As a yoga teacher, I'm expected to be energetic and motivated—all of the time. However, even the most dedicated yogi's routine can become, well, routine. With little time for my own practice outside of teaching, I was feeling stuck, drained, and yes, bored. Fueled by visions of a strong and sculpted ballerina body, I decided it was time to belly up the bar(re) for a different type of happy hour: 30 days of classes at The Bar Method in Soho, NYC.
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How Bar Method Works
According to Amy Duffey, the Soho studio owner who has been with Bar Method since its California beginnings over 16 years ago, students notice significant changes in muscle tone in less than 10 classes, specifically in common trouble spots like arms and abs. To achieve these goals, classes are taught in intervals that target and isolate small muscle groups. Each sequence utilizes precise movements with a small range of motion in order to "turn on and fire up" muscles. Classes are formatted with a cardio warm-up, shoulder/arm work with 2-5 lb. weights, tricep dips, Planks, exercises to target thighs and and sculpt a "dancer's dent" (the defined indentation where the thighs meet the backside), ab exercises done on mats, and finally, "back dancing" to define quads and glutes. Active, rather than passive, stretches are done in between sets, allowing you to safely remain working within small muscle groups, which shapes, tones, strengthens, and elongates the body, creating a long, lean, supple silhouette. Think: flat abs, sculpted arms, lifted seat, improved posture, more flexibility, and increased body awareness. "You feel better at the end of the class, rather than decimated such as [after] other workouts," Duffey says.
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According to Duffey, attending at least 3-5 Bar Method classes per week creates the most effective (and quickest) results. Ever the overachiever, I committed to taking an hour-long class daily, even though this often meant a packed schedule between teaching and taking my mentor's yoga class three days per week. But all my hard work was more than worth it. Here are 5 ways my 30-day Bar Method experience changed and complemented my yoga practice, and how you can use barre to enhance your practice, too.
5 Ways The Bar Method Transformed My Yoga Practice
1. I learned to be more patient.
Patience is key when learning anything new, including workouts. During the first few classes, I found myself becoming frustrated as I watched other students go through the movements quickly and with ease, while I was struggling to keep up with the movements and pace. However, after about three classes, the format and moves became more familiar; as I grew more relaxed, comfortable, and patient, I was able to learn the details of the movements, and each workout became more effective.
The lesson: Learning to practice patience is helpful on (and off) the mat, especially when you find yourself challenged by a pose, situation, or circumstance.
2. I realized that less can be more.
In yoga, we are accustomed to creating and taking up as much openness and space as possible. Barre, however, is quite the opposite. In fact, the less space the better, especially when it comes to small, isolated actions. The smaller the movement, the harder the muscles have to work, to the point of fatigue.
The lesson: This idea lends itself to yoga practice: Often, the second we start to overthink or try to do more, we find ourselves falling out of an asana or losing our alignment.
3. I became more present.
After many years of yoga, muscle memory makes it easy to flow through certain poses on autopilot. Barre classes forced me to think about each action, its alignment, and the specific details of each movement in a different way than I was accustomed. Focusing on isolated muscles made me aware of one group I clearly hadn't been paying enough attention to (hello, glutes!). For one full hour, I had to concentrate on on the movements of my own body and be present in what was happening in the now.
The lesson: While teaching, I am fully focused on each student and what they are experiencing in the moment. Barre classes helped me realize I need to incorporate this same concentrated pattern of presence in my own yoga practice, rather than automatically flowing through poses.
4. I appreciated the gift of change.
Humans are meant for new experiences. Even the smallest or most simple change can and typically does yield big results. By learning new movements and varying my workouts, I noticed a dramatic physical change—despite years of yoga—in my abs/core, glutes, and arms. Aside from the physical, the classes helped shift my thinking, boosted my creativity in sequencing, and reminded me of my interest in deepening my anatomy studies.
The lesson: Variety is the spice of life!
5. I listened to my body.
While I often tell my students to listen to their bodies, when it comes to myself, I tend to ignore my own advice. I power through advanced classes, all types of workouts, and, as an empath, take on the energy and emotions of others while not prioritizing my own self-care. Committing to a schedule that meant taking a daily barre class, in addition to teaching and taking advanced yoga classes, left me physically and emotionally exhausted. In the final week of my self-imposed challenge, I did something unheard of for my dedicated, perfectionist nature and cancelled a barre class. It was the day after Valentine's Day and after a late night out with a new-ish flame, I actually listened to my body and its inability to attend class. Even now, it's hard for me admit that I "failed" the challenge. Instead of 30 straight days, it ended up as only 29 days. However, learning to accept my own limitations and prioritize my wellness was an important lesson.
The lesson: The same applies to the yoga mat. Your body will tell you when a sensation is simply discomfort that you can push past, or an injurious pain or pose that is too much for your body at that time. It's your job to listen to what your body is telling you and respect its wishes. Equally important, forgive yourself and reframe the negative as positive. For me, this was not beating myself up for the one missed class, but thanking my body for being healthy and strong enough to have accomplished 29 classes.
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About Our Writer
Crystal Fenton is a yoga teacher and freelance writer. She is passionate about yoga and sharing the practice with others, as well as a lover of the outdoors, ocean, coastal destinations, and dogs.