Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, August 15, 2016 - 12:04

When did you start your yoga practice?  How did you get involved in teaching?

I started yoga in 2010 while studying Art History at the University of Washington. I started in a small studio in Ravenna (my favorite was taking the noon class where I was the youngest person by at least thirty years!). I have since branched out as a student to explore all types of yoga and even taught some classes during my time in graduate school. I got more involved in teaching when last summer I quit my job managing a restaurant to manage a yoga studio in Queen Anne and last Fall decided to enroll in their Sendatsu Evolution teacher training. 

How is Yin Yoga different from other forms of yoga?

Yin yoga is different than other forms of yoga because it is a quiet, still practice where the muscles are relaxed and we are working the deeper & connective tissues of the body- bones, joints and ligaments with longer supported holds in poses. Yin is interested in restoring the mobility and range of motion in our body rather than build flexibility or strength like in other Yang forms and more strenuous exercises. With its longer holds a Yin class is also the perfect space to relax and expand upon mediation and mindfulness practices.

How can Yin benefit someone with injuries?

Yin can benefit someone with injuries because we are working with strengthening the body from the inside out. Slower movement, and passive holds are not only a great way to gently build strength but also develop your inner listening, meaning you feel connected enough to your body and that you can discern between movements and hold times that do and do not serve your unique body! 

Tell us about your Masters thesis you just completed.

In June I graduated from Seattle University with a Masters of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership. My thesis explored the connections between mindfulness and creativity, and I am currently developing programs and events that helps artists and individuals unblock and awaken their creative spirit through yoga and mindfulness. 

Other than yoga, what else sparks your creativity?

Cooking is another part of my life where I feel immensely creative. I have worked in restaurants for almost my whole life and have done everything from tending bar to cooking. When I am not working or spending time with friends I am at home with the music blasting dancing around the kitchen and making all kinds food. 

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, August 1, 2016 - 10:56

Tell us a little about your education and certifications.

I began lifting weights in the 7th grade with my dad and continued all the way through undergrad, learning from my peers along the way. After finishing my undergrad degree in biochemistry, I decided to shift directions and pursue a Masters in Exercise Science, focusing on physiology. During my masters program I interned at Georgia State University Strength & Conditioning in Atlanta, GA. I worked directly under the coaches there to build programs and coach soccer, track and field, tennis, golf, and volleyball. After finishing my masters degree, I became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as well as a level 1 certified olympic weightlifting coach by USA weightlifting. Much of my interest and training has been focused on making people more athletically capable through developing their strength, speed and correct movement patterns.

How does your yoga teacher training influence your class?

I attended a 200 hour teacher training in India in 2010. At the time I had been practicing yoga for a couple of years and made a connection with a teacher there who let me audit the course. I did not receive the credentials afterwards, but it was my first intensive introduction to anatomy and physiology. I lived in a yoga ashram for two months and my time there laid the anatomical foundation that I carried over into strength and conditioning. A lot of the alignment principles that exist in yoga are universal to all human movement patterns, so in many ways it is an influence over my entire vision of the human body. Though it may not always be obvious to people in my class, there are many cues and positions that I have adopted from yoga that transition well into the world of weightlifting. I pull from a lot of disciplines, aside from yoga, that I have been involved with over the past years. 

You used to coach Georgia State athletes.  Do you need to be an athlete to take your class or is Strength and Conditioning for everyone?

You do not need to be an athlete to take my class. The goal when working with an athlete is to make them stronger, faster, and ultimately more competitive and resistant to injury. These same principles can be manipulated to target anyone who is looking to be fitter. The programming and specific movements will vary from say a football players program, however the principles I’ve used in collegiate athletics will serve to make anyone healthier and stronger if properly translated. This is the goal with my class. I draw from my background in strength and conditioning to create workouts that are simple, effective, and approachable for anyone who wants to build strength and increase their capacity to physically work in the real world. 

Which strength movements do you find the most challenging?

Olympic lifts are by far the most challenging. These are the clean, snatch and jerk. They are technical movements, and take a lot of dedication and focus to become fluent in. At the moment I am not programming much olympic lifting due to the intricate nature of the lifts, however as people in my class become more familiar with basic movements like squatting, pressing and pulling, I will begin to introduce olympic lifts. These movements are useful for displaying power, and mechanical efficiency. Not to mention, they feel fantastic when they are done well.

Did we hear you biked from Atlanta to Seattle?  How long did it take you and what was the best and worst part of the journey?

I actually rode my bike from Virginia Beach to Seattle over the summer of 2015. I moved here via bike! I packed down very light and set out back in May 2015. It took me 38 days, so I averaged about 110 miles a day over the whole trip. The people I met along the way were by far the highlight. I passed through almost exclusively small, rural towns and met many people who displayed incredible kindness and hospitality. The trip truly changed my perception of how open and welcoming people can be when you give them the opportunity. The worst part(s) were some of the weather I encountered. When I crossed Kansas I was riding in the blazing sun at 110 degrees for more than 12 hours a day and at one point had sun poisoning. The day I crossed into Colorado I was caught in a tornado more than 45 miles from any town and had to lay in a ditch and cover myself with my bike. One day in Montana I rode through three major hail storms within three hours, it was painful. That’s only the start. The trip was incredible, and I will forever urge anyone who is even mildly interested in the idea to jump on it. It is an experience that has changed me forever.


By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, July 25, 2016 - 11:00

Where did your love of riding come from?

My love of riding started shortly after high school. The pure joy of it was my main motivation and it just happened to help me lose over a hundred pounds. Cycling became a way of life, feeling healthier and happier over all.

For someone who is unfamiliar with indoor cycling, explain how your class is structured.

My class is structured with intervals. Starting with a warm up then slowly building in intensity. Every round of high resistance will be followed by a lower resistance and higher cadence drill.

We’ve heard you describe yourself as a self-professed bike nerd.  What’s your dream bike?

I am currently on my dream bike, a Trek Emonda SL 6 and rocking some Envy carbon wheels. Next year I might be thinking about a Specialized Veng, I'm constantly daydreaming of what bike to get next.

When you’re not at Aatma, where can you be seen biking around town?

Mercer Island is hands down my favorite place to ride, when not at Aatma you can find me there trying to push my top speeds through the s turns on the south east side of the island.

We hear you’re playing Pokémon Go.  Where’s the most interesting place you’ve caught one?

Cal Anderson Park is my favorite place to catch Pokémon.  There is a spot where any time I've gone there have been between thirty and a hundred people. It's such a strange social phenomena and super fun to be a part of.

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, July 11, 2016 - 12:58

Tell us about your dance background and how you came to teaching Barre.

I started dancing at the age of three. I trained in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and lyrical through high school. I went on to major in dance at Webster University in St. Louis, MO and studied ballet, modern, jazz, aerial, and even learned some Indian classical dance. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with an emphasis in Modern and a certificate in Business Entrepreneurship.  I am currently a freelance dancer in Seattle. 

I first heard of Barre in college because I knew some girls who were instructors. However, I did not get into it until I met my friend and co-worker Olivia. I took one of her classes and got hooked. It was an awesome workout and a great way for me to cross train! I quickly got interested in teaching and received my certification through the International Ballet Barre Fitness Association.

What’s a common misconception about Barre?

I think a common misconception about barre is that you have to have a dance background to take it. You don't! While a dance background will benefit you, it is not necessary. Every class I ask my students if they have a dance background, what type of fitness they normally do, and if they have injuries. This information will determine how that class will go. My goal is to explain the terminology/movement as simply and efficiently as possible, helping my students understand but keeping them moving at the same time.

What other fitness modalities do you enjoy?

Other than dance and Barre, I enjoy yoga, Pilates, and rock climbing. I have only taken one class in boxing and in capoeira, but I think I would enjoy those as well if I had the opportunity to take more classes. 

You’re fairly new to Seattle, what are some of your favorite things to do so far?

There are a lot, but I will name a few. I love to take dance classes. I also like walking in various parks in Seattle. I especially enjoy going to Pike Place Market and getting flowers. I have a huge sweet tooth so I love to eat Top Pot Doughnuts and Molly Moon's ice cream. Finally, I love rock climbing with my husband, Matt, and hiking (a more recent interest). 

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Neetu Punj on Monday, July 4, 2016 - 16:47

Where does your love of Pilates come from?

I love the slow controlled movements of the classical sequence and that the focus is on core strength. Pilates makes me feel longer, taller, stronger. Sometimes after a great class I walk so proud and tall and I feel like I'm wearing a corset, which is amazing!

Why do you prefer classical mat Pilates?

Mat Pilates uses the weight of your own body so it can be more challenging than using the reformer or other equipment. I also love that most of the sequence is done lying down on the mat, so it sometimes I can close my eyes and zone out, and at the end of the hour I realize I've just done a hard core workout. (My favorite Pilates class of all time is Jump board on the reformer. It adds an extra element of cardio, which is super intense)

What are some benefits you’ve personally seen from practicing Pilates?

 The greatest benefit I've noticed after Pilates is my posture. Pilates encourages long lean muscle tone and a strong core, so I've noticed that I stand straighter and taller. Additionally, Pilates has so many amazing healing benefits. After returning from living in Puerto Rico I suffered from a terrible lower back injury. I remember how much pressure and pain relief I felt after only one Pilates class. 

Tell us a little about your background in fashion and what your favorite Pilates outfit is.

 I've worked as a print designer for the last 12 years at several different fashion companies in San Francisco and NYC. Most recently I was designing prints for the active line at Victoria's Secret in New York. Currently I design prints for Zella, the active brand for Nordstrom here in Seattle. For Pilates I love a good high waisted legging and a simple tank. I prefer black because it's slimming. Right now I'm obsessed with my Zella high rise "live in" legging and mesh bomber jacket.

By Neetu Punj
Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, June 27, 2016 - 07:15

Where did the inspiration for Dance Fit come from?

While I tend to classify dance as a physical art, traditional dance classes have always been my main form of fitness my entire life. Dance Fit was particularly inspired from my days as a collegiate athlete on the UW Cheer and Dance Team. Our long nights spent in the gym doing cardio and circuit training improved my dancing ability and quality of life immensely, which sparked my interest in fitness more specifically. Blending dance concepts with conditioning movements (and awesome tunes) just seemed like the way to go in my effort to inspire others to have fun while getting a great workout!

What forms of dance are you trained in and how long have you been dancing?

My parents started me in ballet class when I was in grade school because I needed something to challenge me intellectually, physically, and emotionally. 17 years later, I have covered ballet, jazz, cheer dance, musical theater, lyrical, modern, hip hop, tap, swing dance, and probably a few others.

Do you need previous dance experience to take a Dance Fit class?

Absolutely not! All levels of dance and fitness are welcome and encouraged. The goal of Dance Fit is to have FUN (and sweat, which we do a lot of)! Class is totally follow-along style, so the best thing you can do is just let loose and keep going, even if you feel uncoordinated because, frankly, we all look silly and no one is judging. Just think: if you come take class, you won’t be able to say that you don’t have dance experience anymore. Everyone improves with repetition!

What are your passions outside of dance and fitness?

I love music! I sing and play several instruments, and spend the majority of my free time writing and recording songs (and then posting them on YouTube if you want to check them out). My majors in college were Communication and Musical Theater, so I have dabbled a lot in stage performing and other performance-related activities like cheerleading, public speaking, acting, and marching band. Otherwise… I also love cats and drinking tea!

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, June 20, 2016 - 06:28

When did you start your yoga practice?

I started practicing yoga in college because I wanted to try something new. I was instantly hooked! 


How has yoga affected or changed your life?

After moving to Seattle, yoga gave me sense of the same community I left back home in Southern California. Yoga taught me to be patient, compassionate to myself, and humility–on and off my mat. I love the idea of my practice continuing after class ends. 


What’s your favorite pose?

My favorite pose is wheel! 


What is a misconception about yoga that you commonly see?

People think you have to be flexible to do yoga, that you have to be able to touch your toes and bend into a pretzel. But that's far from true! Yoga is about how you feel rather than how you look. 


What your passions outside of yoga?

I love dancing bachata, making my own pressed juice, and going kayaking in South Lake Union! 

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, June 13, 2016 - 09:20

What prompted your interest in Muay Thai?

Well, culturally I am Thai.  I was already learning Chinese kickboxing and so several folks told me I need to learn Muay Thai because I am Thai and it is my heritage.


Is it true you have a Masters degree in the Ethnography of Muay Thai?  What is that?

Yes it’s true.  I have a Masters from UW. Ethnography is the study of culture or peoples and I happen to specialize mine in the lives of fighters and cultural conservation of Thai kickboxing.


Tell us about your experiences competing in Thailand.

I only competed once in Thailand and it was in a terrible dive bar.  It was for my Masters thesis.  I filmed myself fighting in a “stadium” that was really a dive bar in Chiang Mai.  I won by knockout.  I won $50 US but I accumulated about $1000 US in medical bills back in the states from that fight, but my Masters thesis was approved!


What are your passions outside of Muay Thai?

I’m a photographer that specializes in craft beer.  I photograph craft breweries and bars all over the country and I have my own beer festival.  

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, June 6, 2016 - 13:03

With certifications in personal training, corrective exercise, and yoga, Hillary is a real asset to the Aatma team.  Get to know Hillary better.

Tell us a little about your journey with fitness.

I struggled with weight for a long time.  At one point I was 200 lbs, and had very poor self-image.  I was very mean to myself.  I was going through a very hard time in my life.  I went through a divorce.  I was having a hard time listening to myself.  One day, I went out on a run, and I could hear nothing.  For the first time in a while, I did not have to think.  This became a habit, and I started to run.  I then started my certification with the NPTI (National Personal Training Institute), but I did not do anything with it for a while, due to my negative self-image.  However, I slowly figured out what exercise had done for my life, and slowly worked away at it.  I did not know where to start, but I started with my friends and family to build a community, as I could not find a gym that met my needs at the time.  What inspires me to be a coach is knowing that there are others out there in a similar situation who are struggling with something, whether it be a relationship, job, or something else and could be going through something similar.  I want to be there for them to help them discover themselves and love themselves again.  Whether that means clearing their head, getting the body that they want, or finding a community so they can discover who they are and be confident.

What is a common misconception about fitness that you come across?

A common misconception that people have is that they are not ‘fit’ enough for a fitness program.  They feel as if they need to work out in their home first.  Being afraid to step into the gym is the biggest one.  This is what I love about classes, that they build a community.  No matter your fitness level, they all remember their first day of fitness.  This builds a community.

Being that your focus is body mechanics and posture, what are some common issues that you see in your classes?

I see a lot of improper shoulder mechanics, limited range of motion in shoulders and hips, and improper hinging.  All of this can cause severe issues later on.  Often issues stem from the foot and ankle, whereas people think it’s coming from somewhere else.  With activation of the appropriate muscles it is very easy to see some improvement.  If you stick with it for a month, you will see things improve but it takes dedication and undoing of what we’ve been doing in our adult lives. 

How do you spend your day off?

On my day off, I work out in the morning.  I usually do this with my dogs to give them exercise.  I try to spend time outside gardening, hit up a farmer’s market, and cook an awesome meal for my friends.  If I have no friends over, I’ll just bake a meal for myself (and possibly give it away)!

What’s your favorite pre-workout or post workout meal?

Before my workout I usually eat something that is fibrous like cereal with fruit or oatmeal.  Something that is hearty.  I always eat an hour and half before my workout.  Post workout I eat something big and delicious.  Grilled chicken salad with veggies and nectarines.

What’s your favorite healthy treat to bake?

Toasted coconut macaroons.  Half a cup of sugar in the entire recipe and it makes 50 cookies.  Each one is a half dollar size.  That means you can eat three of them and not feel bad about it!

Toasted Coconut Macaroons

Yields 40-50 cookies about the size of a half dollar


·      3 egg whites

·      ½ cup sugar

·      2 tsp. vanilla extract

·      ½ tsp. almond extract (optional)

·      14oz shredded coconut


·      Preheat oven to 325 degrees

·      Combine egg whites, sugar, and both extracts in bowl of mixer with whisk attachment

·      Whisk on high until stiff peaks form

·      Gently fold in coconut until evenly coated with egg white mixture

·      Line cookie sheet with parchment paper

·      Measure batter with a tablespoon as you place each cookie 2 inches apart on the parchment (It helps to wet the tablespoon from time to time to keep the batter from sticking to it)

·      Bake in preheated over for 25-30 minutes until the outside is a nice toasted golden color

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 18:31

Don’t you just love long weekends!  Now that Memorial Day weekend is officially behind us, it’s safe to say that the summer season is now upon us.  And you know what that means, more trips to the grill!  I thought I’d take a few moments and share a few tips to start off the season right.  Here we go…

1) Load up on Vitamin D – We Seattleites don’t see the sun as often as other major cities do.  So when it does come out, we need to take advantage of it.  This means ditching the car whenever possible.  Why not start a little earlier in the morning and walk to work?  If you’re too far, how about biking?  There’s nothing like breathing in fresh air on your way to the office to make you feel energized and get the blood pumping.  If that’s not an option, you can always schedule an event on the weekends that requires you to either walk or bike to get there.  Got a date planned Sat night across town?  Instead of ubering/driving, do your best to find a more local spot that you can both walk to. 

2) Stay Hydrated – We all know how important water is to our bodies to keep things working the way they should.  The hotter it gets the more water we have to drink to stay replenished.  If the idea of guzzling water 24/7 has you needing a little more variety, another way to add to your H20 needs is to add a little more fruit to your diet.  Strawberries, raspberries and watermelons are my personal favorites during the summer months.

3) Get your veggie on – Yeah we’ve all heard it from our mothers since we were kids to clean up our veggies on our dinner plates.  What’s awesome about the spring and summer months is how much easier it is to throw some veggies on the grill.  It’s funny how a little heat can so dramatically change the texture and taste of pretty much any vegetable you can think of.  Here in western Washington I’ve found that green beans, squash, zucchini and sweet corn seem to ripen between June – August and are perfect for the grill.  Add a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper (or pretty much any seasoning) and voila, you’ve got yourself an awesome veggie plate.  See mama, we do listen (sometimes)!

4) Let loose a little – No, this doesn’t mean eat a chocolate ice cream every day during the warm months.  Going back to our childhood, the summertime was when we didn’t have to go to school and could let our hair down and well, just be kids.  Somewhere along the line as adults many of us forgot what this was like and we now feel we have to keep our pedal to the metal all the time.  It’s ok to keep abreast of our responsibilities but at the same time allow ourselves to relax and unwind both mentally and physically.  This may mean attending an outdoor concert or two or making a few weekend trips out of town this season.  Or it could be something as simple as heading down to Alki with a good book on a Sunday afternoon and letting your mind wander.  Bottom line is, we all need a little time to recharge our batteries.  This is the perfect time of year to do it!

Here's to a great summer folks!    

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.


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