What is The Bend Class™ ?
What is The Bend Class™?
I've had a ton of people ask me this question! The short answer is: if you take gymnastics and ballet stretching practices, throw in some yoga, multiple muscle conditioning, and top it all off with breathing techniques and mash it together, you have a The Bend Class™.
So... why those things? What is it about that combination that works so well? I’ll go over each discipline in turn and give you an idea of what each one brings to the table.
I started out in ballet when I was four years old and one thing that has stunned me ever since is the lack of good posture in most people. You can spot a dancer from a mile away because of their stance. The dropped shoulders, elongated spine, ease of movement, balance that comes from the core, and so on. Even though I haven’t taken a formal class since prior to being a teenager I still get asked if I'm a ballerina based solely on posture.
The spine is the backbone of the body… literally. If it breaks down you have issues everywhere. Having excellent posture and alignment is key to keeping your body healthy and whole. The slow static stretching of ballet allows you to stretch certain muscles while also creating the strength needed for correct posture. Because of this, The Bend Class™ has been an amazing help to people who have headaches because of tense shoulders due to improper posture or lower back pain, knee and hip pain, and a whole host of other issues.
This is a very close second to ballet, if not equal to it. I don’t expect everyone who comes to class to drop into a split. That would be insane and it would hurt. Gymnastics and ballet have a very serious focus on proper positioning. Each stretch is designed to target a specific muscle or group of muscles in a particular way, and each stretch also builds on the one before it.
Proper alignment and proper sequencing in any kind of deep stretch is imperative to making sure you don’t inadvertently injure yourself. The sequencing and stretching variations that gymnastics has to offer make it a vital part of what makes The Bend Class™ so effective.
Yoga is an amazing discipline on its own! This slice of the class allows the body to learn how to flow. There are a few different yoga asanas that are part of the warm up for the class. Fluidity of movement is something that helps the body in many ways, including reaction time, agility, transitional balance, adaptability to surrounding terrain, and so much more.
The posture alignment that you have for ballet and gymnastics is also mirrored in yoga in a much simpler way and is sometimes referred to as bone stacking. Bone stacking is where you take note of each individual joint and align them accordingly to achieve a pose. Transitioning from one pose to another in one fluid movement then starts to build lean muscle mass in a way that simply lifting weights cannot do.
Multiple Muscle Conditioning (MMC)
This is a form of exercise that I have used since my personal trainer days. It is very effective in a short amount of time, which makes it very efficient in an exercise routine. I can get more out of three multiple muscle exercises in 10 minutes than most people can with a full hour at the gym.
Every MMC movement focuses on core and precision of movement. Greater speed of movement can only be approached when posture and alignment are correct in every repetition. Most of these require that at least half of the muscles in your body be constantly working to maintain balance and posture while the others are working against your own body weight to maintain the consistency of the movement.
This creates the perfect storm for lean muscle mass that is built using your own body weight and nothing else. It’s simple, effective, and oh wow does it make you sore the next day!
There are only two or three of these exercises per class that last for a period of six to ten minutes total, so participants should not have to worry about the activity being too strenuous.
Look at a baby sleeping. The slow rise and fall is not in the lungs alone but also in the stomach. This knowledge of how to breathe is something that most people have lost as they have gotten older. Most adults are walking around using only the top ¼ of their lungs to breathe. However, it is well documented that deep breathing can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, alleviate stress, calm the mind, and slow the heart, to name a few benefits.
In every class, we focus on healthy breathing and making sure that whatever stretch we’re in does not inhibit our ability to breathe. Oxygen-deprived muscles do not stretch. If you find in the middle of a stretch that it is painful and makes it difficult for you to breathe, it is highly recommended that you back off the intensity of your stretch and adjust your posture until it is comfortable for you.
The end of the class has a short breathing technique that helps to stretch out the diaphragm below the lungs and encourages deeper breathing. It may only take three minutes of the class, but it is by far everyone’s favorite part.
Be Happy – Be Healthy
Eat more kale!
CHHC, Personal Trainer, Certified Bend Instructor™
Edited by: Erin Burgess
Photo by: Haley Smith Photography