For me, and maybe for you, this is a stressful time of year. Work is busy, yes, but in addition to that, the holidays are approaching. Soon there will be costumes to make, turkeys to cook, and presents to wrap. Days and weeks barrel forward at breakneck speed, and I feel like I’ve turned into a hummingbird, crazily flitting from this to that at eighty beats per second, hovering only briefly at what’s beautiful and nourishing. I find I have to make a conscious effort to SLOW DOWN. To pause. To breathe.
A couple Saturdays ago, Brandy and I decided to push the pause button for an hour, long enough to enjoy a class at our local Pilates studio aptly named Breathe. Opened in January by Rebekah Budnikas, Breathe offers Reformer (machine-based), Mat, and Barre classes, plus private training. The class we took was a Barre class, meaning that many of the exercises are performed at the barre. Not the bar, the Barre. I like going to the bar, but I soon discovered I also like going to the Barre.
Brandy and I were both grumbly that morning, irritated by the residue of that week’s frustrations. Plus, Brandy had somehow managed to pull a muscle while sneezing, and my neck and shoulders were killing me because I’d spent an awful lot of time in my paper-grading posture. If it weren’t for her and our agreement to meet there, I might have been in a sour enough mood not to go at all. You know how that is… it’s all too easy to talk yourself out of doing something good when you’re feeling rotten. But you also know that’s the best time to do it because you’ll feel so much better afterward.
So, we went. The light-filled studio contains room for about ten participants. All the equipment — mats, hand weights, etc. — are provided by Breathe and were already neatly set up for us. Instead of long mirrors spanning the walls entirely, Breathe installed a series of framed mirrors of different shapes and sizes, and I noticed a familiar stained glass piece or two.
Our instructor, Alexi, greeted us warmly and eased her students into the class with her precise instructions and gentle voice. At first it seemed easy… place your hands lightly on the Barre and slowly bend and squat and dip this way and that, and Alexi spoke so nicely and innocuously… but the intensity increased and I found myself more and more challenged. Which is a euphemism for “my thighs are on fire.”
It’s not a cardio class (although they do have one on Monday evenings); you won’t be totally huffing and puffing and drenched, and that’s why you might be surprised at what a thorough workout it is. It’s a class of a thousand little movements… set to songs by Gloria Gaynor and Red Hot Chili Peppers and whoever it is who sings “Sexy and I Know It.” Alexi would instruct us to get into plié position and then lower ourselves until our knees were just over our toes. Then she would tell us to hold it there, and then when I thought I would finally be able to straighten out and rest my quivering muscles, she would tell us to go a tiny bit lower. It was that tiny bit… that tiny bit! that made all the difference.
Brandy was behind me doing the same thing, only with her 27-pound camera strapped to her torso. Several times we exchanged little panicky glances in the mirrors, but just when I thought, “That’s it. I’m gonna have to take a break,” Alexi would guide us to another move like shoulder raises with hand weights. The class glided along quite quickly… much faster and more enjoyable than a long hour on a treadmill in front of a TV. And the practice makes you really focus on getting specific body parts to do specific movements. There really was no room in my brain for worry. I was thinking only of my calves, my triceps, my knees, my belly. Focusing on the tiny movements, rather than seemingly massive obstacles.
It was a much-needed shift for me and my psyche that day… a necessary reminder to sweat the small stuff, because so much of the “big stuff” is out of my control anyway. Leaving there I felt like I had worked really hard, but lining that sense of accomplishment was… what’s it called? Oh, yeah, serenity. Peace. Calmness. I actually had to try to remember what I was supposed to be worrying about.
Breathe is located downtown in the Wine Brothers building, on the same block as You Made It! Pottery and Clementine. They offer morning and afternoon/evening classes, and for the month of October they’re offering a special. You can even register for classes online and they’ll be ready for you when you arrive. See you there!
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