Stretching is one of the most important parts of a well-rounded fitness routine, but it oftentimes gets overlooked or forgotten. Incorporating flexibility training can help reduce your risk of injury, and increase your mobility to allow you to exercise and complete everyday activities. Stretching is a key component of the Pure Barre technique - read on to find out why!
Why is stretching important?
At its simplest, stretching allows you to ease tension in your muscle & connective tissues. According to Harvard Health, “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.” Having a healthy range of motion means that when you use your muscles for an activity, be it exercise or everyday movements, they are able to extend fully and perform at their best ability. When you stretch, you are lengthening your muscles and allowing them to become more elastic, and thereby, more effective.
In layman’s terms, stretching allows your body the freedom of movement necessary to do the things you love and live your life pain-free! Need to pick up your child? Stretching the muscles on the back of your body will make it easier to bend over. Live on the second floor? Having a healthy range of motion in your quads, hamstrings, and calves is essential to climbing stairs. Can’t stop tucking at Pure Barre? You can thank your flexible glutes and hip flexor muscles!
What are the physical benefits of stretching?
Regular stretching can help reduce inflammation in the body. Poor posture or repetitive movements that decrease your body’s range of motion are treated by the body as an injury. As a result, the body will try to heal the injury by creating inflammation in those areas. Stretching the affected muscles can help alleviate this and prevent future inflammation.
One little known benefit of stretching is its effect on strength building. Having flexibility in your muscles can help improve strength gains by allowing you to have better control over your muscles when in a full range of motion. Think about the difference between performing a weighted bicep curl with a slightly bent arm, versus an arm that is able to extend straight down. When the arm is straight the bicep can fully contract, and more strength is required to bring the weight back up.
What are the mental benefits of stretching?
“Stretching is a means of connecting your body with your brain, and functions as a form of mindfulness,” says Pure Barre Training Development Manager, Michelle Ditto. “Engaging your breath when moving has many neurological benefits and focusing on your breath while stretching can act as a form of meditation (“inhale to lengthen or ‘expand’, exhale to contract or ‘fold’).”
Additionally, taking a moment throughout the day to focus purely on being in your body at that moment can have a domino effect on the rest of your day. Taking the time to feel breath & movement in your body can act as a precursor to finding other opportunities throughout your day to move, as well.
More concretely, stretching has also been shown to increase serotonin levels, which is the hormone that aids in stress reduction and can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Is Pure Barre good for flexibility?
Pure Barre incorporates stretching & flexibility training into all of our full body workout classes. The Pure Barre technique draws inspiration from Pilates, yoga, dance & rehabilitation exercises - all modalities which prioritize flexibility. In a typical Pure Barre Classic™ class, you can expect to spend about 10 minutes working on your flexibility. All of our class formats follow the same principle: working a muscle group to the point of fatigue (that’s when you feel the shake!) and then stretching those muscles while they are warm & pliable.
Our newest class format, Pure Barre AlignTM, is dedicated to flexibility & balance training. Pure Barre Align combines our classic strength-building barre technique with a unique emphasis on flexibility and balance training to deliver a full body workout and restorative experience. In 50 minutes, you will focus on various flows of stretching to increase your joint mobility, while building muscular strength and stability using our Pure Barre Classic positioning and the barre to enhance your alignment and take your mind-body connection to the next level.
What is the difference between flexibility & mobility?
You’ll often hear flexibility & mobility used interchangeably in the fitness world. Although they go hand-in-hand, they are different concepts.
Flexibility refers to the muscle’s ability to passively stretch. The more you are able to lengthen a muscle to its end range of motion, the more flexible that muscle is. You can work to improve your flexibility by habitually stretching your muscles. We incorporate stretching into all Pure Barre classes so coming to class regularly will help improve your flexibility over time.
Mobility, on the other hand, speaks to your ability to move a muscle with control through range of motion within the joint. The more you are able to dynamically move through the full range of motion of a movement (like sitting back into a squat, for example), the greater your mobility. Fully performing a bodyweight squat requires mobility in the ankle (to keep the feet planted), knees (to bend the knee joint), hips (to sit your seat back), and shoulders (to maintain a straight back).
You cannot have joint mobility without muscular flexibility. Without being able to fully extend a muscle (flexibility), you won’t be able to take it through its full range of motion (mobility). Take a basic jumping jack - without flexible shoulder muscles, you won’t be able to fully extend your arms above your head. This means that by working on your flexibility at Pure Barre, you are essentially helping to improve your mobility also!
What is the difference between barre & yoga?
Pure Barre & yoga share many similar benefits - both are low-impact modalities that can help improve your strength & flexibility. The main difference between the two formats is their primary purpose: yoga focuses primarily on movements that lengthen the muscles, whereas Pure Barre is fundamentally focused on strengthening & toning your body.
The history of each discipline also varies drastically. Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that originated almost 5,000 years ago, and the practice of yoga as exercise dates back to the early 20th century. By contrast, barre was created in 1959 and modern barre techniques actually draw inspiration from yoga asana practice.
Pure Barre & yoga are also differentiated by the rhythm of class. While most yoga classes use the breath as a metronome for class tempo, Pure Barre classes are musically-driven; each class is choreographed to the beat of the music. If it's your first time trying a barre class, this may sound intimidating but our expert teachers are here to help you.
Moreover, most modern yoga classes rely entirely on body weight. That means, any props used during a yoga practice, like blocks & straps, are to help you feel the full effect of a stretch by correcting your alignment. While Pure Barre is also a bodyweight workout, the equipment we use in class can effectively make each movement harder, or help to add to your range of motion, by increasing and leveraging resistance (we’re looking at you, double tube!).
Although there are many differences between barre & yoga, we invite you to join us in the studio for a Pure Barre Align™ class. If you have ever taken a yoga class before, you’ll feel comfortable in this class. Pure Barre Align flows through different sections of stretching to improve your flexibility, mobility & balance. Although you won’t “take a vinyasa”, many of the movements performed in class are reminiscent of hatha & vinyasa yoga postures. If you’ve never taken yoga before, we still invite you to try Pure Barre Align! Our supportive teachers do not use any yoga vocabulary, and walk you through every step to flow through each movement.
If you're interested in trying a Pure Barre Foundations™ Intro Class, fill out the form below to get started!