Story by: barre3 Louisville on July 21, 2017
If you’re accustomed to exercise classes that push everyone to do the exact same thing, barre can offer an adaptive teaching method. There’s no forcing your body to do things that don’t serve it, and there’s no feeling like a failure when you choose to make a posture your own. There is just listening to your body, getting a workout like you’ve never had before and serious, lasting results.
So what exactly is an adaptive teaching method? And how do you know when to adapt a posture? Let’s dive into the details.
What is an adaptive teaching method?
Simply put, the adaptive method means that we encourage you to adapt each barre3 posture to suit your body’s needs. If a posture feels great and challenging in its original form, wonderful — go to your edge! If it causes pain in your joints or discomfort to areas of the body that should feel ease in the posture, it’s time to adapt. The instructor can show you options for how to shift the posture to suit your body’s needs or how to substitute another posture that will get you just as deep into your muscles.
Does adapting a posture mean I’m wimping out?
Absolutely not! Adapting a posture gives you better results. How? Because it ensures that your body is in proper alignment and your muscles are firing as they should. It also prevents you from pushing through pain — an old-school approach that only worsens the problem. Let’s use a plank as an example. If you take plank on the floor and you feel your neck and shoulders aching and your low back tensing up, then you’ll lose engagement in the core, and the posture becomes both painful and ineffective. By coming down to your knees or doing plank at the barre instead, you’ll allowing your entire core, including all the muscles that support your trunk, to engage — all without any pain. In short, adapting allows you to get the intended benefits of the posture, and that’s what you need to get results.
It’s also important to remember that no two bodies are the same. Maybe your neighbor in class goes extra-deep in horse pose, but you find that your hip alignment makes it uncomfortable. No problem! Take sumo pose instead. You’ll both get muscle-building shakes that deliver results.
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How do I know when I should adapt a posture?
Four words: Listen to your body. Do you feel negative pain? Does your body feel out of balance? Are the muscles we’re targeting not engaged? Are you recovering from an injury and not feeling your strongest? Did you just get over a virus and still don’t have your full energy back? These are all signs that the posture is not ideal for your body today. Maybe it felt fine yesterday, and maybe you’ll love it tomorrow. That’s great — but this moment is the only one you should pay attention to. Train yourself to listen to what your body is telling you right now, and adapt accordingly.
Another thing to pay attention to is your breathing. If you find that you’re holding your breath during a posture, you are holding tension in your body — and that will hold you back from getting the most out of it. Remind yourself to breathe, and if you still feel tension, consider adapting the posture.
Finally, if you do barre every day, you’ll likely want to adapt often. Our bodies feel different day to day, and it’s good to explore new layers within each posture on a regular basis in order to break plateaus.
What are the benefits of adapting?
There are so many! The most obvious benefit is that you will get results — without the pain. (If you’ve ever “pushed past the pain” in a workout and paid for it later, you know how important this is!) Another major benefit of adapting is that you’ll be more likely to stick to your workout routine. If a workout is painful, it can create stress and inflammation in the body. You’ll come to dread it — and eventually ditch it altogether. But when you allow yourself to adapt your workout to your body’s needs, exercise becomes fun and freeing. Adapting also helps us find the balance of ease and effort when working out — and this is what makes a workout sustainable.
Those are all huge positives, but there’s an even more important benefit to adapting: body wisdom. As you’ve probably heard your instructor say, you are your own best teacher. Professional instructors are trained to help you find alignment and balance, but ultimately, only you know how your body feels on any given day. It’s up to you to listen to that and adapt accordingly. Once you develop body wisdom in exercise, it will extend into so many other areas of your life. You’ll find that you start craving foods that fuel you instead of deplete your energy. You’ll build in time for plenty of sleep so your body can replenish itself the way it needs to. You’ll make time for self-care rather than push yourself to the point of depletion.
What are some examples of how to modify specific postures?
Power leg. If you feel foot or ankle pain when you raise your heels high in this posture, adapt by barely hovering the heels. You can also substitute power leg with a flat-footed posture like incline seated chair or reverse seated chair. If you feel low-back or knee pain in this posture, work higher by not bending your knees as much, or substitute with a flat-footed posture.
Sumo. If you feel strain in your low-back or knees when you drop your seat, try walking your feet a little closer together and working higher, taking care to drop your ribs down. This will give you a deeper core connection, which will protect your back and knees.
Carousel horse. If this posture strains your low back or causes pain in your back knee, perhaps your alignment is off and the correct muscles aren’t firing. Adapt this posture by hinging forward. This will take the load off your back knee, which will help your glute muscles light up the way they should. If you hinge forward and still feel pain, consider working in parallel incline seated chair instead. You’ll still get a deep muscle burn in your quads and glutes, but you won’t put any undue strain on your knees or back.
Horse pose. This posture depends largely on your bone structure and how prepped your body is. If your hips don’t allow you to work with your knees turned out so you can see your big toe, for example, or if your hamstrings are especially tight, you’ll want to work higher and walk your feet closer together. Keep in mind that it’s not about how low you go in this posture. It’s about alignment and pushing deeply into the ground in order to fire your powerhouse muscles.
Bridge lifts. This posture should engage your glutes, but if you feel your low back, then your glutes aren’t working for you. Working smaller, slower and/or adjusting your foot placement can help you find your sweet spot. Another great adaptation is to hold weights on your hip points. The extra weight will cause your glutes to fire, giving you the connection you’re looking for.
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