The Beauty of BodyBalance
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
When it comes to fitness I am a firm believer that we all need to find what works best for our bodies and do it often. Ever since I was a little girl dance has always been my passion and inspiration. Not only did I live and breathe dance but it also kept me fit. It wasn’t until I stopped dancing fulltime that I noticed those sneaky kilos creeping on. Like any Bride leading up to their Wedding Day I wanted to loose weight and get in shape but I didn’t want to sacrifice my love of food. Instead of going on a crash diet or resort to living off ice cubes I decided to find out what group fitness classes were being offered at my local gym. The timetable listed a BodyBalance class on Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm so my Mum and I went to check it out. Our instructors name was Rachel. As newbies she made us feel very welcome and created a really fun vibe throughout the class. It didn’t take me long to pick up the choreography but boy did it give me a work out. Week after week we went back and before I knew it I was completely hooked. I began to loose weight, feel stronger and gain my flexibility back. One class per week just wasn’t enough for me so I started going to the Monday and Thursday morning classes at 10:30am on the days that I wasn’t working. That is where I met Leeanne, an instructor who has been teaching BodyBalance for nearly twenty years. Her classes are simply the best, partly because of her singing (inside joke), but also because she keeps me inspired, motivated and challenged. I always leave her class feeling amazing. Leeanne and Amanda (one of the other ladies who attend) have become really good friends of mine. BodyBalance brings people together and creates a feeling of community, which is something that I am proud to be apart of. I now attend 2-3 classes per week and absolutely love it! Whether you are a first timer or an avid yogi BodyBalance has the power to improve your mind, body and life. Let’s find out how . . .
What is BodyBalance?
BodyBalance by Les Mills is a combination of yoga, tai chi and pilates. It is a licensed program that is taught by instructors who have undertaken module training in order to demonstrate the content and coach participants as they follow along with the pre-choreographed releases. Throughout the years the structure of a BodyBalance class has evolved but its ability to bring your body into a state of harmony still remains the same.
Warm-up (Tai Chi or Yoga) – Sun Salutations (Yoga) – Standing Strength (Yoga) – Balances (Yoga) – Hip Openers (Yoga) – Core Abdominals (Pilates) – Core Back (Pilates) – Twists (Yoga) – Hamstrings (Yoga) – Meditation (Yoga)
Our class commences with a Warm-up, which is either tai chi or yoga based. It is intended to bring our focus into the room and warm up our bodies to increase our range of movement. We rotate our mats and move into Sun Salutations (otherwise known as Surya Namaskar) which is the practice of bowing to or adoring the sun. It is a sequence of movements designed to elongate our muscles and allow us to go deeper in the stretches. Next comes Standing Strength which involves traditional yoga poses that test our ability to maintain strength in our body. Balances follow which work to ground our feet into the floor, stabilise our core and work on equilibrium. Hip Openers are just as they sound, stretches to open up our hips and release tension in our lower back. Core Abdominals is the halfway point in the class and concentrates on targeting our stomach muscles to work towards a flatter tummy. This is where the good old saying, “no pain no gain” definitely comes into play. We move straight into Core Back, which works to strengthen our back muscles. Once we have made it through this track the hard work is over and we start to bring back the yoga with Twists. These stretches not only lengthen our spine but they give our internal organs a massage, which helps to detoxify our body. Hamstrings focuses on elongating our muscles to maximize the stretch in our legs. Our class finishes with Meditation. This is 10 minutes of pure relaxation. Absolute heaven! We give thanks to our instructor by saying ‘Namaste’ which is a traditional Indian greeting or sign of respect. Throughout the entire class we use controlled breathing in order to bring awareness to our bodies, maintain strength in poses and relax into the stretches. It is seriously amazing what your body can do with the right frame of mind and knowing how to coordinate your breath with your movements.
How to Get the Best Out of Your Class
Use your breath to bring your focus into the room. As your instructor guides you through the choreography breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Engage your core muscles and work on maintaining depth in your legs.
Continue to use your breathing to allow your body to release into each of the stretches as you move throughout the sequence. Reach up as high as you can in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Make sure to engage your core and contract your butt for Baby Back Bend.
Focus on the alignment of your hips and ensure that your bent knee is positioned directly over your ankle. Don’t hold your breath. Constant steady breathing will help you to maintain your endurance and allow you to hold the poses for longer (mind over matter).
Plant your feet and work your heels into the floor. Find a focal point either at eye level or on the floor in front of you to help your concentration during the balances. You can increase your level of difficulty by looking up to the ceiling. Try to move effortlessly from one balance to another. Again, don’t hold your breath!
Allow yourself to let go of any tension you may be holding. Take a deep breath in and then on the out breath relax even more into the stretch. Repeat with each new position.
In order to protect your lower back make sure to maintain a natural curve in your spine. Engage your abdominal muscles and imagine that your belly button is being pulled down into the floor. This will avoid loading pressure onto your lower back.
When lying on your stomach you want to contract your butt muscles and elongate your neck as you lift your chest up off the floor. Try to imagine length in your body and feeling as though your toes are being pulled away from your legs.
Before twisting make sure to lift up and out of your lower back. Gently allow your torso to turn away from your legs and breath into the stretch.
Alignment is key in these stretches. Once again, make sure that your bent knee is positioned directly over your ankle and that you lean forward from the hips and not from the waist.
Whether you are on your back (Shavasana), sitting upright or in Childs Pose (Balasana) you want to find yourself in a comfortable position where you can relax. Instead of breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth it is more beneficial to breath in and out through the nose. This allows you to let go of any tension in your face and completely surrender into the floor. As a newcomer to BodyBalance it is normal for your mind to run a mile a minute. In order to switch off your brain make sure to acknowledge any thoughts that you may have and then gently send them away. Through time this will happen naturally. Until then simply focus on your yoga breathing and appreciate taking the time to give back to your body for working so hard during the class.
How to Meditate in the Comfort of Your Own Home
Find a comfortable position on the floor. Play calming music that will allow you to relax, switch off from the world around you and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out through the nose. Completely let go of any tension and allow your body to feel heavy. Acknowledge your thoughts and allow them to float away. Enjoy this time that you have taken for yourself. You deserve it! After approximately 10 minutes or two songs start to bring movement back into your body by wiggling your fingers and toes. One at a time gather your legs into your chest making sure to nurture your lower back. You may want to take a gentle rock from side to side. Roll onto your right side away from your hearts center and pause there for a moment. Take your time and come up to a seated position allowing yourself to come back into the room. Sit upright with your hands on your knees and your palms facing upward. Take a deep breath and bring your hands up above your head to meet together. As you breathe out draw your fingertips down your centerline into a prayer position in front of your heart. Tuck your chin into your chest and bow your head. Open your eyes and finish with the greeting ‘Namaste’.
My Favourite Yoga Poses
- Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Downward Dog Twist
- Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana II)
- Extended Warrior Two
- Reverse Warrior Two (Viparita Virabhadrasana II)
- Tree Pose (Vriksasana)
- Hindi Squat (Malasana)
- Bird in Basket (I am working on Bird in Flight)
- Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana)
- Forward Half Lotus
- Triangle (Trikonasana)
- Triangle Reaching Overhead
- Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
While these names may sound very foreign to you the feeling that you will get when you are immersed in these positions is out of this world incredible. BodyBalance can even alleviate pain, increase circulation and reduce stress. The benefits are endless. If you haven’t been to a BodyBalance class before then I recommend that you find out where the nearest one is available to you and give it a go. What have you got to loose? When I went for the first time I had no idea what to expect and I fell in love with it. BodyBalance has had such a positive impact on my life that I hope it too can empower yours.
In the words of my instructor Leeanne . . . “Body Balance can make an enormously positive impact on your body and your life. No matter how inflexible or unfit you may feel you will always feel at home in a BodyBalance class. Many of the poses can be modified to accommodate beginners, injury or pregnancy. Let the instructor know it’s your first class and they will guide you through some options and do their best to make you feel comfortable and confident. Try a class and you could fall in love with BodyBalance like millions of people around the world” (just like I did).
Please remember: You know what is best for your body and the limits you can push it to. If something hurts don’t work through it, stop what you are doing and take the lower option. If pain persists consult medical advice or in the case of an emergency seek urgent medical attention.
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Be the best version of yourself. Happy International Yoga Day.
Special thanks to:
Instructor: Leeanne - thanks for being so darn awesome and making class so much fun!
Photo credit: Lee (Hubby) - thanks for taking the time to photograph us in action many moons ago and supporting me through this adventure. Love you xoxo