by Joanna Chak
Key to a great barre workout? Postural Awareness.
Life’s about balance – and the same applies to the Barre! Fast-paced classes set to club-thumping beats can distract you from maintaining good form. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum, simply following the pace of class without paying attention to your positioning. However, without proper alignment and awareness, you could be doing more harm than good in barre. Proper form helps maximize your workout by teaching you to initiate movement from the right places, and not only that – it’s key to preserving your body in the long run.
Three Biggies in Barre
1) Poor Neutral Pelvis Placement
Tucking. Everyone loves tucking. However, this is not the optimal position for your spine in barre class. While it’s important to find your neutral spine by bringing the upper body to stack over the hips, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your pelvis tucking.
So what is tucking?
Tilting the pelvis too far in either direction will load the low back and sacrum, preventing your spine from moving in a bio-dynamically optimal way to reduce loading on your vertebral discs.
Locking your pelvis in either a posterior or anterior tilt while doing a barre class will tend to cause low back and knee issues as your pelvis are where the top half of your body meets the bottom and needs to move well to transfer a load of gravity efficiently. Ensure a balanced and well-rounded workout by encouraging as neutral as spine as possible, holding softness in the back.
To find your neutral spine, place the heel of the palm on the hip bones, and fingers on the pubic bone, forming a triangle on the front of your body. Standing, this triangle should be perpendicular to the floor. If you feel as if you have to tuck to get this triangle to feel flat, try gently lifting the front of your abs without contracting your back.
2) A Healthy Turnout
Trained dancers know a good turnout comes from your thighbones (the femur), and the way it rotates within the hip socket. Because of skeletal uniqueness, not everyone’s hip can rotate well all directions, so it is important to be aware of your limitations and not force the turnout to come from the knee. Doing so can easily lead to long-term damage by stressing out sensitive cartilage and tissues in the knee-joint area by working the muscles around the kneecap unevenly, and pulling the knee out of alignment with the legs.
To maintain a healthy turnout, make sure you’re pulling up through the front of your abdominals, and maintaining a neutral pelvis. From there, spiral the thigh bones outwards as far as they want to go. The Franklin Method gives great imagery on how the bones should move, so you can imagine spiralling your thighbones to externally rotate the femur, while internally rotating the shinbone, to create a natural opening at the hip without stressing out your low back or knees!
3) Improper Placement of Feet
We all have favourites, and that’s also the case when it comes to favouring one side of our feet when we stand. A common mistake for beginner barre-rs is placing too much weight on the inside of the foot causing the knees to roll in. This can lead to loading in the knees and the low back and pulling the legs out of alignment with the hips and spine. You can improve by making sure your knees are over the second toe and that you’re distributing weight evenly throughout all toes, as well as evenly front/back, left/ right, grounding down through the back of heels when you do your plies.
Want to learn more about Postural Awareness? Join Joanna in the upcoming Ballet Barre Instructor Training Program! Click here to learn more.