What I think about while doing a barre class: The incidental mental health lessons you can learn by

I thought I was simply testing out a new exercise class. Little did I know that by the end of the week I’d be pondering all sorts of life philosophies.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I took a long, hard look at my fitness levels at the start of the year and found them to be sorely lacking.

Sure, I play sport every now and then and like to get out into the ocean for a rejuvenating dip. But, when it comes to consistency and progressing my fitness, I’m sorry to say I did not score well in that quadrant of my life last year.

So, over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how to turn that around. For starters, I’m not a gym kid. That said, I don’t mind classes at the gym or an exercise studio. I’ve done a few pilates and yoga classes. I also don’t mind something that is more like aerobics or Zumba with some pumping music to distract me from the fact that I’m exercising.

So, when I was told about a barre franchise in my neighbourhood, something that seemed like a combination of the two, I thought why not give it a go?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of these barre exercise classes? They bill themselves as an “intense full body workout inspired by dance” and are quite on trend at the moment. I know, I know, I’m so trendy. That’s often something people say about me. Not.

I was skeptical at first. I’m not a long legged Lululemon type of gal who dabbled with ballet as a child. 

I’m not that comfortable in active wear and wearing tights as pants around the neighbourhood. 

But I went along with an open mind and, you know what, I not only really enjoyed the classes but also picked up a little bit of zen wisdom along the way while listening to the instructors. So much of what they said in class can be relate to your every day life and perspective on mental health.

Here are my top three mental health tips inspired by the barre classes I attended:

It’s not about being still, it’s about being balanced.

I love this statement. What the instructor meant was that the whole shaking legs thing was ok as you tried to balance. It’s about maintaining a good posture and stance and keeping that balance more than keeping perfectly still.

I think that’s a great reflection on meditation and life balance. We spend so much time pressuring ourselves to find quiet and get to that place of stillness that I think sometimes we lose sight of what we are actually trying to achieve; balance. It’s ok if you can’t get to the absolute stillness that you assume meditation is all about. It’s about finding that place of balance and working on that, not about being perfectly still.

Your posture will go down when you look down.

Simple, right? Again, the instructor was actually talking about holding a position in class. We had to position our feet in a certain way and hold our legs in position for a few counts. A few of us were new to these positions so it was only natural to look down to check your stance. This inevitably led to us losing our balance. Thus, the comment.

But as I was standing there trying to hold the pose, I thought a little more about what she said. That statement is not only true in class but also in how we walk through the world. If you spend your time looking down and looking inward too much, you may find yourself emotionally “hunching” rather than standing tall and seeking out positive opportunities. If you look down, your posture will go down. Deep, huh.

It’s ok to use what’s available for now.

Finally, a common statement used in all of the classes I attended over the past week was to let us all know that if a variation of a move was too difficult for our bodies right now then it’s ok to use what is available.

What they meant by that was that they were going to give the class several options in a sequence of varying degrees of difficulty. However, they were careful to emphasise to everyone that there is a difference between challenging yourself to go further and pushing your body beyond what it can currently do.

Knowing what is available to you is true in class and in life. We all want to push ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves but sometimes it is important to realise what emotional and physical reserves you have available on any given day and work within those parameters. It’s about being self-aware. This way you can push yourself incrementally without being injured.

Are you aware what’s available to you today? 

Who knew an exercise class would encourage such valuable personal reflection?

Here I was thinking that my best-case scenario would be to give my body a fitness wake call. I didn’t realise it would also be so good for my mind. 

Thank you to the team at Xtend Barre Manly studio for the warm welcome.

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