“Barre3 is combination of the best ballet barre work, yoga and pilates all into a unique sequence designed to balance the body” (Enriquez). I heard of Barre3 from my mother who began taking Barre3 classes last December. I thought this participant observation homework could be a good way to observe what makes this Barre3 class so different from other yoga classes and if it could be something I would be interested in. My mother served as my key informant and I went with her to one of the classes last February 11,2013. We attended the 8:00pm class, which my mother said is usually the most. There were 12 participants in the class today ranging from 24-60 year olds with only 1 man in our class.
When I entered the Barre3 room, the immediate response I received was calming. The ambiance was relaxing because the room was cool compared to the hot air outside and the lights were dimmed as people entered the room. The room was clean and organized. The exercise balls, weights and garter straps are all set in one large cabinet while the yoga mats are piled up next to it. The walls that surround the room are glass and have ballet bars on them. After a few minutes of waiting, the instructor Christine, entered and the class would begin.
As the class was about to start, I felt intrusive. I was a newcomer to this class and feared that I would not be able to keep up with the workout that was to come. However, I also felt curious and excited to see what kind of exercises would be done in this session today. Most of my fellow classmates did not seem shocked to see me, a new comer. My mother said that there are actually many newcomers to Barre3 that it has become a norm to see new faces every now and then. Throughout the activity I am honest enough to say that I had a difficult time. In fact, I had to take a few breaks in between some of the exercises because it was too strenuous on my muscles. In addition, the instructor approached me a few times to help me with my posture and reminded me to always suck my tummy in, tuck my tailbone in, keep a long neck and a straight spine. Throughout the session I was very conscious of my posture and even fell backwards slightly because I could not keep my balance. Despite my numerous distractions, most of my classmates were not bothered since they were focused on their own moments and postures.
In my observation of the Barre3 session and with what I confirmed with my mother, I divided the exercise routine into four main parts. First was the warm-up. This part was filled with active movements such as jumping jacks, marches, side steps and toe points. This is meant to prepare the core and body for the next exercises. This was probably the easiest part of Barre3 as it was the simplest.
The second series would focus on the upper body specifically the arms, chest, shoulders, and upper and lower back. Most of these movements were done on the bar such as the wide arm push-ups, planks and narrow pushups. This was the most difficult series among the rest, at least for me. I never really had any upper body strength and did not know how to do a push-up. These exercises were really challenging and the day after this exercise, my arms and chest were aching.
“Wide Arm Push-ups”
Third in line are the lower body workouts. I noticed that a lot of focus was actually placed on this and had more exercises than the previous exercise. The exercises such as, the Carousal Horse, the upright seated chair, and the single leg lifts were aimed at strengthening your thighs, hamstrings and calves. Exercises here could be done with and without the bar; some use the bar in order to maintain balance. I would try to do these workouts without the bar but had to pause every now and then to catch my breath. Despite having played football in highschool, this was still quite challenging to me. In almost each leg workout my legs would end up quivering and shaking. The instructor even commented on this but said that shaking was a good sign that I was really pushing myself.
“Narrow V Squats”
In both the arm and leg workouts, some of the things I learned to dread in the class were the following comments of the instructor: “Lets do pulses”, “tiny tiny movements”, “move slower and smaller”, “take it down an inch and up” and “Lets hold it for a minute”. After each of the workouts, we always had to take it to the next level and push ourselves even more through smaller and slower movements.
Finally, the class arrived at the mat work exercises. A few reluctant moans could be heard before each person got a mat and got ready for the abs and seat workouts. The seat workouts were the most shocking for me. I have never gone to any yoga session that had seat exercises. This was extremely tiring and the very next day, I even had a hard time walking! The abdominal workouts are what I looked forward to the most. One of my goals this year is to get solid abs. These workouts were usually mixed with other arm workouts such as bicep curls, chest presses and v-poses. Abdominal workouts that were done were the swims, apple picking, scoops, and the boat to name a few. I attempted to push myself in all the abdominal workouts since this is my main goal.
In between the latter three parts, there would be varied stretching poses such as forward and sideward lunges, pyramid pose, warrior3 pose, figure 4 pose and the pigeon on the bar. I enjoyed doing these stretches because it gave me time to breathe and stretch my aching muscles.
“Downward Facing Dog” Stretch
I’ve always loved sports and exercising because this helped me feel healthy and permitted me to have the mindset that I can eat as much as I want because I will burn it later. Taking on Barre3 has been a great experience for me and is hopefully something that I can continue doing. I enjoyed the challenge that Barre3 offers me and I enjoy the good aches that I feel after doing this. “Listen to what your body can offer today” our instructor would say. I think that this would be a great opportunity for me to develop a new exercise routine and reach my goal of achieving that fit and healthy body I’ve always wanted.
*Pictures are all from the internet since I was not allowed to take pictures in the room, in respect to the other participants.
2 BS ME
SA21 – Section P
February 28, 2013
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
There is large difference between observing and participating in Barre3. When I was observing the class, some of the participants made it seem effortless while others were having a difficult time. As I observed these women having a difficult time, I “judged” them and thought that I could probably do all those exercises better than they did. However, once I actually did it, I understood why some of them actually had to stop, stretch for a while before continuing with the rest of the group. I developed an admiration for the older women in the class who were really able to push their limits in the exercise, going lower and lower in the leg exercises and lasting longer in planks. In my first class, I realized that Barre3 valued the continual toning and using of one’s muscles or else these will become soft. I was the youngest there yet I was the one with the least amount of endurance in these exercises. By participating in the class, I was also able to better understand why the instructor kept insisting on having smaller and slower movements. I initially thought that large and quick movements were more strenuous and were therefore more challenging but in going slower and smaller on my movements I was able to better feel the strain and pain on my muscles, which was more difficult to do. In addition, there would be several exercises when the instructor would ask us to hold our positions, I thought that this was a break period for us to regain our strength but actually it was meant to test our strength and how long we could hold despite the desire to break. Finally, participating also explained to me the importance of maintain good form and posture in doing the routines as these made it more challenging to do and worked out more of my body. Participating helped give me a clearer understanding of just how difficult Barre3 was but also how rewarding it would feel after being able to accomplish such workouts.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
My key informant for this interview (my mother) was able to help me prepare myself for my first visit to the Barre3 class. She was the one who asked permission for me to observe and advised me to wear similar clothes to the participants there so as not to stand out. She introduced me to the instructor and accompanied me as I asked the instructor a few questions after the session. A key informant serves as a bridge to the event or experience during participant observation.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
The participant observation technique is best used in learning more about Barre3. This is true because Barre3 requires one to see how these moves such as the Carousel Horse or Warrior 3 pose would look like in order to understand why it is so difficult to do and why it requires a lot of strength, endurance and balance. Participant observation gives us a clearer, more visual and more relatable experience in understanding Barre3. If I used a questionnaire or an interview, I would not be able to understand how this could be a combination of yoga, Pilates and ballet barre. I would not be able to visualize how my key informant or my interviewee would describe it to me as these cannot be done in words alone. If I used such techniques, I would miss out on seeing how these poses are done and how these participants react to each exercise and push themselves further. Participant Observation is a highly useful tool in better understanding events that require a lot of movement and visualization such as Barre3.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
A questionnaire or interview could be better used in scenarios that are not as complicated nor require as much movement and motion from the participants. A questionnaire could be used as surveys in order to find out preferences of a large number of people. This could also be used to gather information from people to have a database of information. Questionnaires can be concretely used in surveying a group of people or the population as a whole, to get general information on a topic. On the other hand, an interview could also be used if one is trying to figure out information about a given scenario or person and to describe how certain events took place. Interviews can be concretely used when someone applies for a job so that one can better know who he/she is and why he/she should be hired. This can also be used in talk shows or radio shows in order to hear first hand, the new trending stories or the mysterious past of the guest in the show.