How to safely and effectively perform barre exercises:
1. Always listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to modify your exercises. If you are unsure of the modifications, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor.
2. When in doubt, tuck your hips. We do this to protect the low spine (in barre specific exercises) and to focus on the working muscles, which leads to long, lean, tone muscles. Think of your pelvis as a bowl. Place both hands on either hip bone (not the waist) and feel how its naturally higher in the back. When we stand naturally, majority of us are ‘dumping’ the contents of our bowl forward. When we tuck our hips the bowl becomes upright, the tailbone draws under and our lower abs must engage to keep this position. With this engagement, our lower back no longer takes the brunt of the movements (particularly when working booty and legs).
3. Stand tall. Always lengthen through the crown of your head, elongating the spine. Shoulders draw back and down. Chest is proud and chin is slightly lifted. This also takes core work and strength and over time, not only improves your posture, but allows your working muscles to work effectively.
4. Foot position. There is a huge difference between feet turned out and feet parallel. Pay attention to what your instructor is asking of you. Depending on the exercise you are doing, foot placement is imperative for alignment and effect of the exercise. When your feet are turned out, that does not mean your feet have to be in a straight line, from toe to toe. This is on a per person basis. Heels are generally inward and toes are generally outward. Of course, go back to number 1 and listen to your body. Your knees and hips will let you know when to stop. Knees should line up between the first and second toes to allow for optimum alignment. Of course, when doing this, be sure you are not experiencing joint pain. When feet are parallel, that means toes are facing directly forward and heels are directly under hip bones.
5. Breathe. It is very easy to hold your breath when you are working hard and your muscles start to shake. It’s very important to breath while performing barre exercises (as with any exercise), to allow the muscles to have oxygen and prevent your body from turning off.
6. HAVE FUN!