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Meet The Trainer: YogaWorks' Keisa Parrish, Former Broadway Rockette!


The start of the New Year means the start of so many new fitness routines. Hitting the gym hardcore may be your 2012 resolution (studies say losing weight or getting in shape is the top promise people make), but what about those "off" days, when you're sore or just don't feel like getting your butt kicked by your favorite bootcamp master? That's why we thought it was so important to give you a total-body stretch/yoga routine that'll keep your body moving but also give it a nice break too. Plus, when things get hectic before the New Year even begins, you can take a breather with these relaxing moves. January's Express Workout moves from YogaWorks instructor, Keisa Parrish, come straight from her popular DanceWorks class. Psst...Keisa was a former New York City Rockette too! How cool is that?!

You were a Rockette. What was it like to have this job? (It seems amazingly fun!) It was amazing! There's nothing like being apart of a legacy and a sisterhood that spans many generations. And performing for about 6,000 people, is not half bad either!

How did you get into dancing? Well, it was actually Ms. Renee (the school secretary) who saw me "moving" in the fifth grade Christmas show. And she thought I was a natural dancer and suggested I go take class at Universal Dance Design. These legs haven't stopped yet.

What's one thing people would be shocked to find out about Rockettes? That they do anywhere from two to five shows a day during the Christmas season.

Is Christmas one of your most favorite times of the year? Yes, it definitely is. I love New York City at holiday time. The lights, decorations, the shows and attractions, the family feeling in the air. Hands down favorite time of year!

What's on your holiday wish list? Two things! A day at Bliss Spa to pamper myself (I've been saying this for four years now...we'll see if it happens!) and Rachael Ray serving size casserole dishes. It would be easier to make my son's favorite homemade mac and cheese!

Besides being a fitness instructor, how do you manage staying in shape while being a mom? You must be so busy! It's hard when you're a single mother to even find the time to comb your hair. But I try to carve out 15 minutes in the morning to jump on my mat and just do sun salutations. This warms me up, clears my head and makes me sweat. Playing ninjas with a 6-year-old boy keeps me pretty agile. Also being a New Yorker and having to take the subway (with all its stairs) multiple times definitely keeps my legs toned!

Do you have any tips for staying healthy during the holidays? Stay active! Three to four days a week. People always use this time to take a break from their workouts, but this is the time of year you eat the most. And eat four small meals a day (instead of nothing for breakfast because you plan to have a huge dinner). That's the quickest way you'll be storing fat, not dropping it. It's really the opposite of what most are trying to do. So what do you love about yoga? The way my mind and body feel both during and after. And no matter what level I'm at, the change is noticeable.

How did you transition into yoga after being a dancer? I was teaching hybrid fitness classes at YogaWorks. And I took a workshop there on CardioFlow. When the senior yoga teachers showed a demo of how the class would flow, I was in awe. It was beautiful, they looked like they were dancing, flowing from one pose to the next. And they were saying all of the names in Sanskrit. I immediately fell in love. Like in Eat, Pray, Love when she said she wanted to be wrapped up in the Italian language. That's exactly how I felt! I signed up to do a 200-hour YogaWorks certification and have been happily wrapped ever since.

Why should someone try a yoga/dance hybrid class? I always think it's wise to add variety to whatever your workout is. And the hybrid classes like at YogaWorks are designed to compliment your yoga practice. You are able use the same muscles but in a completely different way, a way that supports and helps with the growth of your practice. And dance is all about transitions from step to step and the grace in which you do it with. This allows a person to smoothly transition through life whether it be walking or yoga.

What do you consider the greatest accomplishment(s) of your career so far? In my dance life, the Rockettes of course. And dancing with a modern company called the Tattooed Ballerinas. In my fitness/yoga teacher life, I feel like I just got started, like I'm just scratching the surface. I know this piece for FITNESS is up there!

What do you love most about your job? I would say the impact I have on my students. To see them leave class with a smile on their face even though I probably just kicked their butts makes me feel like I did my job. I made the butt-kicking workout fun and they want to come back for more!

What's your favorite workout? That would probably be a dance class! That is when I'm floating on cloud nine, no matter how hard or intense the class is.

What's your workout hell? The elliptical! Because it's stationary and has no scenic view. But I know that I have to get my cardio in and since I'm a dancer and must save my knees, running is out of the question. Swimming would be best, but I don't have time to find the nearest pool and get there often.

Most effective yoga move would be... Plank! It works the arms, abs and legs. Your mind has to focus on your breathing to ignore the shaking of your body from the intensity of the pose.

What's the one body part you think women should target the most when they workout? The CORE—it's needed for everything, from walking to child birth. And it's the first thing to go when we are tired, injured or getting older.

Favorite songs to play during your DanceWorks class?

  • "Locked Inside," Janelle Monae
  • "Gabriel," Roy Davis Jr., featuring Peven Everett
  • Anything by Fela

Fitness apparel (and brands) you can't live without... A good pair of stretch pants! And I love Lululemon. They make a pant that last, fit a woman with some curves in the lower half and they are not see through! That's my biggest pet peeve with fitness apparel, the stretch pants. It's tough to find the right ones that make you feel good!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully I would have traveled to Paris, Greece, Africa and all continents in between. I also hope to...

  • Be full of knowledge in all the different forms of yoga and fitness
  • Better direct my students to which might be more their style
  • Have danced in a Broadway show or possibly choreographed one
  • Have written my book on how to help a single parent raise a kid in this city on an income that is far less than what statistics say you need to raise one!

Pick up the January 2012 issue of FITNESS, on newsstands now, to try Keisa's "Loosen Up!" workout.