Helene Ravlich: Let’s get physical

It’s safe to say that for many of us, our usual fitness and wellness routines went out the window when we went into 2020’s first level four lockdown.

We were locked out of the gym and yoga studios, and forced to cancel our long-term plans for wellness retreats. We started working out at home and definitely got on with it as best we could, and approaches to wellness changed dramatically as a result.

Trend reports say that instead of working out to the point of exhaustion, people have started taking a more holistic approach to their overall wellbeing, discovering what makes them feel happy and healthy, rather than simply the quickest way to achieve killer abs or the perfect butt. Now we’re back in level four again over a year later, it’s time to think about some of the most popular forms of exercise – and the local businesses we’ll be supporting once life gets back on track!

I’m a huge fan of barre when I want a fast, active class that quite literally keeps me on my toes. My studio of choice for barre is Ponsonby’s SALA, where a variety of amazing teachers each offer their unique take on the discipline. SALA founder, Sarah Lindsay calls barre “the perfect all-round class, whether you're brand new to movement or someone hitting a plateau in your regular movement patterns.

Due to its low impact quality, it's gentle on the joints making it perfect for those new to movement or recovering from an injury”. In class you'll always spot a few heavily pregnant women too, who aren't ready to let go of movement altogether but need that low impact form. “Don't let the low impact fool you into thinking you won't get the results though,” adds Sarah, “as barre targets and isolates small muscle groups using lighter weights, repetition and static holds to define and lengthen muscles, improve posture and gain flexibility. You'll be surprised, you'll be feeling stronger and more toned than you have in a long time!”

F45 Training
F45 Training is definitely for those wanting to go hard, and go fast. The ‘F’ stands for functional training, and F45 is best described as a mix of circuit and HHIT-style workouts geared towards everyday movement. The ‘45’ is for the minutes you’ll spend dripping sweat and hitting goals, as well as improving energy levels, metabolic rate, strength, and endurance. F45 Training workouts are designed to unify the muscle groups of the body and to help make you feel and perform better in all aspects of your life, and the functional training classes they offer continuously evolve so virtually no two workout are ever the same. Participants aim to burn up to 750 calories per 45-minute session, which is definitely no mean feat!

Yoga is a discipline that many I know embraced under the original lockdown, and still practice today. My go-to teacher is Nikki Ralston, Auckland yogini and founder of Brown Street yoga studio, Urban Ashram. A favourite with locals and those that make the trip into Ponsonby alike, her studio is always incredibly welcoming and the wonderful Nikki’s passion - and laugh - is instantly infectious. Having devised her own yoga practice which blends together the best elements of hatha, vinyasa, precision alignment and mindfulness teachings, Nikki has created something really rather special in her boutique Ponsonby oasis, empowering her students to become their own guru in whatever they do.

She stresses that yoga really is for everybody, “and it isn't all about touching your toes. It's more about what you might learn about yourself as you try, and just turning up for yourself and connecting to your body and breath, brings clarity and calm through uncertain times". She adds that bringing yoga into your life is “so much more than becoming more physically flexible, it has helped my mind become less rigid and more adaptable. Your nervous system controls everything in the body, so learning tools to regulate our nervous system through yoga helps us to navigate through stressful moments in life with more ease".

Pilates, popularised by famous faces for its long, lean, and sculpted aesthetic, has become a household name. It’s so much more than a fad however, with a significant history and a discipline that is for everybody, regardless of gender, age, race, size, ability, or current fitness level. The Pilates repertoire, which includes mat and specialised equipment exercises, is made up of over 600 exercises and variations. There’s something for everyone, whether you have a sedentary lifestyle, are a weekend warrior, are pregnant, are undergoing rehab, have anxiety, or even a professional athlete. And though there is an emphasis on core work in Pilates, core strength alone is not the end goal.

Rather, using that core strength to develop functional and sustainable movement patterns throughout the body is what keeps every Pilates devotee coming back for more. Created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, the exercises coordinate movement and breath together to work the smaller and deeper stabilising muscles of the body as much as your prime movers, and some great local studios offering a range of different Pilates classes include the aforementioned SALA, Kcore Pilates, Re:ab on Selbourne and Core Collective in City Works Depot.

If you’re committed to goal setting and letting go of stress, it doesn’t come much better than a regular meditation practice. Be it training in Transcendental Meditation (a favourite of creative types like David Lynch and Lady Gaga), using an app or just practising mindfulness wherever you are, there are thousands of studies that have shown meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. Whether it’s by reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, or improving relationships, research shows that meditation – when practiced regularly – works.

Studio Red owner Vicky Cullinane explained it best when she once told me, "Meditation is about taking time to clear your head and relax your body. Meditation, yoga, drinking tea; all these practices are quiet moments. They are coping tools so that we have clarity around everything we want to achieve and the energy to do it.”

Meditation is a great way to truly spend time with yourself and build a wonderful, healthy, successful relationship with you.

Supplements are also available that can give a boost to all of the above, whether you’re looking to dial your energy levels up or calm your system down. And adding a new set of activewear to the mix too can definitely help too - incorporating sportswear into your look is an extra incentive to make mindful movement a regular part of your day. (HELENE RAVLICH)

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