By Guest Blogger: Cat Woods
It was only at age 19 that I began practicing yoga and really loving it. At first, I did it for the stretch and the challenge alone and would shuffle out quickly before Savasana. Only later did the spiritual element really grip me and compel me to continue learning and discovering how yoga feeds every element of our beings. Before I finally got brave enough to do my yoga teacher training, I was encouraged by a master Pilates trainer in Bali to do my Pilates certification. She had seen me in yoga class and encouraged me to fall in love with pilates. I did. I have always loved dance – while I never studied it officially, I had spent hours copying ballet performances of Nureyev and Fonteyn on video and later, copying Janet Jackson videos for hours too. I had a dance for every song on the Madonna, Prince and Janet albums I religiously collected too. You don’t need to be a ballet professional or even experienced in it to do my class Ballet Sculpt.
I developed Ballet Sculpt in 2011 as a way to bring barre classes to venues that weren’t equipped with a barre, and also to make it available without the excessive cost of studio barre classes and the sometimes confusing ballet terms being used in some barre classes.
The class is modifiable, and there is flexibility from one class to the next (and one teacher to the next!) as to the moves, sequences, and level of difficulty is matched to the venue and the class participants.
Because there is no barre, moves such as plies, leg extensions and heel raises require a greater focus on core strength, balance, focus, alignment and posture to ensure participants are safely adhering to technique and posture rules. By introducing moves with clear instruction and an emphasis on how participants can check their own alignment through visual and sensory cues, I am giving them the tools to perfect posture and ideal movement techniques for life. As a teacher, there’s no greater role we can play than to improve participants’ knowledge of their own body and movement so that they can continue to do our classes, and everything else they want to do in life, with the knowledge of how to challenge themselves without unnecessary risk.
Unlike many barre classes currently running in gyms, Ballet Sculpt does not rely on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) nor does it promote leaping, jumping or kicking. The risk in using those moves is that they rely more on momentum than muscle focus and control.
Ballet Sculpt requires endurance and strength, and many participants will find it intense and challenging. It is about time under tension, or endurance through isometric holds, small and sustained contractions, and little rest time.
It is about taking the elements of graceful, controlled, powerful and strong moves from dance disciplines and the skills and self-awareness of Pilates and yoga training to the fitness environment.
When I teach people how to read their bodies, align their posture and execute techniques with control and grace, I teach them how to enjoy movement for life. This applies to highly experienced dancers as much as to the office worker who has never done a group fitness class before. My role is vital in assisting someone to appreciate and strengthen their body during class and to carry what they learn out of class and into daily life.
That’s no small duty: my work really matters. It carries on long after the hour I spend with one person or 25 class participants.
About the Author
Cat Woods is the Australian founder of Ballet Sculpt. She is also a vinyasa yoga teacher, mat Pilates instructor, freelance journalist, and blogger. Visit her website here.