RAISING THE BARRE; Bella Blissett Combines Pilates with Yoga and Ballet for the Ultimate Workout

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 20, 2010 | Go to article overview

RAISING THE BARRE; Bella Blissett Combines Pilates with Yoga and Ballet for the Ultimate Workout


Byline: Bella Blissett

MADONNA -- queen bee of fitness trend-setting -- has done it again. Having extolled the virtues of yoga, Pilates and various high-energy dance regimens, she's taken up Barre3, a workout that reaps the results of all three in one go.

Barre3 was devised by yogi and US fitness trainer Sadie Lincoln, on the premise that using the ballet barre in unusual ways is how to attain that elusive "dancer's body" -- without the lifelong training. Said to combine the grace of ballet with the strength and conditioning elements of traditional Pilates and the stress-relieving benefits of yoga, it seems like the ultimate workout.

But does it work? Clad in the latest Lytess "slimming leggings" ([pounds sterling]44.99; glam4less.co.uk) I set off for Covent Garden's Gymbox to try London's new ballet barre workout, Yobilates.

Professional dancer and Yobilates teacher Loren Barclay says: "While Pilates exercises the stomach's core muscles, ballet and yoga challenge our natural balance and improve flexibility.

Using the barre to align the body correctly and perform resistance exercises ties it all together."

The result is a fast-paced series of movements that flow continuously against a backdrop of classical and upbeat music. An initial warm-up involves finding your "neutral spine" -- the basic foundation for all Pilates moves -- before ballet-derived port de bras arm circles are introduced to mobilise the shoulder muscles.

Alternating exercises for the upper and lower body, we move onto the barre itself for movements that use the body's natural resistance to improve muscle tone. Chaturanga (the foundation of almost every yoga class) is performed against the barre in an exercise similar to a press-up to work the pec-toral muscles of the c h e s t a n d the deltoids in the arm. This is followed by a set of leg raises performed against the barre.

Next, it's legs that get the Yobilates treatment. Plies are done with the hips turned out as ballet directs, but combined with Pilates' alignment of the spine to work the inner thighs and core muscles simultaneously. Rising up and down onto my tiptoes (releve), to work the hamstrings and calves, we finish with some classic yoga stretches and breathing techniques to cool the body and focus the mind.

"The advantage of this workout is that it relies on using the barre or the floor as a counterweight to push into -- be it with the arms or legs," says Loren, who advises doing the 45-minute workout two to three times a week to see results quickly. …

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