Monday, April 12, 2010

The Bar Method: It's your BUTT, ladies!

Before I begin this post, I had to tell this story: this (early) morning I walked to Bikram class through the cold, wet rain, for once very much looking forward to 105 degree heat.  It was the first class of the day, and it was unusually damp and dreary outside, but I tell you what folks – for the first time I can remember I was COLD in class.  I wanted to wrap that clammy towel around me and huddle with the other people in class for warmth, it was that cold (how is it possible to sweat and freeze at the same time?).  So if anyone is fearful of the Bikram heat, here's a tip - go to the first class of the day, usually around 6 AM - it’s a little more manageable.

Anyway…so my friend & coworker has been encouraging me to try the Bar Method – a new exercise trend that includes elements of pilates, ballet, and yoga.  The celebrities love it, like Kelly Osborne, and it's been getting a lot of attention, which is why the classes are crazy expensive (and I thought yoga was pricey!).  There are two SF studios, one downtown and one in the Marina, and you can send yourself a complimentary first class.  Just make sure you call ahead to reserve your spot, because classes fill up fast.  So that’s how I found myself driving all the way back to the Marina on a Saturday morning.  (side note: did you know you can get a $50 ticket for parking too far from the curb?  I sure didn’t.  I really need to learn how to park.)

The studio reminded me of when I had a membership to the fancy-pants Philadelphia Sports Club.  The locker rooms are spacious and super clean and full of amenities like keys for your locker and hair dryers and multiple giant mirror spaces for you to reapply makeup.  Very posh and shiny.

The teachers and front desk girls were all very sweet and welcoming.  They recommend that you, no joke, hang from a bar for 30 seconds – 1 minute to “warm up.” There’s a little timex pocket watch nailed to the wall so you can keep an eye on how long you’ve been a monkey.  Interesting!

So the class itself took place in a small room that felt very much like a ballet studio – mirrored walls, barres along the walls.  The teacher was teeeeeny-tiny…I wanted to make her a nice meaty sandwich or take her to a kickboxing class or something.  Despite
those carefully toned upper arm muscles, she looked like a strong wind might tip her over.  In fact I felt like a bit of a beast in this class, surrounded by tiny blondes who looked like they'd done their hair and makeup for class, not rolled out of bed, into the car, and into the studio like, ahem, some people.
The class is indeed a combination of light weight training, ballet, yoga, and pilates. 
The teacher was clear, friendly, and frequently stopped over to correct my posture.  We did a lot of sucking in and tucking in and moving just one muscle a fraction up and done a gazillion times to some hilariously cheesy pop music (1990s Enya? REALLY?).  Some moves were difficult (a series of modified crunches in particular) and I got a good workout out of it.

But by the end, I was just bored – and starting to giggle at how ludicrous the whole thing looked, reflected over and over back at me in the mirrors - a line of shockingly similar looking women in black lululemon pants and Bar Method logo-ed socks
clutching a ballet barre and shakily moving their left foot an inch up and down, up and down, while Lady Gaga chants "rah rah oh la la" in the background.

Maybe I didn’t give the Bar Method enough of a chance (and we all know my Marina bias, which probably didn’t help).  But the main thing that bothered me about it was the fact that the whole class was wrapped around this one superficial goal – to fit a beauty ideal of lean, tight (but not too big!) muscled arms and legs and a pert little “seat.”  (
they also insist on using cutesy language like “tuck in your seat” – it’s your BUTT, ladies.  You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t obsessed with it, so come on, now.)  There’s no actual skill building involved, unless you consider being able to isolate and tighten your buttcheek a skill.  If you really want a lean silhouette or a ballet dancer body, why not just take ballet classes?

But there's hoards of fans out there, and my coworker friend (who did NOT wake up in time to join me for this class…phooey) says that she feels a lot stronger and sees a significant difference in her body shape and her core strength after doing the class regularly, 3 – 4 times/week. So while the Bar Method definitely isn't for me...that's not to say it's doesn't work for lots of people.  But can we lose the Enya?

If You Go:
The Bar Method (Marina and Downtown Locations)
New client special: $100 for the first month (click here to get a free 1st class). 

Photo taken from this article in the Pasadena Weekly. 


  1. ha! i just left a comment and it got deleted. so yes, the music blows, i agree. but i like the enya (i'm older than you). glad you went out to try it....good girl!

  2. I have been a regular at Bar Method for 2 months now. Apart from a yoga class I attended for 4 years, this is the first instructor-led workout class I have ever taken. Had no idea about the whole thing, it was just the most convenient location from our new home (which took me away from my gym) so I hopped over and signed up.

    I like that it makes me work out regularly because although I like to hike, run, swim, cycle and lift weights- some routine was needed. Unlike many women, I have no fear of "bulking up" because I know that it is not easy lol.

    What I like the most about Bar Method is that one is less likely to injure oneself with those workouts. This is a huge positive because I have suffered shin splints, stress fracture and have an unstable shoulder that has dislocated multiple times (once very dangerously when I was learning to flip turn while swimming). This made me wary of many weight lifting moves and other exercises. I completely see your point about the typical Bar Method client and one certainly does not expect it to work wonders. I doubt very much if it will improve my endurance but it gives me a nice, sweaty workout 4-5 times a week and my spouse notices some changes in my body. The downside is that I like to try different things but I can't afford other memberships in addition to this one. Overall, Bar Method will work for some people- don't know how long it will continue to work for me.