Curious to see how my strength and flexibility obtained from yoga would hold up in another exercise environment, I signed up for Core Fusion, an intense Barre class at Exhale. Because even though I’m quite comfortable on the mat, total fitness is way more than having the capacity to lift your leg to your nose, or hold a headstand for 20 breaths.
Core Fusion takes place in a carpeted room surrounded by mirrors and ballet barres. Everyone wears these special grip socks purchased at the studio, but I was fine in M’s soccer knee-highs. It was all women when I went with the 50+ age range well represented. (And in mighty fine shape, I might add!)
The class is broken into body parts:
Arms, thighs, butt, core, and some stretching in between each group.
Here’s how my yoga body did in barre class.
(Full disclosure: I’ve taken barre before so the moves are familiar. But it’s been a while, at least two years.)
Arms: We were instructed to get two sets of weights – heavier and lighter. I took 3 lbs as my heavies and 2 for my lights. (Is 3 lbs even heavy? I have no experience weight lifting so don’t know where this yoga body falls on the spectrum of strength in that area.) The sequence began with push ups. My chaturanga arms were very comfortable in pushups, for the first few. Then I dropped my knees to the floor to finish. It was tough.
From there we went into weight work, I took the heavies and surprisingly got through the entire routine without switching to my lights. The dumbbell moves were for all parts of the arm along with the chest and upper back. There were definite moments when I thought f*cking hell this is horrible, particularly with the triceps. But I got through it.
My yoga arms fared ok. Two days later my pecs were majorly sore.
Stretching: Next up was a leg stretch at the barre – one leg on the barre, the other standing below the hip. Some forward bending and side stretching. There was more stretching interspersed between the body parts including figure four, pigeon, and splits.
My yoga body fared excellent in this activity. Obviously. They don’t call us bendy for nothing. We better be able to get our stretch going.
Thighs: This was torture. Feet in a v-shape underneath the barre, heels raised for the regulars (not I) then lowering down halfway into a plié. Then holding it. Then lowering all the way down to the floor then back up half way, holding… A ton of pliés with excruciating holds. There was also a ball placed between the thighs to squeeze. I cursed the instructor the entire time in this series. I couldn’t get through it. My thighs needed a break several times.
My yoga thighs didn’t fare well at all. Perhaps it is because of all those times I cheat my way through Chair Pose. My thighs were seriously sore for the next two days.
Butt: This was leg lifts at the barre. We extended our arms by our ears then leaned over towards the barre while lengthening one leg long behind. Then we proceeded to lift the shit out of our legs — straight leg, knee bent, hip turned out etc…It required very subtle and specific movements which my yoga body knew how to handle since there are so many subtle instructions in yoga (internally rotate this, while you’re externally rotating that, drop this, lift that…I actually don’t think I ever find the pose in yoga because there’s always some subtle alignment to be tuning into…but that’s a different post.)
My yoga butt fared better than I thought. The more subtle the movement, the harder it got (especially when the instructor came and put me in the correct position.) But small, concentrated movements are very yoga-like. My butt was a little sore the next day, but not too different than what it gets from some asana.
Core: This was the last portion of the class with two different types of exercises. First, sitting underneath the barre with an over grip holding on, we lifted and lowered our legs, and then opened and closed them a few inches from the floor. Next we went to the middle of the room for curls which was like a sit-up except we held it for the most part with our sacrum touching the floor.
My yoga core did excellent in this series. While I couldn’t go hands free in the curl like some of the regulars, I could do just one hand. There was no soreness in my abs the next day which made it 100% clear – yoga is great for the core.
How does your yoga body fare in other exercise?
(Photography by Here With You Photography, Prop styling by yellow house collective)
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Agree Elysha. Sport specific exercises are mostly what we do now-a-days. I have been contemplating adding weight training to my running and yoga to increase my upper body volume and strength. Although I do see male yogi with muscular upper bodies, I think that is mostly from inversions. Your thoughts?
I occasionally go to core fusion and my thighs are ALWAYS the most sore! I must be the same chair pose slacker 🙂
Seems they always want us to sink deeper into chair, and I just can’t! xoxo
Hi Terry, yoga does develop the upper body — but I think inversions come from the core mostly. All the planks and chaturangas –while they also rely on core strength – definitely build arm strength, but not sure about chest and upper back. While they do get flexible- I don’t know that they really get strong. I’m also not so sure how yoga does as a weight bearing exercise which is something I’m looking to do because osteoporosis runs in my family. For this, I think weight training is the call.