The Lifestyle

Exercise Class as a Microcosm of Your Life

January 19, 2010
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“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.

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