First of all, the Mindful Barre class is an excellent way do get introduced to the barre movement vocabulary. In my class, the movements are done slowly with breath which allows each student to find a greater level of body awareness and progressively integrate the various alignment principles. So if students have been wanting to try out a barre class but are feeling intimidated, the Mindful Barre class is a great place to start!
I approach the class from a functional point of view, meaning that I look at what a typical yoga practitioner needs in terms of strength, mobility and alignment as well as what are the common challenges they are dealing with (i.e: low back pain, knee issues, S.I. joint instability…). This makes me focus mainly on postural alignment, pelvic stability in relation to the work of the feet, gluteus medius strengthening, responsive core activation and shoulder integration especially in vinyasa flows. Often, when students recovering from an injury come to my class, they are surprised to notice that many of their physio exercises are integrated in the class!
From a bio-mechanical point of view, there are 4 pillars of a sustainable practice: Variety, Frequency, Knowing your boundaries, Resting when needed…
Most yoga practitioners are fairly good at frequency and rest but often times variety and boundaries are neglected. This is why the class is so great! The body NEEDS variety of movement and it needs to be challenges in more subtle ways, including coordination and proprioception.
In a way, the class should be approached as an active reset where you create strength and awareness in areas of the body that may not be addressed in your regular practice or other activities (or in your daily life in general).
Also, except for a few planks, downdogs and sun salutations, a lot of the class is done standing which makes it interesting for anyone dealing with wrists or shoulders issues as well as pregnant women.
By blending yoga postures to pilates exercises and other somatic movements, the class offers a great variety of experiences to the body. You should leave the class feeling taller, more integrated and with a greater sense of body awareness. But since the class is fairly short, we rarely take enough time to stretch and release properly at the end so adding a yin or gentle yoga class to your routine would be a great complement to the class to bring balance to the body.
Perhaps, one of the greatest benefits of the barre classes is the activation and strengthening of the gluteus muscles which are key in cultivating healthy low back and knees as well as creating balance in the pelvis and legs muscles. Here’s a portion of an article detailing the various injuries associated to weak or dormant glutes:
” Weak or delayed activation of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius is a root cause for many injuries and chronic pain.
1. Hamstring strains: Due to delayed gluteus maximus activity, the hamstring muscles become dominant during hip extension, which can cause hamstring strains . A lot of athletes that pulled a hamstring keep suffering re-injuries despite their focus and efforts to strengthen the hamstrings. They are reinforcing a compensation pattern instead of reactivating their inhibited glutes. Shirley Sahrmann said, “Any time you see an injured muscle, look for a weak synergist.” A synergist is a muscle that performs the same joint motion.
2. Low back pain: Gluteus maximus activation plays an important role in stabilising the pelvis during the task of lifting [2, 3]. Delayed gluteus maximus activation also causes excessive compensation of the back extensors .
3. Anterior knee pain: The excessive internal rotation of the femur as a result of glute weakness increases the pressure on the patellar cartilage [11, 12, 13].
4. Anterior hip pain: Decreased force production from the gluteus maximus during hip extension is associated with increased anterior translation of the femur in the acetabulum. The increased femoral anterior glide could lead to increased force and wear and tear on the anterior hip joint structures [10, 14]
5. Lower-body malalignment: Weak glutes results in increased internal rotation of the femur, knee valgus and foot pronation.
6. Gluteal weakness also has been associated with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains [15, 16, 17], chronic ankle instability , and iliotibial friction syndrome .”
The article can be found at: http://functionalresistancetraining.com/articles/re-activating-and-strengthening-the-gluteal-muscles
Here’s another article showing a few physio exercises that we often do in the class: http://www.running-physio.com/glutemed/
Also, don’t hesitate to refer to the class description:
This slow-paced, functional approach to the barre work combines elements of yoga, pilates and movement conditioning to create strength, stability and greater body awareness. We start our practice on the mat to warm up the body and create useful muscular connections before moving to the barre for various standing sequences helping us integrate different key concepts. Strong emphasis is put on pelvic stability and postural alignment. A different way to train your body and a useful tool to recover or prevent injuries. Great addition to your yoga practice… And yes, there is a savasana at the end!