Why Alignment Matters and how Barre Attack Classes will help you Maintain it
As a barre instructor, you will know from your own training that the word alignment is one that comes up again and again. We Barre Attack teachers are always banging on about it! Align the knees, stack your hips, get your hands under your shoulders, keep your feet hip distance apart – you get the picture.
But what exactly does alignment mean, why is it important and how can barre fitness help you get more aligned?
Alignment is about how the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles relate to and line up with each other. It is not just a matter of “standing up straight” – there’s more to it. A good place to start is with a neutral spine – barre instructors will know that understanding and embracing a neutral spine is a key element of any Pilates practice and one that you can take with you to the barre. In a neutral spine, the pelvis, ribcage, and skull are aligned up on top of each other and the cervical, lumbar and thoracic curves of the spine are in a natural balance, which allows the core to activate.
Alignment is important because it impacts on the mechanics of your body’s movement. Proper alignment loads the muscles in a safe way that protects the joints from strain and injury. It allows the body to perform movements with maximum efficiency and efficacy. Barre instructors will know from their own practice that the slightest adjustment to the hip during a butt and ball exercise, or the tiniest tilt of the pelvis in a chest lift, or the subtle turn out of knee over the toe in a squat, can make all the difference to how effective an exercise is. The vast majority of corrections or adjustments you make to your clients during a Barre Attack class will be to do with alignment. Your clients will get used to seeing you coming and knowing immediately that you are only going to move their hip about 2mm but it is going to fire up that glute like nothing else!
It’s this meticulous attention to alignment and form by barre instructors that means barre is a great place for clients to improve and refine their technique. As your students get better and better at barre, you’ll see them automatically start to take that correct positioning so that the exercise is done properly and safely. When the muscles really start to burn and fatigue during a barre class, it is super tempting for students to shift their form in order to make the exercise easier. It’s hard to blame them! It’s something we all do after all – the body looks for a way to ease of pressure and often the quickest way to do that is to fall out of alignment. Yes, that butt and ball exercise will suddenly seem effortless but there is no surer sign that it is being done incorrectly. It’s better and safer to take a moment, reset the body and start again than to continue doing an exercise with poor form or dodgy alignment. It’s ineffective and can lead to injury.
Here are just a few common body alignment issues to be aware of when teaching your Barre Attack classes:
- The hip, knee, and ankle should always be in equal rotation. There’s no point having the feet turned all the way out if the knees and hips can’t follow them.
- In a plank position, it’s tempting to push away from the hands but the shoulders should always line up over directly over the hands.
- Spread weight evenly across all ten toes. “Spread out those toes!” is one of Barre Attack creator Renee Scott’s signature call-outs during class!
- Hip distance means hip distance. When clients are instructed to keep their feet parallel and at hip distance for a sit back series at the barre, you are bound to see feet too wide apart and turning out!
- The spine should be extended but maintain its natural curve.
Maintaining alignment is one of the ways in which Barre Attack is as much a mindful form of exercise as it is one to challenge the body. By keeping the brain switched on and calmly alert to what the body is doing, you and your students will get the most out of every class.