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Virtual Barre and Pilates Classes – Keeping the Community Together

Cabin fever is a real thing, as many of us may have discovered by now after a fortnight or more of pandemic “house arrest” and the new normal it has created – self-isolation, social distancing, working from home, homeschooling etc and so forth.

Either family or housemates are in each other’s faces pretty much 24/7 and are climbing walls, or those who live alone may be starting to feel truly self-isolated.

What’s making it more difficult is that we don’t know how long these lockdowns will last and how much of the “new normal” may become a longterm fixture of our lives.

Experts across the health and wellbeing spectrum all seem to agree on one thing – to get through these challenging circumstances sane and whole we need to create a routine for ourselves to give our days structure and purpose. Further, to help ward off damaging levels of boredom and navel-gazing, which can lead to heightened anxiety or depression.

They say exercise and good nutrition are integral to the new routines we create for ourselves, to maintain mental as well as physical fitness.

Dragging my lazy butt out of bed has never been easy. But the call of being paid to turn up at a place of work at a specific time has been, a great, shall we say, motivator.

Okay, so those days are over. For now.

Did I ever envisage mourning the early start and commute? Um, no.

So here we are, creating our new normal.

I’ve been a regular at Balance Moves from the first week it opened. At Christmas I commented to Renee it must be at least 10 years – ah, no, she said. It’s been 16 …

So it’s become a significant part of my life; the community of the classes as well as the brilliant teaching, which has whipped this lazy butt into a semblance of shape. It’s also kept me anchored amid much stuff.

So for a while, we can’t do the studio thing, but Renee has kept things moving, as it were.

I love her passion for keeping the community together: how we all behave now will define the rest of our lives.

The Zoom classes I find just as rigorous and the results as effective as in the studio. I confess I was a bit dubious whether that would be the case before I actually started doing them.

It gives me a reason to get out of bed early(ish), even though my head debates itself for at least half an hour before a class start how much I just want to sleep for another hour (or two).

But when I only have to walk from the bedroom to the living room, roll out my mat and grab the day’s designated prop – no need even to brush hair or teeth or “dress up” – there’s really no excuse that I can make to myself.

Eventually, it will just become second nature to get up and at it.

It’s also going to be even easier now with more classes during the day or evening to choose from.

I’m actually feeling in better shape after two weeks of home detention because I’m doing classes almost every day, where previously I would do three a week at most.

We also have the option to do multiple Zoom classes a day if we wish (my jury is still out on that …) and for less than $30 a week, who can beat that?

The classes get my blood pumping, make my head clearer and just give me more energy and a better mindset to tackle the working from home day.

The real-time factor of virtual classes is also a massive bonus. Being live, I can’t put it on pause like I used to with exercise videos; giving myself excuses to make cups of tea or phone calls, send emails, turn on the TV etc.

And I get to see my class buddies on-screen and hear their voices (when we’re unmuted, that is! Would be counterproductive to have people talking through a session).

I just know how much the daily classes mean to me. A reason for dragging my butt out of bed, sure. But it’s more than that.

We’ll all look kick-arse fantastic, naturally, but it will help keep our daily lives in balance until we get to the flip side of COVID-19.

5 Things You Must do in Bondi Beach

Welcome to iconic Bondi! If you’re visiting for Barre Teacher Training or just visiting because… well because it’s the famous Bondi Beach, here a few ideas to keep yourself busy.  There are also many, many great cafes and bars… so enjoy!

Bondi Things To Do - Gertrude and Alice Books

Have a pot of Chai at Gertrude and Alice.

This iconic bookshop and café is a must-sit in Bondi, well – Sydney. It’s Parisian-esque, petite and quiet. Grab a warm pot of Chai, a literary classic and hide. For at least 45 minutes. Heaven.

Bondi Things To Do - Pilates Classes or Barre Classes at Balance Moves

Do a Pilates Class or Barre Class at Balance Moves.

For a flat, Bondi-friendly tum head to Balance Moves, well known for its expert instructors and famous clientele. The home of Barre Attack where your abs, inner thighs and hips won’t know what hit them. Tight, concentrated moves – big results. Enjoy Barre Classes, Pilates Classes and Pilates Privates.

Things to do in Bondi - Breakfast at Bills

Have a breakfast at Bills.

You can sit there alone and indulge gastronomically without judgement. We love the Quinoa amaranth and buckwheat porridge with rhubarb and Greek yoghurt. Yum. It’s also not bad for lunch or dinner.

Things to do in Bondi - Icebergs Swimming

Swim a lap at Bondi Icebergs.

Then have a cold glass of NV Perrier Jouet Grande Brut. Your little ones can even have a dip in the kiddie pool. The aqua pools overlook iconic Bondi Beach. Even if your stroke style is under par – have a go. Adult entry: $6.50. Children: $4.50.

Things to do in Bondi - Get a massage and relax

Have a massage at QT Bondi.

A sleek space underneath the new QT Bondi – this is the place to get your muscles smoothed out and your mind stilled. Tania Dobbie is an experienced energy worker and will have your body balanced and soothed in no time. Unforgettable.

What to Expect in a Barre Class

What to Expect in a Barre Class

Fun. Energy. Moving. Shaking. Just some of the words that spring to mind.

Barre (as in a ballet barre) style workouts have seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason, they are fun and effective. Barre classes and methods do vary but most combine elements from Pilates, Dance and Fitness. At Balance Moves we teach the Barre Attack method ( which was created by the owner of Balance Moves, Renee Scott. Barre Attack is taught all around Australia and also further afield.

Renee describes Barre Attack as the perfect way to help with gaining a longer, leaner and fitter look. What some people call… ‘greater body confidence’. Renee was a former professional ballet dancer and is a master Pilates instructor so she knows what she’s talking about. At the time of writing she’s taught over 400 other instructors how to teach Barre so you can expect the Barre classes in Balance Moves to be of the very highest standard.

Barre classes are for everyone. You don’t require any special dance or Pilates experience. Like anything, with more experience you will improve and some of the moves will come more naturally. A good instructor will also lead you to harder variations.

Introduction aside here is what you should wear, expect to see, do and feel.

First, you should wear comfortable workout gear and either grippy socks or bare feet.

When you enter a gym, dance, Pilates or barre studio that offers a barre class you can typically expect a large open room with fixed barres running down one or more walls, nearly always with mirrors. Each person in the class will have their place on the barre and will stay more or less in the same spot. You should ensure a good arm’s length distance from other participants. Balance Moves classes have a maximum of 20 people.

Typical Barre Equipment

Typical Barre Equipment

Within a Barre class and in addition to the barre itself there may be some extra equipment. With the Barre Attack method you will typically see elastic draped over the barre, a Pilates ball (about 15cm in diameter), small hand weights and a mat. Depending on the class you could use all of these, or none.

Throughout the class the instructor should be visible and may lead by example or walk around and demonstrate from different positions. If this is your first barre class it’s a good idea to let the instructor know so they can help you with technique if necessary. You should also let them know if you have any health issues, injuries or if you’re pregnant.

Classes range from 45m to 60m and are held to music, 128bpm. That’s a good beat, and a good tempo. Classes will start with a warmup and then include a mix of barre, cardio and stretch sections that could include using the barre, elastic, ball, weights or mat.

For much of the class you’ll have one or both hands on the barre or be doing exercises just off the barre. Don’t overdo it. Focus on your body position, breathing and timing. Have fun, and just go with it. Barre classes are a full body workout so expect and accept that it could be hard and might work areas that will surprise. If you need to take a break, take it.   Remember those around may have been doing Barre Attack classes for years… those great legs and butts don’t happen by accident.

For those who dream of dancing you will get a taste. Expect to hear terms like first position (heels touching, feet pointing in opposite directions), second position (heels at least shoulder-width apart and feet pointing in opposite directions), and plie (a smooth and continuous bending of the knees outward while keeping the upper body held upright). But it’s not all dance… you could also be doing burpees, lunges or a range of stretching.

Barre Attack Inner Thigh Squeeze

Barre Attack Inner Thigh Squeeze

That’s it…  After your first class be careful down the stairs! You’ll be tired and your legs will be wondering what just happened. That’s good though… that means it worked! A good option then of course is to head down to Bondi Beach and relax!

Finally, if you stick with Barre, you can expect results!   Just take a look at anyone who has been doing barre classes a few times a week for several months. We call them Barre Babes!

What to expect in Pilates Group Classes

What to Expect in Pilates Mat Classes

First, what is Pilates? Pilates was developed in the early 1900’s by Joseph Pilates and is now practised worldwide as a popular form of exercise. Pilates focuses on the development of core strength, stability, good posture and body awareness. One of the big benefits of Pilates is development of more efficient and graceful movement. With consistent use you’ll also notice improved strength and a leaner physique. Pilates is low impact, with limited cardio and is suitable for nearly anyone. This includes professional sports people, seniors, post-natal and those undertaking physical rehabilitation as recommended by an appropriate medical professional. It’s also suitable for everyone who wants to look good at the beach.

Pilates exercise can either be done on a mat on the floor with minimal equipment or on a range of specially designed equipment. At our Bondi Pilates studio Balance Moves offers Pilates Mat, Pilates Reformer and private Pilates on a range of apparatus (check out the back room).

Most people start with Mat Pilates. This will allow you to get familiar with some of the exercises and develop a good foundation before you move onto the complicated looking reformer machines.

If you’re more of a private person Balance Moves offers very high quality private Pilates tuition on the very best equipment. Our equipment is Gratz based Basil equipment imported from New York, just like Joseph Pilates would have liked. Have a chat with the instructors or speak with reception to learn what might work for you. Many people who get a taste for Pilates take several privates to focus on their own technique and this is a great way to get the most out of your group classes.

So what should you actually expect when you walk in for your first Pilates Mat Class?

In our Bondi Pilates studio on Hall Street you’ll find super friendly instructors and a great mix of clients… locals, tourists and the odd celebrity. Most Pilates studios, ours included, have a large open room. Clients grab a mat and grab a space. For your workout just wear comfortable workout gear (tighter fitting is generally preferred), most people don’t wear socks (although grippy socks for reformer work … works). Bringing a small towel and your own water is a good idea and remember there are plenty of great cafes just meters from the door… so if you need a post workout recovery or gossip there are plenty of options.

If it is your first time, make sure you let the instructor know. You’ll need to complete a brief form and you should also let the instructor know if you have any injuries or limitations (like pregnancy). This is important and if necessary the instructor will modify certain exercises to suit.

Pilates is difficult and can be very challenging. Many fit people and even professional athletes make the mistake of thinking Pilates is easy… it isn’t. Over time it appears to get easier… but really that’s just you getting better.

During class a good instructor will demonstrate or suggest movements that may increase difficultly levels. If you’re starting out take the easier options and focus on learning the correct technique. Listen to the instructor and if you need help let them know, questions are allowed.

Pilates has many devoted fans and Balance Moves has attracted many followers since it started in 2001. Don’t worry if you can’t match the person next to you, there are many experienced clients and even instructors who attend Balance Moves classes on a regular basis. Just focus on yourself and keep within your own limits (having good people around you is great… learn from their technique!).

Finally its good practise to really focus on your breath and the specific muscles you are working… it does take time but will improve with every class. Keep your breath smooth and even and listen to your instructor for inhales and exhales.

Afterward you should feel energised and maybe learn about a few muscles you didn’t know you had. Pilates is a lifestyle, stick with it. It will change your life.

Pilates – History and Principles

Pilates – History and Principles

Pilates was developed during the first half of the of twentieth century by Joseph Pilates.  His father was a gymnast, his mother a naturopath, and he studied a range of exercise forms from Eastern and Western cultures including Yoga, body-building, and various forms of martial arts including jiu jitsu.  The Pilates method was developed with a variety of equipment designed to advance the stretching, strengthening and body alignment that came from the non-equipment based mat work.  Over time a full complement of equipment was developed including the reformer, cadillac, wunda chair, high ‘electric’ chair, ladder barrel, pedi-pole and spine corrector.  You can (with expert instructing guidance) see and use the majority of these in the Balance Moves Bondi studio.

Joseph Pilates on Reformer

Joseph Pilates on Reformer

In about 1925 Pilates emigrated to the USA from Germany.  He founded a studio in New York with new wife Clara (who he met on the voyage) and he directly taught students well into the 1960’s.  Several prominent New York dance teachers regularly sent students to the Pilates studio for training and as the world of ballet started to actively embrace the Pilates method many New York society women followed.  As the first and second generation of students from the Pilates studio left and traveled the ‘Pilates’ method of physical fitness was born and is now embraced by tens of millions world wide, including many in Bondi Beach!

The first modern book on Pilates, The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning’ was published by two students of the late Romana Kryzanowska.  Romana started as a student of Joseph Pilates at their studio on 8th Avenue in New York.  When Joseph passed away in 1968 Romana became the studio director of what by then was called ‘The Pilates Studio”.  Incidentally Renee Scott, the owner of Balance Moves was a student of Romana and gained her first Pilates qualification from Romana in that very same New York studio.  Pilates today includes variations on the ‘Modern’ Pilates method that derives from some of the first generation students and also the ‘Classical’ or ‘Traditional’ method that aims to preserve the original work as taught by Joseph Pilates.

The book mentioned above outlined six ‘Principles of Pilates’.  These original six principles are concentration, control, center, flow, precision and breathing.  These six principles have been an important part of Renee’s Pilates philosophy and are summarised below:

  • Concentration – This highlights that during Pilates you should focus on your entire body to ensure smooth movements.  This is hard. In Pilates exercise technique and how exercises are performed is, in many respects, more important than the exercises themselves.
  • Control – Every exercise in Pilates must be done with control.  Fundamentally its about you being in control of your body.
  • Centering – To effectively control your body you must have a starting place and that place is your center.  You’ll often hear this called the ‘powerhouse’ which is a term that means your center and encompasses the abs, upper and lower back, hips, butt and inner thighs.  All movement in Pilates should begin from your center, your powerhouse and flow out to the limbs.
  • Flow – Exercises within Pilates are intended to flow into each other to help build strength and stamina.  The use of appropriate transitions and economy of movement is highly prized and is one of the key things that differentiates novice and advanced practitioners.
  • Precision – Pilates is not about doing many repetition poorly or with poor technique. Rather Pilates aims for precise and perfect movement.  With regular Pilates and expert instruction this precision will eventually become second nature and carry over into everyday life.  An expert Pilates instructor can tell a lot about a person by simply watching them walk.
  • Breathing – Typically in Pilates you focus on breathing out with effort and in on the return.  Coordinating breathing with movement is an important part of Pilates and good instructors will continually remind you when to breathe in and when to breathe out. Like everything in Pilates you should concentrate on each breathe and feel the engagement of your powerhouse.

Pilates is suitable for men and women in a very wide range of physical condition from professional athletes to out of shape retirees looking to make some life improvements.  Because of its low impact and effectiveness Pilates has fast become the foundation of many peoples physical conditioning including countless celebrities, some of whom can be seen at the Balance Moves studio on a regular basis or when they visit Sydney.

Pilates when done properly and consistently with proper instruction that helps you embrace the key principles will change your life, improve your life style and keep you looking fantastic.