At Alkalign, we don’t use big heavy machines or equipment or the latest fitness gadget (ahem, Shake Weights and Thigh Master). We believe your body is your best asset when it comes to improving your balance, strength and mobility. However, there are few simple props we love to use because they enhance the work we do in class. Like tools in a tool box, our props are the resources we use to educate our clients on alignment, push them to work a little harder, or provide a little extra help when needed.
Barre: Contrary to popular belief, the “barre” does not equal ballet. Rather, it is a stationary object to hold on to. It assists with balance; it allows us to deepen our stretches by providing something to press against (ie: active release of the lower leg and hamstrings during standing stretch) and it provides greater options for strengthening certain muscles groups (ie: barre pull-ups). Some days we work with the barre. Some days we go “Beyond the Barre” to challenge core stability and balance. It’s variety that keeps our bodies guessing and prevents the dreaded fitness plateau.
Bands: Unlike the barre that is very stable, bands are dynamic and allow us to take engagement to the next level by activating additional muscle groups while challenging core stability. During resistance band training, both the concentric and eccentric part of the exercise has resistance, resulting in more efficient and effective strength training. Because the band is less stable, it helps our clients develop improved alignment and body awareness through deliberate and strategic use.
Block: Yoga blocks are my personal favorite. They are modular, portable and can be used in many different ways to improve alignment, increase engagement and challenge balance. Do you have tight hamstrings or hip flexors? Use the block in floor stretch to bring the floor closer to you. Need a little more challenge in your tree pose? Try standing on the softer surface of the block to activate the muscles in your lower legs for balance. Are you having a hard time with shoulder blade stability in your forearm plank? Place the block between your hands and feel the difference. I believe the block has transformed our clients’ alignment. I already wrote a blog specifically about yoga blocks: 8 Reasons Why We Love Yoga Blocks.
Balls: Hard, soft, blue, green and purple. Balls come in all shapes and sizes. We use the large squishy Alkalign ball for a variety of exercises. Like the block, the ball assists with alignment and engagement. It can also provide a more dynamic (and often more comfortable) way to assist you with your spinal flexibility in abdominal exercises. Flip onto your abdominals and the big ball is a great way to massage the abdominals and hip flexors, improve your breathing, activate the parasympathetic nervous system (think “relax and restore”) and release back pain! The smaller massage therapy balls used in Recharge classes are beneficial for releasing tension in every nook and cranny of your body. The benefits of myofascial release are endless.
Weights: We utilize light weights for arm work. Using lighter weights and more repetitions allows our clients to safely move through a larger functional range of motion while still fatiguing the muscles.
Yoga Strap: This one is another prop that helps with posture. Deepen your stretch by using it as an extension of your arms.
In addition to the more obvious props, there are things in and around the room we leverage every day to challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. Whether it’s the wall, the baseboard, the weights or the mat, we are committed to educating you about the options and empowering you to listen to your body every single day and use the studio props necessary to get the most out of your workout. My hope is that we can all take this improved alignment and posture into all of our daily activities and movement.