Saturday, November 28, 2015

We tried it: Yoga at Focus Barre and Yoga

With equal emphasis on barre and yoga, Focus Barre and Yoga offers a full schedule of more than 35 classes each week taught by 17 different instructors.

We tried it: Yoga at Focus Barre and Yoga


At Focus Fitness, barre classes have reined supreme and all other disciplines played second fiddle — until now.

With two studios firmly established on the Main Line, early March brought a third Focus location into Center City with the opening of Focus Barre and Yoga at 1923 Chestnut Street.

“Here, there are two great disciplines that fall under one roof so from a client perspective, I feel like they’re getting the best of both worlds since one membership covers both practices,” said co-owner and barre instructor Amy Feeney.

With equal emphasis on barre and yoga, the Center City studio offers a full schedule of more than 35 classes each week taught by 17 different instructors.

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“A lot of our clients have come to us knowing barre first and now they’re taking advantage of our yoga classes at the new location,” said Feeney.

As a regular barre student myself, I decided to try my hand at a Focus yoga class. I signed up for the studio’s 12 p.m. Yoga Hour — a condensed one-hour version of their traditional vinyasa-style class taught by co-owner Eliakim Warren, who trained at Sivananda Yoga Center.

All classes are practiced in a heated room and can reach temperatures up to 90 degrees. Fortunately, in this midday class, the heat was far from stifiling and utilized mostly as an aid to loosen our muscles.

To start our class, in a warm and soothing voice, Warren coached us into a comfortable seated position for 10 minutes of meditation, allowing us to steady our breathing and get in touch with our bodies.

“Check in,” Warren told us, “know where your body is today and adjust your practice accordingly."

The "I am here" mantra easily struck a cord with me as my mind is always wandering. Isn’t Agno Grill around the corner? I should get lunch there. So I decided to really focus on Warren’s voice, set my intention (Memorial Day is just around the corner, you guys) and flow into my first downward dog.

The great thing about vinyasa is that the continual movements of the class, flowing seamlessly from one pose to another, allows for an added cardiovascular benefit that some more traditional forms of yoga often lack.

Warren's class was moderately paced with repetitions of creative but not overly complex sequences, which as a beginner, I was thankful for. (I've seen pictures of the scorpion pose and that is definitely not for me!) Warrior, triangle, chair, tree, baby cobra, backbends — all of the usual suspects were present. After stretching into each pose, we flowed back to chaturanga before coming into a new one.

In the handful of times I’ve dabbled in yoga, the chaturanga and I have had a love/hate relationship. It always seems like a welcome stretch break but as I repeatedly moved myself into the best low-pushup I could muster, I remembered (albeit too late) that this is no break at all — instead, it’s a serious strength-building exercise.

“There is definitely a workout component to each class,” said Warren. “I want people to feel like they did something physical but also relaxed and rejuvenated at the end."

I was especially appreciative of Warren’s hands-on teaching approach and the little tips she shared as we moved into new poses — teaching some of us an advanced version, and others (me) how to make a pose easier. I was almost certain that a few of my poses needed some major readjusting and luckily Warren was always there to guide me into a better position.

As we finished the class in savasana, I was so relaxed that I wasn’t even thinking about Agno Grill or the work I had waiting for me back at the office.

If I had the time to take a yoga lunch break every workday, I would do it in a heartbeat. I left the studio feeling refreshed and invigorated. Back at the office, that daily 3 p.m. slump that always hits me, never showed. 

Interested in trying a class? Stop by the studio for a complimentary yoga class at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 24th during their grand opening event. Afterwards, stick around to meet the owners and enter to win raffle prizes from local businesses including honeygrow, Body Cycle spin studio, Marlyn Schiff jewelry, Shanti Medical Spa, Milk & Honey cafe, Sip N Glo, and more.

Focus Barre and yoga, 1923 Chestnut Street, on the 2nd and 3rd floors. 215-575-0147.

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