Pros and Cons of BarreConcept
-Uses pilates and yoga
-Includes warm up and cool down and mat work
-Works every muscle and part of the body -Can do with a friend
-Lots of classes to choose from now
-Expense -Travel time -Finding the right teacher
-No high impact -Group workout rather than one to one
‘I love Ballet because you can see how beautiful the body is’
Im going to kick things off by totally humiliating myself! If you have seen the new John Lewis advert with the soundtrack of Tiny Dancer by Elton John, rewind a (few!) years and that little leotard clad girl is a pretty good depiction of me!
Darcy Bussell I am not! I do love to dance and one of my dreams would be to go on Strictly! I was that bossy pony tailed school girl, merrily gathering all the other children at family functions and subjecting the ‘grown ups’ to limitless ‘shows’ and boring them all to tears! I blame my parents, naturally. They merely encouraged my theatrical nature and signed me up for tap and ballet lessons from a very young age, as well as modern dance. I loved them all but as I got older I let my confidence fall by the wayside and concentrated on other things! Aerobics was about the closest I got to dancing for fitness and I kicked that one to the curb after cancer treatment because I started getting quite dizzy (the sweaty arm pits and frizzy hair didn’t help either!)
However, after my second diagnosis I was drawn to re connecting with old passions and to try something new to help me feel more empowered. I wanted to do something low impact but which complimented my yoga and helped my core strength. I read about the barre concept classes in Farnham in our local Famililes magazine. Natalie Perry, my original teacher, had started a new class and she had had breast cancer too. I emailed her for details.
By the time I got myself in gear and was about to start, I had the blow of a third diagnosis. I explained to Natalie and we decided this would be my big focus as soon as I was up to it.
Barre concept is a ballet inspired workout that combines a few different types of exercise and has lots of variety.
‘It is a fusion of ballet, pilates and yoga and the combination of these three methods is an optimum regime for burning fat increasing core strength, toning muscles and developing flexibility, as well as relieving tension and stress.’
– Natalie Perry
It stretches and sculpts with the moves and postures of ballet, the control of pilates and the alignment of yoga. What I really loved about this class, is that it is upbeat as well as good fun plus I got my loud music fix! Doing a series of plies’ to the song Titanium definitely got the pulse rate up!
I have been lucky enough to have two amazing barre teachers. I now see Emma, who has taken over from Natalie after she moved to the U.S. Both have very different styles of practice but I have loved that variety. Both were already trained in pilates and yoga and then did the three day BarreConcept course and have now built their own fitness businesses around it.
I have to admit that I loved it straight away. It is only an hour class but it really feels like I am working everything and I don’t even break too much of a sweat! It has developed muscles I didn’t even know I had, my legs feel so much more toned, and all with no jumping around and no tutu’s necessary!
Both studios I have practiced in, in the Farnham area, have been light, airy and spacious. I certainly feel like a Fame wanna be when I am standing at the barre with my feet in first position, leaning over and stretching, though not entirely sure I look like one, especially as I haven’t quite got around to purchasing the leg warmers just yet!
Starting this exercise after having had major surgery was a slight concern to me but after talking to Natalie and Emma it became apparent that this was no excuse!! I started three months after surgery and had no complications at all. Barre is not a class I would describe as exhausting but anyone who may be recovering from surgery or illness can be reassured that each exercise is modified depending on their own body, including injuries or weakness or post op specifications. A lot of the girls clients include people who have suffered from back issues, running injuries, hip replacements and breast surgery. The great thing about Barre is that you can do it totally to your own ability.
‘It is the perfect way of getting back to living actively, working every part of the body back to health’.
– Emma Reade
The common misconception about Barre is that people think it is a ballet class and you have to take on the flexibility of an elastic band! This is not the case. In barre concept a lot of the moves simply use the postures and positioning of ballet to provide a framework for the exercises but there is a warm up away from the barre, as well as mat work to tone and then, my favourite bit, the relaxation part. This allows the body to slow down, release and regenerate new cells and as we are all too aware now, that is vital in the healing process.
Having a friend to go with you to classes like this, is always a good idea. I roped in half my village and though a few have now stopped due to work commitments, two of us are still going and its always so much better, feeling more like a team effort. I have someone I can compare side effects with too (that might just be a few achey calves after rather a few leg raises!) but it makes for hilarious chit chat!
As I have mentioned in other blogs, feeling nervous about starting a new class is so normal. Will you be able to do it? Will you look stupid? As with my yoga blog, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to speak to your instructors beforehand and tell them whats going on with you. If they are good, they will look out for you too but your body is in your hands and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
A good instructor will help you to feel included, supported and able – there is nothing worse than feeling you can’t keep up….and an instructor should offer different levels of any exercise to cater for all the participants in the room.
– Emma Reade
Barre may not have qualified me to audition for Swan Lake quite yet, but it has certainly helped me take control over my fitness and wellbeing. I have loved learning something new and I have fun. I love that I have incorporated it into my weekly routine and it compliments my yoga and has become part of my healthier and active routine. More importantly, it has reminded me how much I love to dance and working out to music! I always feel so good about myself afterwards and so much better for doing something active yet graceful, without having to get all hot and sweaty! Barre has been such a positive for me and it just goes to show, you don’t need to jump up and down to ‘bounce back’!
Pros & Cons of Hatha Yoga
Widely spread classes throughout the country
Large price range of classes, some free
Yoga is not about comparisons or judgment. Everything to our own pace.
Gives us a deeper self awareness which can be empowering and wonderful.
May need to try out a few teachers/classes before you find one you like
There is a lot of choice in styles, speed and temperature
There is a minimal risk of injury (as with any exercise)
As we explore Yoga, we may experience a deeper side to ourselves, perhaps releasing emotions which could impact our lives outside the studio.
I can see that hesitant look on your face…… I know full well that a few of you may already be breaking out into a hot sweat at the thought of reading a review on all things yogi and the impending pressure to ‘breathe’ and be at one with the universe BUT, I promise, the less ‘hippy’ and yogi among us can also practice yoga without ending up on some mountain side in the lotus position chanting Om! After the last few months Ive realised it really is an exercise for anyone.
Yoga, in a variety of forms, has become a huge part of my life since my last diagnosis. I remember lying in bed after my surgery last year thinking “I don’t want to feel like this at eighty!’ I was so freaked out by how much I depended on people to help me and how much it hurt to move certain muscles that the realisation hit hard and I had to take action. Old, bent over and frail were not an option for my later years!
Since then, I have become much more familiar with yoga as a practice, and way less intimidated by it. I had dipped in and out over the years but never into a regular practice and now seemed like as good a time as any to prioritise it. Unfortunately I may now need to take out shares in Sweaty Betty, in a bid to ‘blend in’ but at least I have all the gear and SOME idea!
There are so many different descriptions of yoga but basically;
‘Yoga is a system which allows us to deepen our awareness and become more balanced…Yoga is freedom: as we return to the present moment we experience the true nature or our natural mind and a state of complete happiness. …Yoga is a way of livingand is available to everyone.’
– Louise Rogers
My body had never felt like it needed to be stretched more. I needed to feel more flexible and grounded as well as work on the old core but when I looked at all the different yoga classes around me, I was overwhelmed with all the choice there was and didn’t have the energy to investigate how many different styles of downward dog I could get myself into!
Thankfully, I knew someone who could help me separate an ‘Asana’ from my ‘Prana’ as well as translate all this sanskrit language that I kept coming across. Lou lives in my village and I got in contact to see if we could have a couple of one to ones to see how much I could (or couldn’t) do a few months after my surgery. I was pleasantly surprised and It was a great taster and now, a year on, I do her friday morning class and love every minute of it. (I do other yoga classes to compliment my Hatha but Ill review those separately!)
As a short definition the word ‘yoga’ means “union”, or harmony of body, mind and spirit. The Sanskrit word ‘Hatha’ derives from ‘ha’, meaning ‘sun’ and ‘tha’ meaning moon, symbolising life force and consciousness. Hatha yoga offers specific practices that can purify the body, calm the mind and open the heart, exactly what was needed in my case. I was already pretty much in a prayer position at the end of every day anyway, (isn’t every Mum?!) and if feeling connected to something, anything, meant standing on one leg in tree pose, I was there!
Hatha yoga is a term used to describe any yoga which incorporates the use of physical postures (asana in Sanskrit). Some popular yoga styles are Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Kundulini, Iyengar and Ashtanga, and there are many more to choose from. The flow of Lou’s class is what I love about it. It isn’t too fast and it isn’t too slow (though everyone is encouraged to do everything at their own pace) and after a few flows of varied Sun Salutations there are postures for balance and core. Like Lou, it makes me feel calm and grounded and gives me a conscious time out, to breathe and be closer to ‘me’.
‘Yoga for me is about developing the tools to navigate who I am in order to live a life which is more comfortable. It’s about acknowledging the experiences and decisions which have shaped us, paying attention to the thoughts and sensations of the moment, in order to respond to life less from patterns of defense but more from integrity.’
– Louise Rogers
Hatha yoga can be really helpful for cancer patients specifically, because it focuses the mind on the body in a healthy, nurturing way and can be tailored to the individual and their own ability so focusing on different areas of need. I would actually visualise the drugs draining out of my cells and my muscles finally felt stimulated. Since it increases blood flow, balances glands and enhances all that lymphatic drainage, it supports the deepest healing processes; clearing toxins, removing blockages and aiding the flow of energy through the body, helping levels feel a little fuller and a little less thin on the ground. I like to imagine it as a refill for my ever decreasing energy canister!
For me, breath work is so important (cancer cells hate oxygen so my deep breaths have increased ten fold since reading that little nugget!) and this type of yoga really emphasises the focus on the breathe. We practice Ujjayi breathing which is nicknamed the ‘Ocean Breath’. It is a very centring breath and though I often literally forget to breathe during a lot of the flows (inhaling and exhaling at the right time is like trying to keep up with a quick step!) as I have become more familiar with it, I think of it as an anchor that tethers my mind making it less likely to wonder. So, (ignoring the odd little gasps for air during a Sun Salutation), I generally have clarity towards the end of a class and I finish feeling energised, more positive and calm.
Breathing exercises release tension and replenish energy. We learn how to replace poor ineffectual breathing habits with more healthy, life-enhancing ones. Simple breathing exercises can help to deal with the strong emotions that a cancer diagnosis gives rise to: panic, grief, despair. We observe how our emotions affect our breathing, but when we learn to change our breathing patterns we can create more serenity and balance. The breath is the link between body, mind and spirit.
– Louise Rogers
There are a lot of different approaches to yoga so do read around it (there are thousands of books written on Yoga) and any classes you like the look of. I spoke to the lady who runs a Red Hot Yoga near me and she talked me through all the class descriptions but having Lou on hand was perfect and I am very lucky to have her so nearby. If you pluck up the courage and go along to a class for the first time, take time to speak to the teacher and introduce yourself. Tell them your situation so they are aware and the chances of connection with them will be greater if they can give you exactly the type of practice you need. It is, as with most things we do for our well being, an incredibly personal thing. As Lou says;
Many people feel a little apprehensive before taking their first yoga class, whatever their circumstance, but we all begin somewhere! A good teacher will reassure you, explain things in great detail, and show kindness and compassion.
– Louise Rogers
I know how reassuring I find it when we are told we can do ‘adapted’ versions for any postures that feel too strong or intense! When someone says ‘pain is your body telling you its not ok’ I’m not going to argue! Another reason why I love it; you can do it to your own ability and you are not judged or criticised for that. I can see that through practicing yoga I am being encouraged to listen to my intuition and do what feels right within my own body, regardless of whether I achieve a particular shape.
Yoga is a life long practice, and there are wonderful things to continue discovering.Yoga is becoming a hugely popular main stream exercise and lifestyle practice and I can see why. With all these different benefits, it is definitely something that has massively contributed to my healing and my recovery and dare I say it but recently I have been very tempted to go on a few yoga retreats too. Im sure I would find myself sitting on the side of a mountain, though perhaps not in lotus position, chanting Om then, but with all the good its doing me and all the fun Im having, where is the harm in that?