Grin and Barre It – Katy Quissell

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After being gone for most of the fall, I am extremely happy to be back in action at Blackbird.  I missed the Blackbird community the most, but I also have to admit how much I missed all of the challenging classes.

Jumping back into the heat of power yoga and the intense leg-shaking-pain of barre has been difficult at times, but it has also helped me appreciate both the importance of pushing myself and of finding balance.  Breathing through discomfort is an important skill, but knowing when to push forward, when to pull back, or when to try something different is more complicated.  We often get attached to one way of doing things, our egos get in the way, and we end up pushing ourselves too hard – sometimes to the point of injury.

Being out of the country for two months disrupted all of my routines and patterns, and now that I am home I am confronting the fact that things have changed.  Thigh section in barre class is kicking my butt, and vinyasa-ing around in 92 degrees is making me feel like a novice.  So I am taking this opportunity to embrace the challenge of what was once habitual, and to offer my suggestions of how to balance pushing yourself, without hurting yourself.

Because I am also a barre instructor, when I got back to the studio I felt the need to sign up for multiple days of straight barre classes to help me get back into the swing of things.  In my first class, we reached that inevitable point where you have been sitting in a chair position for 5 minutes longer than you want to, and your legs are shaking, and it hurts, and you want it to stop, and you think to yourself “should I stand up and get out of this craziness, or should I try to stay in it a bit longer?”

In this instance I was experiencing discomfort, but my muscles weren’t cramping, my knees weren’t hurting, and I could still maintain proper alignment, so I pushed through.  My suggestion here is, always protect your joints.  Knee pain (or shoulder pain, or wrist pain) is nothing to mess around with.  If your joints feel fine but your muscles are burning, you are okay.  Try to breathe through it the best you can.  If you really can’t stand it, get out, reset, and come back in.  And if your muscles are cramping, or if you are too fatigued to hold proper alignment, definitely get out of the pose and reset.  Pay attention to these signals from your body, and over subsequent classes see if you can stay in the uncomfortable positions for a breath or two longer than the class before.  This is how you will build up strength and endurance while avoiding injury.

However, if you are working out multiple times a week, you also need to assess how your body is holding up.  Sometimes it is obvious.  After day three of taking barre, my IT bands were sore, my legs were aching, and I was really grumpy. When your body is feeling tired and sore it is time to take a day off.  Rest.  Recover.  Or try something that will help stretch and release.

Yoga is a fantastic complement to barre.  When I took a yoga class with Zainab, and she had us get into a half-pigeon pose, I wanted to hug her.  It was exactly what my sore legs and hips needed.  But because I was tired, when she gave us the opportunity for inversions I opted for legs-up-the-wall.  There was a voice in my head telling me to do a headstand, but I told that voice to stuff it.  If you are in yoga, and you feel depleted, dehydrated, or dizzy, take a break.  Taking care of yourself is the smart thing to do, and it will help you sustain your barre and yoga practices over time.

It is great to push yourself, but don’t let your ego brain interfere with the signals your body is sending you.  Take on new challenges, but treat yourself with care.  And if you have any specific questions or concerns, please talk to your instructors.  We all want to help in any way we can!


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