I’m a huge fan of barre method classes. Huge. Luckily there are a number of these studios sprouting up all around the island of Manhattan. (Of course, they exist in other cities, but I can realistically only go about indulging in the NYC-based ones for the time being.) One of the new-ish classes I’ve been chomping at the bit to try is Figure 4, which was created by Kate Albarelli at Pure Yoga. Pure Yoga is a membership based studio, and taking the class a la carte is typically not an option. I also don’t live near either of their locations, so unfortunately full-fledged membership doesn’t make sense for me right now. (They are based on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side; I’m a downtown girl.) But that doesn’t stop a barre enthusiast from hearing rave reviews and wanting to try out the class for herself. I had taken a great Core Fusion class with Kate Albarelli awhile back when she was working at Exhale Spa, so was really excited to see what she had cooked up.
I love to read articles and blogs penned by fellow health and fitness lovers. Recently, I was catching up on one of my favorite websites, Well + Good NYC, where they were offering up a giveaway for a private Figure 4 party to a random lucky reader and a group of friends who commented on “why you like to work out with friends.” I commented on this post, and I was their lucky winner! YAY- I would finally get to try the class!
So a couple of weeks ago, 15 barefoot friends and I “partied” our way through an intense Figure 4 class. Heather, our awesome instructor, coached our rowdy group (about half of whom were brand new to the barre method) through an hour of pulses, pliés, crunches, and stretches. Those who hadn’t seen the inside of a gym all winter struggled more than others (the class was legitimately tough!), but I’m proud to say that we all made it through the class with only moderate amounts of groans and whimpers. (And we only digressed into an impromptu round of dodgeball with the prop balls once!)
Our Figure 4 class started with the thigh section facing the inside of the room with our elbows leaning on the barre for support. Heather led us through a series of pulses and pliés which made my friends quickly realized that this party might not be such a cake-walk. At one point we were instructed to raise our hands into the air while holding a deep plié, a move that required stability and core engagement… and whimpering from the peanut gallery. The rest of the thigh section was performed facing the barre, and utilized a variety of poses to exhaust the muscles. I was fearful that we may lose a couple of party-goers while in round-back chair, a pose which requires holding the bar with outstretched arms while the body squats into a seated position with a rounded back- all while maintaining a 90 degree angle in the knees. We performed a never-ending series of pulses and holds while in this position, the last of which was done holding the tush as low to the ground as possible, with our heels held high. That’s tough for even an advanced thigh warrior. But everyone held on (figuratively and literally!)
Next up: arms. After a lovely stretch, we moved back to the center of the room and began the upper body series with light weights. We all assumed that this was going to be sooo easy, but then Heather threw a wide second position plié into the mix, and we were fed a slice of humble pie yet again. (My friends are such good sports.) We worked through push-ups, triceps dips, and planks of varying difficulty on the floor before moving on to the abs section. With a cushion positioned at the small of our backs and a small ball held between our thighs, we then curled our shoulders up for a series of crunches and targeted oblique exercises. This section was tough (as was every section!), but Heather definitely did not let us slack. She also provided great guidance and modifications for the varying levels of experience in the class.
Ordinarily, a standing section would follow next to work the seat muscles. Apparently our class needed so much corralling and cajoling that we had to skip this section entirely due to time constraints. (I was mortified when I realized this!) In lieu of the standing seat-work, we stayed on the floor and performed a series of leg lifts targeted to work the outside tush muscles. I’ll be honest: I’m a barre class enthusiast, and I couldn’t perform the entire series without stopping for a break at least once on each side. We were feeling the burn without the standing section for sure.
Class wound down with a final abs series performed lying on the floor under the bar with our legs in the air. Pulling down on a strap hanging down from the barre, we raised and lowered our hips and legs to work the lower abs. Finally, a series of pelvic lifts and tucks signaled the end of class, the humor of which was not lost on my male friends (there were 4 in attendance!!) We finished with a gratifying stretch, and even saw the appearance of a couple of splits from the underdog dancers in the room.
In sum, I loved the experience. The “party” brought a unique cross-section of my health-conscious friends and friends-of-friends together for a truly fun afternoon. The 15 of us laughed and whined together (some more laughing, some more whining), and felt good about an afternoon fit-fully spent. Afterward, we held a post-mortem of our muscles’ trials and tribulations over a healthy brunch and toasted our efforts with (Vitamin-C rich!) mimosas. Hey, we’d earned it!
And now the really exciting part- THE GIVEAWAY!
Since my friends and i had such a great time at our Figure 4 party, the team at Pure Yoga has generously offered to give the same experience- a private Figure 4 Party for you and up to 20 of your friends– to 2 lucky HealthyPantz readers!
To enter, leave a comment below about anything your heart desires- what you’d like to read more about, your favorite workout, or just say hi! For an additional chance to win, follow me on Twitter!
I will randomly select 2 winners on Friday, May 18th at 5pm- and announce the winners that evening. (Pure Yoga is NYC-based, so winners should be located here as well.) Good luck!