unequivocally had positive results is interval routines, high intensity interval training, or HINT,” Hooshmand said.
HINT facilitates weight loss, improves cardiovascular health, reduces risk of stroke…the list goes on. She developed CardiYogi because of all of the health benefits that HINT offers.
When you can’t do one more thing, and you just want to fall down, you have to hold yourself up and let your heart rate slow down, and as soon as it comes down you have to get back up again.
“Your heart rate is constantly oscillating,” Hooshmand said.
Christine Khuat, first year medical student, took her very first yoga class with Hooshmand, and two years later she keeps coming back because of the health benefits.
“I feel much more flexible, and much stronger than when I started out,” Khuat said.
Quite a few new members to her class are first time yogis. Hooshmand’s workout is appropriate for the beginner who dares to take on the challenge.
Hooshmand offers different modifications so advanced students can push the envelope, and defy space.
Katie Cowan, second year graduate student, public policy, has taken Hooshmand’s course since the beginning in Spring 2012 and is an intermediate yogi now.
“Mitra is really encouraging, so it’s not like boot camp. Even if you can’t do the pose, she motivates you to try. After taking this class I am in the best shape of my life,” Cowan said.
Form is key, so if you can’t keep form in a more advanced pose, then I want to see you go down a level.
“Understanding that you need to push yourself back a level is courageous. I respect that more than pushing yourself to a dangerous place, a place of pride,” Hooshmand said.
“You stick with me for ten weeks, I will have you doing the advanced move, without your knees down,” Hooshmand tells her students.
The music becomes an enchanting melody as Hooshmand leads us into savasana, corpse pose for the final ten minutes. We lie there and reflect back on the person we dedicated our session to.
Hooshmand spoke on behalf of the class when she gave thanks for our health, and she peacefully ended the session with “Namaste!”
“My most proud moments are when I see a student who wasn’t able to do the correct pose before and one day they just get it, and when I see that, I call their name out. I put them on the spot, because it’s a big accomplishment,” Hooshmand said.
CardiYOGA classes are held at the ARC on Tuesdays 6:00 to 6:50pm in the Activity Annex and Fridays 5:30-6:20pm in the Workout Shop.