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Buti yoga: I tried this combination of yoga, belly dancing and HIIT

Drop all your expectations of a typical yoga practice; this workout is unlike any exercise I’ve ever done.
This is not your typical yoga workout!
This is not your typical yoga workout!TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour
/ Source: TMRW

When I think of yoga, I think of a relaxing routine that improves flexibility and decreases stress. For most people, yoga provides a calming experience. Buti yoga, on the other hand, does almost the exact opposite. As a high-intensity cardio workout, it gets your heart rate up while toning muscles and burning calories.

Buti yoga is a mix of traditional yoga and tribal dance created by trainer Bizzie Gold in 2012. This workout is based on the traditions of African, Native American and Middle Eastern dance, combining them to create a cardio-dance yoga workout.

Being a yogi myself, I was intrigued to give this twist on traditional yoga a try. With cardio bursts and hip-shaking movements, I knew it would engage my core and improve my flexibility and endurance. And since so many of the movements are similar to dance, it's a major calorie burner, too.

But Buti yoga isn’t only about burning calories. The practice is meant to work on the muscle groups we often ignore in traditional exercise while simultaneously activating feminine energy through movement. Buti yoga has even become a trend for women after childbirth.

So I decided to give it a try. If you are looking to change up your workout routine with a more high intensity, dance-like routine, this may be for you.

Cost and equipment

You can find tons of free Buti yoga workouts on YouTube and Instagram, and you only need a yoga mat to try it out. If you want to kick things up a notch, you can sign up for Buti TV with over 300 workouts; they offer a 14-day free trial and then it costs $27.99 a month.

What the workout entails

My first attempt at Buti yoga was on Instagram with a 20-minute class on the @butiyoga account “LIVE Buti Yoga with Britt Hodgen.” Honestly, I felt as weird doing this as I did when trying “The Class” for the first time. At the beginning, I felt like a seated belly dancer, pulsing my abs and gyrating while sitting on the ground. But by keeping one hand on my heart and another on my shoulder, it also felt like yoga. About halfway through we got into a crescent lunge with a twist, which felt like yoga until we started pulsing the back leg and then the top arm, tapping our heart then reaching up toward the ceiling. Doing chest rolls with my hand on my heart felt cool, albeit unlike any other yoga pose I’ve ever done before.

This class had a lot of jumping (standard for Buti yoga) and pulsing, and I was sweating by the 15-minute mark. Did I feel more zen after this class? No. Did I feel energized? Yes.

The workout was a strange mix of strength training, stretch, HIIT and yoga.
The workout was a strange mix of strength training, stretch, HIIT and yoga.

I decided to try another class that was more focused on core and less on cardio (or so I thought!). I found a Buti yoga class with almost half a million views on YouTube, so I rolled out my yoga mat and got to it. We started seated, and again went right into the moves that I call belly dancing. Since Buti yoga is meant to be like a tribal workout, these sorts of movements make sense. But as a yogi of 15 years, I still felt funny doing this! There was a lot of side-to-side and front-to-back movement that helped loosen up my spine and torso.

We set an intention, which comforted me because that’s how I'm used to yoga classes starting off. Then we went back into the movements while seated on our shins on the mat and did some opening exercises on our knees and in a squat position before moving into downward-facing dog. This class was definitely low impact, with standing poses and movements starting from a wide leg, open toe squat. Next were some side kicks, which felt more like a HIIT workout than yoga. I really started to get in the zone around the 12-minute mark and dropped all of my expectations of a normal yoga practice. I totally embraced the movements, which I can best describe as a mix of strength training and stretching.

What I liked

Once I let go of my yoga mind (something I should have done at the start of the first workout!) I really embraced the core movements and motions to get a great, relaxing stretch before moving into the pulsing strength training moves.

I never knew what was going to come next, which made each minute exciting but also a little scary! When we would get to a downward dog or a crescent lunge, for example, I felt a sigh of relief because I know what to do here. But when we were pulsing in circles while seated like belly dancers, I got a little nervous that I wasn’t doing it right.

I realized that the practice is more about the intensity of the movements rather than the techniques of dance. There’s no formal choreography or dance counts. So even though I’m not a dancer, I was able to move my body freely through the movements.

Overall I love the variety and intensity of the workout. I like how the poses and exercises all flow together, and the music is really upbeat and invigorating.

What I didn’t like

As exciting as it is to try new moves, I didn’t like that I never knew the order (in regular yoga there are sequences that you can bank on). I also didn’t like that a lot of the movements were new to me, so I felt like a beginner even though I’m a fitness trainer and yogi.

If you have joint issues, yoga is typically a safe workout. But I would not recommend Buti yoga because of all of the jumping and fast movements that challenge agility as well as balance and strength.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, mindful practice, I would not recommend this type of workout. I didn’t feel centered or calm after this practice; I felt amped up and ready to go!

Overall, I couldn’t decide how to “feel” my way through this workout. It left me feeling out of breath and sweating. I’ve sweat in hot yoga classes, but I’ve never felt out of breath. It was a weird concept to me that I couldn’t fully grasp.

I would recommend this workout to:

  • Those looking for a high-intensity workout
  • People who like the positive vibes of a yoga or dance class
  • Women who want to tap into their “feminine” side (the hip circles and core moves had me feeling sexy!)
  • Anyone who likes novelty and workouts that are unpredictable