Deepen your yoga practice and get ready to fly!
When I tell people I’m a barre instructor, two-thirds of them don’t know what I’m talking about—or exactly what barre is. I tell them to imagine a class featuring a hybrid of ballet, yoga, Pilates, and some standard workout moves. Adding small, controlled movements, we use props like different stretchy bands, balls, and free weights, so you’re working your booty off (literally!).
You don’t have to be flexible, a dancer, or even have experience exercising to benefit from barre. If you put in the effort, listen to your instructor, and have fun, barre can transform your body so quickly you won’t even believe how incredible you feel within weeks!
Debating if barre should be your next sweat session? Or maybe you’re wondering if your first barre class was worth the burn? Here are five reasons why you should join in on the barre craze because it’s here to stay:
Barre is designed to exhaust—then stretch—every muscle group. This combo is a highly effective, low impact way to increase your physical strength super fast. Tired of getting tired going up flights of stairs? Take some barre classes and kiss that goodbye. Keep in mind your body position is essential to working the right muscles, the right way. If your instructor says “Keep your knees in line with your toes” or “Pull your left hip back and right hip forward to square your hips,” DO IT. The results you’ll feel (and see) will be worth the effort.
Pro tip: Eat some protein and healthy carb combo (yes, both!) within a couple of hours after your class to fuel muscle recovery. That—along with some before-bed stretching—will help ease any soreness the next day.
With barre, you’re working all of your muscles, especially around your knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and spine with no impact or shock to your joints (in exactly the right body position, amiright?). By doing that, you’re giving your body the strength it needs to support you. Strong joints are instrumental in keeping your body safe from things like, let’s say, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, lifting heavy objects, and twisting your ankle on a dog toy in the dark. Also, as someone with herniated disk problems and knee injuries for the last 21 years, I can tell you that nothing at all, ever, has rehabilitated my broken body like barre. Strengthening the muscles around your injury (like I did) is essential to healing.
Pro Tip: Stretching the muscles around the joints is also necessary. Strong and flexible will keep you safe well into your “hip replacement years”...but without the hip replacement!
Every movement in a barre class involves working your core. This includes your back! You know how ballerinas are known to have amazing posture? There’s a reason for this—and it’s because of the core + upper back + hip strength needed at all times. So when you’re in barre class being told things like “Pull your belly button toward your spine” and “Lift up out of your standing hip,” you’re setting yourself up to walk out of class taller and poised than you’ve ever been!
Pro Tip: Remind yourself to pull your shoulder blades together and down your back while lengthening through your neck, all day long. Do it while you walk, drive, sit at your desk, have drinks at happy hour (you get the point). Practicing good posture will prevent upper back and shoulder fatigue. Plus, you’ll also look and feel more poised and confident in the process. That’s a win-win!
So, maybe one of your excuses for not taking a barre class is, “But I’m not flexible at all.” Barre is so much more about correct body positions and tiny movements than flexibility. That being said, how will you ever become more flexible if you don’t try? In class, you’ll stretch what you’ve strengthened, and that combo is going to loosen you up everywhere. You have to give it some effort as flexibility doesn’t happen overnight, but you’ll feel the difference as you become looser over time. Baby steps, my lovelies, and you’ll love the way you feel.
Pro Tip: Holding a stretch for more than 30 seconds while taking deep breaths is the beginning of genuinely increasing your flexibility. But holding a stretch for 60 seconds or more is how you permanently start to change your muscle fibers, making the lengthening and flexibility really, really real.
Speaking of breathing, this last part is probably the sneakiest (and maybe even the very best) part of busting your butt in barre. The breathing you do while working your muscles in class will not only support the effort you’re putting in, it’s also forcing you to focus your attention on the air coming in and out of your nose/mouth. A great instructor is going to talk you through this for the entire class—guiding you when and how to inhale and exhale. This is exactly what you do in mindfulness meditation to focus your attention inward.
Breathing exercises are also instrumental in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. When you are fully concentrating on your breath and the precise muscle movements, you’re focused on what you’re doing at that very moment during class. Bam! You just meditated for 60 whole minutes. Notice that when you walk out of your workout, your mindset will feel entirely different (and more positive) than when you came in. Thank yourself, because you did that.
Pro Tip: When you’re about to give up the current movement because your legs are shaking while simultaneously on fire, bring your attention to your breath. Focus. And I’ll bet you $50 you’ll make it to the end of the squat-pulse series that feels like it’s killing you.
So, go kick butt in that barre class! Plus, you haven’t lived until your muscles are numb and trembling during a workout, and you haven’t lived until you’ve given yourself a strong, healthy body you feel great living in!