This week, we interview one of our first and most dedicated Barre 2 Barre clients. Camilla has religiously attended class, participated in studio events and challenges, and been a loving, supportive, and enthusiastic member of our Barre 2 Barre community since the beginning, so we thought it would be lovely to hear about and share her barre journey!
1) How were you introduced to barre and what was your first barre class like?
The Singapore branch of Barre 2 Barre first opened its doors a few months after I relocated to Singapore from Europe. A friend brought me to the charming studio in Hongkong Street – as I didn’t really know anyone or anything, I was eager to try out most things she suggested. Besides, I was intrigued by her promise of a boutique concept offering equal measures of sweat and community vibes. I did ballet as a child, and for the past fifteen years or so, I’ve regularly attended yoga and pilates classes, so what my friend explained as a blend of the three seemed like an altogether familiar and alluring idea. What I hadn’t expected was just how hooked I’d get during that first class. All of it just felt so right: the bright, clean and cosy space, the friendly-looking girls on the mats around me, the focus on alignment and keeping a good posture, those minuscule, precise movements of most muscles in the body, the patience and endurance required from the intense sets, the extremely satisfying stretches – not to mention the phenomenal soundtrack personally picked out by the smiling, very present teacher, who already knew my name – and mentioned it often throughout class in order to correct me, haha. Her instructions were of a guiding, physiologically founded nature – so far from the shrill commands I associated with conventional gyms. Up until this point, most fitness classes I’d ever attended had always felt impersonally demanding, noisily claustrophobic, not really for me. This, on the other hand, immediately felt energising. I was more present than I’d ever been in an exercise class setting. I was fascinated by how, by concentrating my thoughts and one body part at a time, I managed to work my entire body in one surprisingly short hour full of feminine balletic features, deep yogic harmony and some of my favourite tunes at the time (I think I asked the teacher for her playlist afterwards!). Needless to say, I came back the day after again, and the next day after that, and the next…
2) What does barre do for you physically? What keeps you returning to class regularly?
The weights we use at barre are small (1-2kg) but when you stretch your arms out and make tiny circles with those weights and move them up and down or rotate them ever so slightly for a few minutes, you start to feel the burn – and become aware of just how many muscles live in your arms, shoulders, back! I love the intense core work with a strap wrapped around the barre, the romantic aspect of feeling like a ballerina when releve’ing my feet whilst touching the barre with elegantly stretched arms, having my legs and butt challenged with exercises involving a soft ball, just as the trampoline classes always make me giggle from start to finish… Most of all, I like the focus of barre on how you can train your body with very few props; simply by being mindful and patient in your poses. I have, or had, this tendency to always slouch when sitting, walking and running. The barre focus on alignment and keeping a good posture straightens out my back and strengthens me beyond class. I love it when the teachers make you imagine a flow of energy running through your aligned body. Ahilya always does this blissful body scan at the end of class, where she makes you imagine that you’ve got warm honey flowing around in your muscles, bones and joints. That mindful element. When I’m in class, I think of nothing else, and I think that’s what exercise is about: finding that or those activities which does that for you. At night, my boyfriend always asks me, ‘what is your favourite moment from today?’ – or, actually, he stopped doing that over a year ago, because my answer always had something to do with barre, haha. The exercises, the general ambiance, an insight after class, interacting with fellow barrerinas. I like the athletic shape that barre has put me in, but what’s addictive about it goes far beyond that. Somehow, unless I’m travelling or sick, I always have time for a weekday class (or two; in one Christmas challenge, I believe it was four!). When travelling, I’ll usually check out classes at local barre studios, and as such, I’ve met wonderfully dedicated teachers and different types of methods and styles in Hong Kong (also Barre 2 Barre), Melbourne, Sydney, Byron Bay, Santa Barbara, London and Copenhagen. Conveniently, the Singapore studio is just around the corner from my office, which makes it easy to pop in for a morning, noon or after-work class, and, miraculously, studios are always just around the corner from wherever I am staying when abroad. 😉
3) You met with an unfortunate knee injury last year. What was your experience with barre during and after it?
Now, a year after my ACL was reconstructed and both my meniscus repaired, the teachers still ask my regularly how my knee is doing – so sweet and thoughtful. A few months after the surgery, when I could start attending classes again, they kindly modified exercises to slowly get me back on track. With weeks of complete immobility, the shape that barre had put me in during the preceding nine months was definitely the reason why my quad didn’t disappear completely; why the muscles and ligaments in my injured knee, as well as in my entire legs and hips, were so strong and flexible and I got back in the swing of things so quickly again. It was also a great form of rehab due to all of the careful and precise holistic exercises, which were very much in line with what my physiotherapist prescribed. Also, it was the thing I missed the most in my time on the couch covered in ice and painkillers because of the great general workout, atmosphere and people.
4) You’re a long-time committed student at Barre 2 Barre. What are some of your recent discoveries this far into your barre journey? Are there things you’ve learned or experienced in barre that apply to other areas of your life?
After nearly two years, every class is still super tough and rewarding. There is always something new to learn and something familiar to perfect even further. Sit down one inch lower (in a broad wide second position with your feet and knees perfectly aligned towards 10 and 2 o’clock), come up one inch higher on your toes (distribute your weight equally on all toes!), look straight (when you’re busy circling, pulsing and balancing various parts of your body simultaneously), hold your arms stick-straight and keep them in your peripheral vision (with those ‘light’ weights in your hands), lengthen your tailbone down towards your feet (no arching of the back!), square your hips down towards the mat (imagine your hips are headlights!). The barre 2 barre teachers are all very creative, observant and good at giving individual feedback – via verbal cues, touching you lightly or chatting to you after class. As for Jess, who manages the studio, I’m constantly inspired by how passionate she is – always incorporating new exercises into her routines while simultaneously organising cool events and collaborations with everything from local charities to creative startups to large corporations. I first met one of my best Singaporean friends when she was displaying her sustainable fashion designs in the studio (I won one of her beautiful dresses in a barre challenge, haha!). Recently, I’ve realised that I would like to take it to the next stage, explore my fascination with barre on a deeper level, in terms of the physiological workings and benefits of each exercise as well as sharing that knowledge with others, and have signed up for Barre 2 Barre’s upcoming BarreAmped Certification in Thailand. So excited about that! Whether it’s the alignment of body and mind, or the idea of immersing yourself in something that’s good for you, or spending time with people who energise and inspire you, or simply making an effort: there are so many beneficial aspects to barre that most certainly apply to my life in general – both privately and professionally. The fact that you can experience all of that whilst wearing comfy yoga pants and listening to nice music are just icing on the cake.
5) Who would you recommend barre to?
Absolutely everyone – which I also do! I’ve dragged my boyfriend (multiple times!), friends living in Singapore as well as friends visiting from Europe and Australia along, and every single time, I’ve enjoyed seeing how surprised each and everyone is at how incredibly hard the classes are. Most of them find it fun and fascinating as well, fortunately. With class levels ranging from basic to advanced and some focussing particularly on yoga, pilates, cardio, dance or firing up your big muscle groups, there’s something to most tastes. As such, I would recommend it to anyone who cares about their wellbeing – who wishes to immerse her-/himself in a very mindful way of exercising and stretching her/his entire body. It’s suitable for most ages and fitness levels, and especially if you have issues with one or more areas of your body. There always are modifications available in case you are recovering from injuries, pregnant or otherwise in need of special attention.
6) What else is part of your fitness, nutrition, or wellness routine/philosophy to support your barre practice?
I like running and swimming as cardio supplements allowing me to relax my mind, see sights when abroad and really feel the benefits of the strength obtained through barre, just as I bike and walk everywhere possible (and sometimes impossible (I’m looking at you, bike-lane-less roads of central Singapore!)). I aspire to keep exercise as the opposite of a stressfactor, something that doesn’t require too much planning, is a natural part of my day and keeps me equilibrated rather than exhausted. On weekends, my boyfriend and I will go kayaking or do yoga at a local studio or at home, whether it’s in Singapore or elsewhere. Lately, we got a basketball, which we play around with at the local community centre. I’m not any good, but it’s fun and it does help training my sense of precision, endurance and balance. In general, what’s important to me when it comes to wellbeing is trying to maintain a sense of harmony by listening to my body and how much, how, when and why it wants to move, stretch and be nourished. We subscribe to a weekly veggie box from an organic farm in Indonesia, which ‘forces’ us to cook healthy vegetarian meals several times a week. As we travel and in general eat out a lot, it’s important to us to at least know what we put into our bodies when we can – and know where the ingredients came from and what effort goes into preparing them. Even when eating out, I try to steer clear of synthetic or overly processed or fatty foods and instead stick to lean options of sustainably grown veggies, grains and fruits or meat from animals I think have led a happy life. They’re mutually reinforcing: you don’t want to come to barre feeling heavy, bloated or dizzy because you haven’t been eating well, just as it would be a shame to ruin the great feeling that barre gives you by filling your body with bad stuff. I’m not a fanatic though: I do like to drink wine after work or at the weekends – or a few cocktails at the monthly Barre 2 Bar events. Lastly, since moving to Asia, I go for reflexology at least once a week – I’ve been to at least 20 different parlours all over Singapore, and find it quite extraordinary what they can do… pamper my feet between all of the renovation, flexing and pointing they’re exposed to at barre, haha.