In the 1930s, a German dancer, Lotte Berk, fled the Nazi regime to settle in London with her British husband. During physical therapy, Lotte combined therapeutic exercises with her ballet barre routines, thus establishing the Lotte Berk method, or what is now known as the Barre method. Her approach thoroughly focused on form, function, method, pacing, position, and isometric technique.
By 1959, Lotte had opened a class in her basement and quickly acquired a devoted following throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Berk stated that this method should be “a melange of strength-training, dance, orthopedic back exercises, and Hatha yoga all rolled into an intense, hour-long mind-body workout to driving rhythms followed by an inspirational cooldown.”
Lydia Bach, an American student of Lotte’s, bought the rights to Berk’s name and opened the first studio in 1971. Over the past several decades, the method went from a niche to a mainstream obsession, leaving many wondering why this approach has obtained such a cult-like following.
First, Barre is a low impact, relatively safe form of exercises fit for people of all ages, including elderly as the handheld barre improves stability and prevents accidents. The workout enhances muscle endurance and balance, as well as targets the core and spine muscles that are often neglected. The class is fast-paced and high-energy featuring upbeat music and motivating instructors. Veterans of this technique claim that within ten classes, students notice significant changes in muscle tone, such as the abs and arms.
The Barre approach is overwhelmingly practiced by women; however, the moves get harder as they progress, excluding this workout from the lightweight category. This gender-neutral technique cultivates considerable change within the body and mind for regular class-goers.
Although it did originate from dance, coordination and tutus are not a prerequisite. From beginner to veteran status, Barre has something to offer all. Here are just a few of the benefits the Barre workout has to offer:
Mind & Body Concentration: This method requires a lot of small, isometric moves that require increased muscles movement awareness. The practice of this creates a connection between the mind and body that activates underused muscles and complement strength-demanding daily tasks.
Less Is More, Sometimes: The workout movements are small and can, at first, feel that it isn’t doing much. But the smaller the movements, the harder the muscles work. Once we start over-thinking or doing more, we can end up losing alignment or focus.
Improved Flexibility: The importance of flexibility as you age is imperative. Without it, something as small as picking up an object from the floor could end in injury. Movements that increased flexibility allow you to stay “younger” for longer.