Last month we continued our Movement and Holistic Wellbeing blog series, looking at yoga and its benefits on our mind, body, and soul. This month, we’re focusing on barre.
Barre is an exercise technique that works your entire body, combining elements of ballet, Pilates and yoga all into one. Barre classes incorporate a ballet barre, or sometimes a chair, to help keep you balanced and steady whilst you perform different poses and movements, and can also utilise light weights, resistance bands and other props. Barre’s movements are intended to be high intensity, yet low impact, improving your overall strength, stamina and flexibility. Each movement is designed to work particular muscle groups, including your core, arms, legs and glutes. You are required to concentrate on contracting specific muscles as you move steadily through various poses.
Much like yoga and Pilates, barre can be tailored to your fitness-level and can be built upon as you gain confidence and endurance. Barre classes can seem a little fast-paced as a beginner, and can take some getting used to, but after a couple of lessons you soon pick up the language used for each movement and start to notice the results. Anyone that has done a barre class will tell you that you definitely feel the ‘burn’ the next day, often discovering you have muscles you didn’t even now you had! This is normal though, and goes a long way to improving your strength and flexibility. Barre classes are more repetitive than yoga or Pilates in the movements they require. Because barre targets particular groups of muscles, the focus is to contract those same muscles over and over with small repetitive movements to strengthen them, rather than the gentler flow and ease of yoga and Pilates movements, which are quite varied.
Like yoga, there are different varieties of barre classes. Some use pure barre, focusing on typical steady movements to stretch and work specific muscles, and some varieties combine other forms of exercise to infuse more cardio into the practice. Let’s explore below how barre can benefit our mind, body and soul holistically!
How Barre Benefits Your Mind
Much like yoga and Pilates, barre classes work your mind as well as your body. The mental focus and concentration required to complete each sequence of muscle exercises means that your awareness is constantly being brought back to the physical task at hand and how you are feeling in your own body as your muscles are worked. Distraction and outside thoughts are traded for concentration and focus on your present experience.
It is actually a great mental strengthening exercise, because the hardest part for some is the mental endurance required to hold particular muscles long enough to complete the sequences. If you can train your mind to endure the physical challenge, it is likely you will be able to take those learnings and use them in other areas of your life too- increasing your overall mental stamina and determination.
This mindful movement provides all the benefits of traditional meditative practice. A calmer, more productive mind, a decrease in stress levels, and an overall sense of clarity and improved concentration. All of this means that with regular practice, outside of the barre class you are also more likely to be able to calm your mind and go within to regulate your emotions and be able to respond to everyday stress in a healthier, measured way.
How Barre Benefits Your Body
Barre is often considered to be a great preventative exercise. By committing to the practice on a regular basis, you are stretching and training your muscles to be more agile, meaning that there is less chance of injuring them during day-to-day physical activity.
As mentioned, barre is also awesome for improving your overall strength, flexibility and physical endurance. Because it engages your shoulder, chest, abdominal, pelvic and back muscles so specifically, it improves your overall sense of balance, helps to enhance your posture, and sculpts long and lean muscles due to the repetitive engagement of each muscle. All of this also goes a long way to helping maintain a healthy weight too.
How Barre Benefits Your Soul
The workout provided by barre (as with any form of exercise) increases the neurochemicals released into your body that endless research has found improves our overall level of happiness. These neurochemicals block pain receptors, decrease depressive states, and leave you with a clearer, more energised and positive outlook on life.
These feel-good vibes raise your feelings of being content, and the physical requirements of mindful barre movements mean you will feel more grounded and connected within yourself and your body.
The results of this for your soulful connection mean that you can feel more confident in yourself and your capacity to do things outside of the barre class as well. When you practice barre regularly, you are actually rewiring your brain to focus on what feels good within your body, and it becomes second nature to seek this out in our everyday life rather than focus on or allow the negative to take over. This means that at a soul level, we are practising choosing joy above all else, and this breathes out into every other area of our life too.
Barre movements are very precise, and it is a good idea to join a class with a qualified barre instructor to ensure that you do not do more harm than good with the movements required. The upside to going to a regular class is that you also gain the social benefits of group exercise, improving your overall mood and level of connection, satisfaction and commitment that come from group exercise. It is a great way to make space for some regular catch-up time with friends also interested in barre, or to meet new friends who share a common interest in health and wellbeing.