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Sex and The Bar Method, Part 2

Lotte Berk demonstraing the sex exerciseIn the 50s, women rarely exercised except when they bore children or were conceiving them. Exercise? To most back then, the idea was a bit embarrassing. Lotte Berk, the London-based dancer and exercise pioneer, wanted to change this. Her mission, she said, was to give women back their physicality by, as she put it, advancing the “state of sex” in her time. To this end, she invented an exercise technique that women could relate to, namely one that celebrated their sexuality; she packed it with the most sensual exercises she could think of; and she gave those exercises playful names that would help to embolden her students’ spirits. The Bar Method’s “leg lifts” exercise was, for example, “the prostitute.” “Back-dancing” was “naughty bottoms.”

Lotte was a true-believer in free love and carried on many love affairs, even while married. Later during her classes she used her experiences as material for nuggets of wisdom on men and love, and doled them out to her students as they worked out. Her discourses could be shockingly direct about the similarities between her exercises and sex. According to Bazaar Magazine who interviewed her in 1994, Lotte would say to her students, “If you can’t lift your bottom, how can you enjoy sex?” When I visited Lotte during the 90s, she gave me the uncensored version of what she really told her students, something more along the lines of “if you can’t tuck, you can’t f—!”

Like other innovators who happened to be born into the right era, Lotte came into her own when the time was ripe for her ideas. The sexual revolution of the 60s set the stage for Lotte’s more athletic kind of sexiness to catch on. Actresses Joan Collins, Britt Eland, Barbara Streisand and Lee Remick started to go regularly to Lotte’s little basement studio where they got sex-ready bodies while listening to Lotte’s delightfully frank, eccentric lectures on love.

lydia bach demonstrating the sex exerciseIn 1970, one of Lotte’s disciples, Lydia Bach, opened “The Lotte Berk Method” on the Upper Each Side of Manhattan. No one in this country had seen anything quite like this kind of exercise class, and the press was all over it. “We’re talking about the Lotte Berk Method,” Look Magazine wrote in 1971, “a body-toning system for women in London, now taught in a Manhattan studio…The exercises ostensibly improve a woman’s sex life and Mrs. Berk receives many thank-you notes from grateful husbands.”

Nude Lady with Vogue logoThroughout the 70s, people continued to be taken with the notion that exercise’s sole purpose was to make women sexier. Those people included Lydia. In a 1972 New York Times article she describes the Lotte Berk Method as “a combination of modern ballet, yoga, orthopedic exercises and sex.” “Sex?” the Times asked. “Sex,” Lydia explained, was the name of one of her exercises (our “knee-dancing”).

The women’s magazines, of course, loved this idea. During the 70s, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Mademoiselle and Women’s Wear Daily ran articles titled “Exercise Your Way to a Better Sex Life,” “Shape Up Your Pelvic Area and Shape Up Your Sex Life,” “Exercises for Loving Making,” and “Sexercises” In 1979 Vogue showed a completely naked model doing the pretzel, round-back and other Lotte Berk moves. The women photographed in these pieces were gorgeously feminine in a way you don’t see today. These women wore their hair long, dressed in sheer, soft leotards, and exuded a mysterious dreaminess.

MademoiselleBy the 80s the innocent idea that sex could be a path to freedom and enlightenment had run its course. Women had tasted strength and realized there was more to exercise than sex. They could be strong, stronger in some ways than men, and that discovery, I think, helped them launch the Women’s Liberation Movement. The WLM had started in the 70s, and by the 80s was calling on women to seek empowerment and independence and no longer to be caught up with being sexual objects or needing men to be fulfilled. These enlightened women included Lydia who updated her message accordingly. “Women” she said in an 80’s Vogue article, “…want to regain power and control over their lives. Exercise is the first step towards regaining that control.” Like Lydia, I’m committed to the Women’s Movement. Still, I wonder if in our zeal to be superheroes we might have sacrificed something in terms of our the way we view our femininity. Having become recently engaged, I’m not in the frame of mind to believe that men are superfluous, and when it comes to body image, I’d like to think it’s not necessary for us to hone our bodies into, as Tom Wolfe put it in his novel on the 80s, “boys with breasts.” We’ve shown the world that we’re amazingly strong. Now it might be fun for us to do some playful remastering of that vintage sexy spirit from the 60s and 70s.

How The Bar Method Enhances Sex, Part 1

Sex and the CityI was putting away my mat after taking class a few months ago and a student approached me. She was pretty and looked like she might have been a lawyer or worked in the corporate world. “Have you or anyone ever written about how great the Bar Method is for sex?” she asked me. Out of habit I gave her my usual answer: Yes, it’s great for sex, but we’ve always played down that feature. “Thanks for your answer,” she said, “but it really is.”

As the student walked away, it hit me that for 20 years I’ve been giving that same stock response to questions about the Bar Method’s connection to sex. My habit of side-stepping this issue started with my Lotte Berk Method trainers in 1990. That year I was studying in New York City to become a Lotte Berk Method studio owner, and my trainers wanted me to keep my approach to this subject consistent with theirs. “People might ask you about sex,” they told me. “Focus on other benefits.”

I went with their advice during my ten-year term as a Lotte Berk Method licensee.  Now that license has been expired for ten years, and it’s about time that I formulate by own policy on this subject.  So here it is: The Bar Method-type workout is absolutely great for one’s sex life, and let me tell you why:

First, exercise itself has been proven to increase sexual potency. According to researcher Mark Stibich “Studies have shown that women who frequently exercise become aroused more quickly and are able to reach an orgasm faster and more intensely.” Exercise gives you an especially powerful boost if you do workouts that focus on stamina, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility. Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise credits exercise with “physical improvements in muscle strength and tone, endurance, body composition and cardiovascular function (specifically, enhanced peripheral blood flow),” which he says says “can all enhance sexual functioning.” Why? Paige Waehner ACE explains.  “Sex also requires you to hold…er…occasionally unusual positions for short periods of time,” she says, plus, “Being limber can enhance anyone’s sex life by making it a bit easier to get into your favorite position with a minimum amount of fuss.”

Lotte Berk dancingDo The Lotte Berk Method/Bar Method techniques have any advantages over other exercise forms in this arena? Most definitely! They build a fantastic degree of stamina; they make you more flexible; and most distinctively, they focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles around your pelvis pretty much during the whole class. The Bar Method’s “narrow V” thigh exercise, for example, strengthens the “pelvic floor” muscles, according to Physical Therapist Heidi Morton. Then of course there are all the glute and abdominal exercises such as “water-ski thigh,” and “water-ski seat,” and the other “seat” exercises, plus the curl work, which students perform with their pelvis locked in place by means of all its surrounding muscles. Finally we come to “back-dancing,” an exercise that looks almost embarrassingly sexual, but more about that later.

Considering that sex is probably our greatest natural high, you’d think these benefits would be worth mentioning. Even so, over the past 20 years, the hundreds of press articles written about my Lotte Berk or Bar Method studios have pointed out only the Method’s ability to make you look sexy. Nowhere in my memory has there been anything written or said about its effect on sex itself. The most direct reference to sex in connection to the Bar Method that I could find appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in July of 2002. The writer speculated on what would happen if the “Sex and the City” characters moved to San Francisco. “Samantha,” the article said, “would be in to various trendy California pursuits like… the Bar fitness method.” Nothing, however, on how much more fun Samantha, um, might have had later…

This reticence hasn’t always been the case. In the early 70s, the press was all over the news that an exercise technique was improving people’s sex lives. Why then did my Lotte Berk Method trainers in 1990 tell me to zip my lips on this subject? The answer goes back a half a century to the workout’s inventor, Lotte Berk, who expressly and unapologetically designed the workout to enhance sex.

Next week: The rise and fall of Lotte’s sexual revolution (and why we can finally start talking about it again 🙂

Why It’s so Important to Exercise as You Age

Burr in Chair for blogNow that I’m 64 and the aging process is noticeably changing my body, I’ve become profoundly grateful to have exercise in my life. I feel especially lucky that the workout I’ve been doing for the last three decades, the Bar Method, seemed to have assumed the role of protector against time. In my 30s and 40s I loved the workout (which was then the Bar Method’s predecessor, the Lotte Berk Method) because it made me look and feel good. Over the past few years I’ve been stunned to find that my workouts, while not exactly reversing time, are turning it back significantly. Now they’re not just making me more buff and toned. They’re also wiping away fatigue, mental cloudiness, grumpiness, aching joints and a host of other symptoms of the aging process. I can go into a class feeling exhausted and walk out of it almost magically energized. My muscles don’t as easily retain the strength gained from my workouts like they used to decades ago, but the classes always leave me calmer, more centered, and in a better humor. I hate to think how different my life would be at this stage if I didn’t have this workout to renew me on an ongoing basis.

Burr in round-backEverything I’ve reported to you in this blog thus far is old news to the medical community. Doctors and economists have been all over this subject for decades, and their research has been sending up flags about the dangers of older adults not being active. A group of several hundred physiologists found that millions of Americans are dying prematurely each year from “Sedentary Death Syndrome,” or lack of physical activity. Meanwhile, economists have determined that the cost of these deaths to our country are somewhere around three trillion dollars a year due to life-style related diabetes, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, strokes, osteoporosis, dementia, accidental falls, and other lifestyle-related illnesses and issues. Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control estimates that if all these physically inactive Americans became active, we’d save “$77 billion in direct annual medical costs, and an estimated $150 billion in direct and indirect medical costs.”

There are signs that more and more of us in this country are beginning to understand the relationship between inactivity and illness. We see an increasing number of older people whose bodies remind us of cars that haven’t been maintenanced for decades, and their downcast, disappointed, and defeated-looking faces can’t but affect us. We might ask ourselves, ”what happened to those people? Could they have been in accidents?”  More likely, they’ve lived the sedentary lifestyle that our society has made the norm.

Bill CunninghamCall me an optimist, but I believe that at some point in our future history, people will figure out a way out of this pitfall. The results have come in from our mass experiment with inactivity. We know that it hurts us, especially now that we’re living longer. Fortunately, as a species we’re ambitious when it comes to our right to enjoy life to the last drop, and we have the drive, ability and adaptability to reinvent ourselves when it serves our purposes. One example from the past is our dental care habits, which have evolved to become unrecognizable from the way they were 200 years ago. “Sedentary Death Syndrome” is actually a pretty recent problem. People started to become inactive in great numbers less than a century ago when enough modern conveniences were invented to relieve them of the necessary of exerting their bodies. We’re really just in the preliminary stages of tackling this challenge.

Already some Americans have been deciding to lead very active lives in their later years. Jack LaLanne lifted weight into his 90s. Cloris Leachman competed in Dancing With The Stars at age 82, and the wonderful 83-year-old photographer Bill Cunningham still spends his days riding his bike around Manhattan with the grace of a dancer shooting street fashion for the New York Times. I’d like to imagine that in a few hundred years these athletic late-lifestyles will no longer be the exception but our new norm.

Exercise Class as a Microcosm of Your Life

“Whatever issues students have in life will show up in how they take class,” Burbank Bar Method studio owner Joey Decker said to me recently. “The classroom is a microcosm for the macrocosm.”

This is so true. The way you take a Bar Method class can act as a reflection of how you’re dealing with the rest of your life. Like life, the Bar Method is a series of challenges. Like life, you are surrounded by others also taking on the same challenges. While you are in a class, you have a chance to observe yourself meeting or avoiding challenges, focusing or losing focus, holding on until the end or giving up a few reps ahead of time, and applauding or criticizing yourself as you work.

When I teach, I notice students who’ve found ways to disengage themselves from the workout. One student I’ve observed closes her eyes during the entire class. By doing so, she misses much of the instruction. Another student comes out of each position every minute or so. She eventually gets back into the exercise but only after having rested enough not to feel it very much. I suspect she does this unconsciously, not due to laziness but to lack of concentration.

Could this behavior teach these students something useful about their lives? Is the student who closes her eyes avoiding some difficult issue? Is the student who comes out of the exercises resisting success?

There are of course Bar Method “A” students, but they are rare, and even those have “B” days. Most of us most of the time appear to be struggling on some level, myself included. My issue when I started taking the Lotte Berk Method in the 80s was that I was so inwardly focused that I was not letting the world in. During class I would stare straight ahead, never looking around at other students. By playing out this behavior in the classroom, I believe, I found the insight and strength to begin to change into a more outgoing person.

Now my struggle in class has swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction. My eyes flit around the room too much.  However hard I try to focus on my own workout, I keep getting involved in watching my fellow students’ performance (see this blog!). The message I’m getting during this struggle is that I need to lighten up, accept that all of us are not going to do it perfectly, and enjoy the class. Having become a bit of a workaholic these days, I know that this is what I need to do in my life too.

The next time you take class, you might take a moment to consider what kind of person you are during that hour? What emotions do you feel? Are you able to be with the level of discomfort the exercises require?  Do you stay focused? If not, what do you think about? You could find some answers to what’s happening with you in general, and possibly discover a new and stronger part of yourself.

exercise class

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Exercise Improves Mood

Exercise is good for our mood. This we know this from experience and hearsay, and scientists agree. Exercising, they found, reduces depression and anxiety by releasing mood-lifting hormones such as serotonin and endorphins, and that’s not all it does to make us feel better. Exercise relaxes tensed up muscles, increases our body temperature (which according to experts reduces stress), takes our minds off problems we may be obsessing about, and gives us a sense of accomplishment.

It follows that different kinds of exercise work on us in different ways according to which physiological after-effects they’re best as producing. Running is famous for generating endorphins, yoga for relieving stress, lifting weights for making us feel better about ourselves, and simply going for a walk for brightening up our day.

Amy,_Emily,_between_FB_&_RB_edit-resized-600Does the Bar Method produce its own special mood enhancers? According to hundreds of students who have told me their personal stories, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. Here is one story from a San Francisco student named Tracy: “I’m turning 50 in September, but taking the Bar Method makes me feel much better about my newly approaching decade — physically, psychologically, and sensually,” she wrote me. “As a psychologist spending my days seeing patients and doing therapy, it’s been a most appreciated therapy for me.”

Another student named Cheryl had a similar outcome: “This is the first time in my life (and I am 43 years old) that I have felt this good about myself. I am short (5’3″), but Bar Method has made me feel taller, more lean and sculpted and even my posture is better. I have a positive self image now and feel great. “ A Los Angeles student in her 20s wrote in that “these classes are like magic!! They’ve helped keep me sane, limber, and mentally and physically happy too!”

My own experience as a new student of the Lotte Berk Method in the early 80s was dramatic. I was in my 30s and very shy. I also did not like the shape of my body. Yoga and jazzercise had not changed my body as much as I’d hoped, so I started Lotte Berk with only body sculpting in mind. I could not have predicted the enormous change in my state of mind I ended up with. After a few months of classes, a new, more confident and outgoing person began to emerge from my old persona. I got a better job, began to date, and eventually got married. Today after decades of classes, I credit The Lotte Berk Method, and the Bar Method after it, for transforming my self-esteem and spirits.

There are several components within The Lotte Berk and Bar Method workouts that appear to have a unique power to lift our spirits. First, for women at least, the Methods’ exercises fix physical problem areas that can cause private grief. Hips, inner thighs, seat muscles, posture: I know these female body issues get dealt with big-time in a Method workout making women feel and look and feel prettier and stronger.

Second, the interval training format used by the Bar Method generates a level of intensity even greater than you get with running or boot camp classes. (Read more about the benefits of Interval Training.) The feat of taking on such a challenge gives students a shot of empowerment along with a dose of endorphins generated by the intense exercise. When students walk out of the studio after finishing a class, they take with them both a new outlook and a measure of uplifting triumph. Add that to the serious stretching exercises performed throughout class, and it is clear how much stress reduction the classes offer.

I wasn’t surprised to learn recently that several rehab centers send their recovering patients to the Bar Method and Bar Method is a favorite among many AA communities. “Maybe it’s really sweating out toxins or more of a mental thing,” a young LA student speculated. “Whatever it is, it feels REALLY good.”

Click here to find Bar Method exercises classes near you.
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Body Sculpting’s Top Ten Muscles for Women, Part 1

Some muscles when sculpted give an especially feminine look to women’s bodies. When I’m taking class and we’re targeting one of these curve-enhancing muscles, it’s fun to give them an extra push knowing that the gain is well-worth the pain. Here are my top ten favorite muscles to sculpt and how I seize the moment to give them special attention.

Tenth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Pecs 
“I have cleavage for the first time!” a Bar Method student told me today. The muscle responsible for this enhancement, the pec major, flares out over your upper and lower chest. When it’s toned and strong — I’m talking about women only — it makes the breasts look smoother, higher and more elegant, plus it gives good posture a sexy quality. Push-ups are so hard for women that they take a few years to learn how to do them well. Even after they become more doable, students can keep raising the bar on push-ups by walking their hands directly under their chests and refusing to let them sneak forward.

Ninth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Outer Quad
“Second position” – bending your knees outwards when in a wide stance — chisels a distinctive, dancer-like curve down your outside leg. This graceful new shape, by arcing up your outside thigh bone, has the effect of pulling the side of your leg in, making it narrower. In 1981 after a few months of the Lotte Berk Method, I had fun asking friends to “touch my leg and feel how hard it is.” What they were touching was my “vastus lateralis” or outside thigh muscle. Today I still can’t get my hips all the way down to knee height in the position, which is the ultimate goal, but it’s the one I go for every time.

Eighth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Triceps
tricepsGuys love girls with toned triceps. This information comes from multiple surveys published by magazines such as Men’s Health and Esquire. Men are definitely on to something by bypassing more obvious female body parts and professing a liking for our arm’s largest muscle when it has some definition. Sculpted triceps – like toned hamstrings when they sit up on your thigh bones – make your upper arms look slender. The overall effect is both strong and feminine. “Reverse push-ups,” the Bar Method’s 30-second triceps-shaper, is the fastest-acting – and most agonizing – 30 seconds you’ll suffer through in the workout. The short duration has advantages, chief among them that reverse push-ups are over in a heart-beat. The down side is that students find it all too easy to escape the awful muscle burn by tilting their torsos forward, thereby removing their body-weight from the exercise. To get beautiful triceps you have to keep your arms directly over your hands as you bend your elbows. The Bar Method helps students to do reverse push-ups in good form by turning them on profile to the front mirror so that they can check how they’re doing. Students who manage to do them right tell me are invariably thrilled to see their arms gain definition.

Seventh Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Hamstrings
Toned hamstrings do wonders for the overall look of your legs. They curve outwards on the back of the leg mid-point up your upper leg, and then they curve inwards right under your butt giving it definition and lift. My favorite hamstring exercise in the Bar Method is simply standing at the bar, bending one leg in half and holding it behind me. If I can keep my tuck in place and my knee under my hip in this position, I’ll start shaking like a leaf after just minute or two. For me this exercise never gets old. I usually wake up wake up the next day feeling sore and a bit more sculpted.

Sixth Best Muscle for Women to Sculpt: The Lower Quads
The lower quads: Skiers push against the slopes with sharp little leg movements. The result is “skier’s bump,” those little bulges right over the knees. Skiier’s bump is caused by all those “concentric” contractions, skiiers’ thigh muscles shortening with each push into the hill. Conversely, The Bar Method works the lower quads with “eccentric” contractions, smooth, mid-range pliés that stretch the muscles as they’re working. One of the most targeted thigh exercises for slimming down around the knees is the Bar Method’s “narrow V,” a stance that keeps your knees in a uniquely deep bend during the pliés. Narrow V looks deceptively simple and basic, so students are often surprised that their lower quads are on fire by mid-point into this exercise. With my big-boned frame, I’m thrilled at the slender look it gives to the line above my knees.

NEXT WEEK: THE TOP FIVE MUSCLES FOR WOMEN TO SCULPT

Read about Three Body Sculpting Secrets Used by Bar Method.

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Group Exercise Classes Get You Fit Faster

In the 80s I didn’t have a lot of money. I worked for public television, and my Lotte Berk Method exercise classes were expensive. So I thought I’d try doing the routine at home before work. I used CDs from the movies “Footloose” and “Beverly Hills Cop” again and again while holding onto a doorknob or chest.  My home workout lasted an hour and a half, whereas the class was an hour. I thought I was not only saving money but was also getting an edge over my fellow Lotte Berk students by making the workout longer.

The truth was I was getting less toned, not more. At the time, I couldn’t figure it out. Now, decades later I realize that I never really pushed myself as hard as the class did. My home workout was lasting so long because I was lollygagging between sets just long enough to avoid hitting those last few moments of intense burning that you get every time in a bar class. After a few months of sweating and panting to Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude,” I gave up and, with a great sense of relief, went back to my regular 7:45 am class workout.  Quickly my body reverted to the tight, carved shape it had been before my experiment with going it alone.

The advantage of exercising with other people was recently the subject of a New York Times article (9/17/09) on competitive runners.  The story starts in the 70s when U.S. distance runners trained in teams and were among the world’s fastest. Then in the early 80s, the U.S. trend became solitary training with a coach. Soon runners from other countries – all of which used group training — surged ahead. Lately individual U.S. runners who bucked the trend and started to train with other people noticed that their performances significantly improved.   Now the running world is embracing team training once more.

Why do both professional athletes and exercise students do better when working out in groups – aside from the obvious fact that exercise classes come with a teacher who pushes you? First, a class has timing. Running through a series of repetitions in 10 minutes is not the same as doing them in 15 minutes. Every rep depends on the little bit of muscle fatigue provided by the previous rep. Every time you let that fatigue dissipate, you’ve lost some value from the rep you’re doing. A class is going to move you along — or should if it’s doing its job – fast enough to be “kicking your butt” simply by allowing you not as much time between reps as you would allow yourself. Click here to read more about the importance of interval training.

Exercise ClassesSecond, a class contains other students. I didn’t happen to have any friends in the Lotte Berk Method classes I took. Nevertheless, something inside me was always competing with them and at the same time feeling supported by them. People are social. We lock into a social pattern when we’re working in a group, whether or not we know it. Bar Method students’ eyes, glazed though they may be at moments, move around the room at other eyes, facial expressions and bodies. When we see that fellow students are pushing themselves, we get confidence to do it too.

What about home dvd workouts? These do provide you with a kind of social setting, namely the group of performers in the dvds themselves. In the Bar Method dvds for example, you can follow the “modifier” who shows you the beginner moves, be inspired by the “advanced” student who goes for the most challenging positions, and notice when everyone’s legs start shaking.  Some Bar Method dvd students enhance their home workouts by doing them with friends on a regular schedule.  These are the users who report not only getting results but having fun along the way. (To sample the new Bar Method DVDs, click on exercise dvds.)

This fun-factor could be what ultimately makes group exercise work over the long term. People are party animals. Every class is on some level is a form of “happy hour” and its students are somewhat like teammates on “Survivor.” Few solitary workouts that are within our reach for everyday use can match the potential for drama and comedy that endlessly delight us when we’re with other people.

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Lotte Berk, Exercise Pioneer

lotte berkThe Bar Method is based on the technique of Lotte Berk, (shown left), a German dancer who fled the Nazi’s in the late 1930’s and came to London with her British husband.

After injuring her back, Lotte got the idea of combining her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system.  In 1959 she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her West End basement.   There, she sculpted the bodies of her students, among them Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland, as she entertained them with bawdy humor and tips on love.

One of her students, an American named Lydia Bach, was so impressed with the technique that she bought the rights to Lotte’s name and in 1971 opened The Lotte Berk Method exercise studio in Manhattan.

Ten years later, two sisters, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman took their first Lotte Berk Method class and also fell in love with the technique.  In 1991, Burr along with her new husband Carl Diehl bought a license to operate Lotte Berk Method studios in Southern Connecticut.

Burr spent a year studying and teaching The Lotte Berk Method at the Manhattan studio, then opened her first Lotte Berk exercise studio in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Immediately, Burr noticed that some of her clients’ knees, backs and shoulders were not responding well to the exercises and sought the help of a physical therapist.  Under his guidance she reworked the sculpting exercises so that they would target students’ muscles without impacting their joints. (To read about the health benefits of The Bar Method Exercise Studio’s low impact workout, click here.)

burr leonard|lotte berkDuring the 90s, Burr and Carl opened three more Lotte Berk Method studios in New Canaan, Darien and Westport, Connecticut.   At right, you can see Burr Leonard and Lotte Berk in 1991 when Burr and Carl visited her in London.

At the end of their ten-year license term, the Connectict studios were thriving, but Burr’s  version of The Lotte Berk Method had become so unlike her licensor’s that she and Carl made the decision not to renew.  In 2001, they founded The Bar Method, sold their Connecticut studios and opened their flagship Bar Method exercise studio in San Francisco, California.  Two years later, Burr’s sister Mimi Leonard Fleischman opened the first Los Angeles Bar Method studio in partnership with her husband Mark.

Since then, Carl has retired, and around 70 studios have opened in the U.S. and Canada.  (Click here to find all the Bar Method Exercise Studios.) Burr divides her time between guiding her franchisees and producing Bar Method media products, among them exercise dvds “Change Your Body!”, “Accelerated Workout,” “Super Sculpting” 1 and 2,” “Beginner’s Workout,” and “Dancer’s Body.”  (Click here to sample and buy these Bar Method exercise dvds.)

During the same period that Burr and Carl were opening their first Bar Method studios, other former Lotte Berk Method teachers began to develop their own versions of the technique.  In 2003, Lotte Berk managers Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Haffpapp gathered up eight of their fellow teachers and left to join Exhale Spa, located ten blocks away from their former studio, where they now teach a version of Lotte Berk called Core Fusion.

The departure of so many key teachers caused The Lotte Berk Method itself to fold in 2005.   The next year another off-shoot sprang up when Tanya Becker, a former Lotte Berk Method teacher, became the director of Physique 57, a Lotte Berk-styled studio on West 57th Street.  Other current Lotte Berk Method spin-offs include Pure Barre, Fluidity, Dailey Method, BarrePhysique, Barre3, Karve, PopPhysique, Go Figure, Body Fit, The Debbie Frank Studio, and Bodd.