Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, September 26, 2016 - 11:57

Tell us about how you got into boxing.

 I used to be a salsa/hip hop dance instructor. Six years ago, one of my dance students told me her uncle had opened a boxing gym and wanted me to check it out.  Walking in I remember feeling excited and a bit intimidated by the ring and bags.  After meeting the owner, he ran me through my first boxing training. At the time I was drinking and smoking cigarettes every day. So by the end of my training session I was sweating what felt like battery acid and spitting up black stuff. But as bad as that sounds, I had never felt better in my life.  I was hooked, and so I decided to cut back on my drinking and quit smoking, cold turkey, right then and there.  I knew from that point that I wanted to be a boxer.

What is your advice to folks who may find the thought of taking a boxing class intimidating?

Don't allow your fears to get in the way of learning something you may be interested in. If you're intimidated by the thought of a boxing class, go and observe one you'd be interested in taking. Take time to speak with the trainer or coach, voice your concerns and see how they respond.  Basically get as much information as you can.  Then make an informed decision.

Your class involves a lot of conditioning.  Why is that necessary for boxing?

Boxing is a sport that can wear on an unconditioned body quickly and even cause injury to those who are not practiced enough.  This is why it is imperative that every boxer undergoes as much conditioning as safely possible.  When a boxing student starts incorporating sparring into their workout routine, they usually notice in the first round how tiring it can be to box for only 3 minutes (1 round).  Getting worn out or gassed during a sparring round is one of the worst feelings you can experience.  Your guard starts to drop as you lose more and more energy and before you know it, you're taking punches where you weren't a few moments ago.  So now you're tired and defenseless and still have half the round left to get through.  To help prevent unwanted situations like this one from occurring, good conditioning is key.

You also served in the navy for 4 years.  We’d like to thank you for your service.  How has that experience shaped you?

 The Navy was one of the hardest but also most rewarding jobs I've ever had. Physically and mentally, it challenged me to push past my hang ups of what I perceived my personal limitations were. As a result I learned that these limits are only in my mind, and my mind can be used to push myself beyond what I originally thought possible. I've applied this lesson to everything I've done since my days in the Navy and have achieved greater things than I thought I would ever accomplish in my life.

We also hear you like to cook.  Give us one of your favorite healthy recipes.

Shrimp Tacos w/ Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chipotle or blended chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound medium shrimp (about 20), peeled and deveined

 8 corn tortillas

8 sprigs cilantro for garnish

2 limes, cut into wedges


1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Juice and zest from one lime

Salt to taste


For sauce:

Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.


For tacos:

Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to medium-high. Mix the olive oil, chipotle or chili powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. 
Grill tortillas, until slightly charred and pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Alternatively, wrap in a damp paper towel and heat in a microwave.) Spoon sauce on the tortilla, then top with about 2 or 3 shrimp and a sprig of cilantro. Serve 2 tacos per person, with a lime wedge on the side.

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, September 12, 2016 - 18:31

Tell us about the structure of your Total Body Conditioning Class.  What can folks expect?

My Total Body Conditioning Class is done using high intensity intervals. Folks can expect a lot of different ways to raise their heart rates, such as running, jumping and other explosive plyometric movements, as well as lightweight to body-weight functional movements. I spend a lot of time focusing on form and making sure people are targeting correct muscle groups while moving.  I’m making sure people are moving in a way that is most efficient as well as comfortable and healthy for their respective bodies.

What’s one of your favorite movements that you like to use in class?

One movement you will see a lot of in my class is the squat. We will do the squat in many different forms, whether it be standing in place or doing squat jumps. The squat is a critical movement for building fundamental strength and it is very rarely executed properly. My class provides many variations of the squat in order to achieve a greater understanding of the posterior chain as well as allow people of varying flexibility and strength to engage the muscles intended in the squat.

What’s a movement that you commonly see people doing improperly?

A movement that I see done improperly all of the time is the push-up. A common mistake is to brace the entire upper body, creating tension in the neck and shoulders. This creates too much demand on the muscles that make up the rotator cuff in the shoulder. The shoulder was not designed to push things from that angle, however the chest was. In my class we focus on things like keeping the shoulders relaxed during push-ups, which allows the chest to engage and remain as the primary mover during the push-up.

You studied sign language for 3 years.  What made you want to do that and do you get a chance to use it at all?

During the course of middle school I developed a less than favorable relationship with my Spanish teacher so when I got to high school I thought to myself, "Lets do somethin' different". So I signed myself up for American Sign Language. I found the language very intuitive and much easier to pick up than other spoken languages. I think it gives one a much better perspective on what communication really is and teaches you to think about situations or problems from different angles. There was a small deaf community at the gym I used to work at. That was the last time I was signing somewhat regularly. However, I do still have thoughts of becoming an interpreter on occasion. Maybe if this fitness stuff doesn't work out ha!

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 Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 13:00

As I finished our Ride class here at Aatma Fitness Studios last Saturday and shortly thereafter received an email detailing the results of the workout, I began to wonder how exactly we became so metric obsessed.  I am a firm believer that from a big picture perspective it’s all been for the best and knowing where we stand will only help us to improve and get better.  However, one can’t help but wonder about the rise of these metrics, especially in fitness. 

Of course tracking one’s activity is nothing new but the technology that does all of the tracking for you is new.  Receiving immediate feedback on factors such as calories burnt or consumed, steps taken, distance cycled, heart rate and sleep quality can serve as a very effective motivational tool to change our behavior and lifestyle.  After all, the numbers never lie!  Metrics and tracking become even more important with those who have more serious heath issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.        

Members often ask me about my opinions on some of these gadgets and apps.  Being a late adopter with respect to technology (I was probably one of the last guys on the planet to get a smart phone), I found myself a bit skeptical of the emergence of technology in the fitness space.  My main concern was an over emphasis on tracking fitness activities at the expense of maintaining full body awareness and the enjoyment of the experience.  My wife on the other hand has always been very comfortable with technology and early on became an advocate of the Fitbit.  I have to admit that after witnessing her and other members’ use of the Fitbit and other gadgets here in Aatma, I have begun to see that a healthy symbiosis can exist between both inner and outer monitoring of fitness activities. Plus, I’m all for anything that motivates folks to work harder on their fitness! 

Speaking of technology, here’s where I get to plug Aatma’s use of technology in the club.  Our MINDBODY app syncs with your Fitbit, allowing you to view your activity for past classes taken.  Our Ride class uses a system called Spivi which makes use of sensors located on the bikes to communicate your activity to the system and allow you to view metrics such as cadence, distance traveled, energy produced, power and even calories burned, all while looking at an avatar of yourself in real time as you bike through the hills of Turkey, the Colorado River or whichever program the class is in the mood for!  It’s super cool but ake a class and find out for yourself! 

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 22, 2016 - 10:51

When did you start teaching Barre and what drew you to it? 

I started teaching Barre after my husband and I moved to Seattle two years ago. I taught Zumba fitness in Arizona and wanted to continue with group exercise after we moved. Dance has always been a big part of my life and I find Barre is a great way to keep up with my dance and choreography. 

Can you describe what Barre is and it’s benefits? 

Barre fitness is a combination of dance, pilates, yoga and strength techniques. One reason I love Barre so much is it is so diverse and a totally body workout! There are so many modifications in Barre it is great for any body. I would encourage anyone who hasn't given it a shot yet to come in and try a class!

You have a Bachelors of Science in Healthy Lifestyle Coaching.  How do you apply that to your classes?  

As a health coach I come alongside clients to reach their health goals. It is about making small changes to create lasting change. Before each class I like to ask the group what they are looking to work on that day to reach some of their fitness goals. It is fun hearing what the class wants and incorporating it into the workout.

What do you like to do when you aren't teaching group fitness?

My husband and I recently moved to Belltown. We love finding new fun restaurants and getting inspiration on things to cook at home! At least once a week we like to have a "farmers market dinner" where we go to a local market without a plan and make a dinner from things we find!

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 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.


Connect With Us!

Check Out Our Latest Blog Post

It’s been an emotional last few days for not only Neetu and I, but our members and coaches as well.  Over this past year, Aatma Fitness Studios became a place where folks whose paths would not... read more