Barcelona has long been a sun-drenched magnet for physical activities, and right now the city is experiencing a resurgence of interest in yoga and pilates. Both techniques are currently undergoing an extensive facelift, with a variety of new methods being created, and the city is awash with professionals promoting awareness of the versatility and dynamism of these practices.
Pilates was invented by the German, Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s, with the objective of strengthening the core muscles, correcting posture and increasing balance coordination. Now, teachers with a strong anatomical knowledge are adapting some of the exercises to avoid certain injuries that can be caused by practising pilates and yoga incorrectly.
Yoga, on the other hand, is often thought of as less of an exercise class and more of a meditation in movement that allows the person to become conscious of their emotive state and to work with their breathing. However, yoga classes actually cover the whole gamut, from relaxing to full body workout. There are many types of yoga on offer in Barcelona; from gentle hatha and flowing vinyasa to the more testing bikram and hot yoga or, definitely not for the faint hearted, power yoga. Some places offer practical sessions focused on body work and others provide a more spiritual approach and include retreats, chakra work and meditation. Both yoga and pilates are widely available in gyms. However, given the large classes and sometimes lack of specific teaching expertise, these are not always good quality; hence the new surge of interest in smaller, specialised studios here in the city. Metropolitan spoke to three professionals who are adapting their expertise to enhance results and better meet clients’ needs.
Ana Avila is an osteopath who works with pilates apparatus at Kinetikstudio. The machines are complex pieces of equipment; one resembles a bed with stretching cords attached. According to Ana, "They are designed to take the typical pilates mat exercises to the next level by adding resistance to the movement." For Ana, investing in these machines was needed in order to practise pilates correctly. She notes that in the last 12 years Barcelona has experienced a major pilates boom that is definitely here to stay. For Ana this is because pilates is a quality technique that yields incredible results.
David Amador and Claudia Almagro Di Marco from ModoVite Studio Pilates y Quiroterapias offer classic pilates instruction which combines apparatus and floor work, as well as osteopathic therapies. They are among the growing number of professionals here who are intent on teaching pilates effectively. David says that pilates is “a very technical sports method, where the correct execution of each exercise is more important than the number of repetitions or sets.’’ David considers osteopathy a very valid complementary treatment to pilates, referring to it as “a philosophy of life. It is the art of science in balance, given that the chemical balance and relationship between our structure (anatomy) and our functions (physiology) are reciprocal”. With this in mind it makes sense that we have come to realise the benefits of combination therapies. Our health largely depends on the good relationship between the different parts and systems of our body.
Jane Dominey at Fisiyoga teaches both yoga and pilates. Highly trained in anatomy, she specialises in pre and post natal practice. In her search for new ways to modernise these techniques, and inspired by her studies of osteopathy and anatomy, she has begun to adapt the traditional yoga and pilates postures in her classes. According to the posture and needs of the individual, she personalises the poses in order to protect the back and the articulations (spinal discs, ligaments and cartilage) from injury. She says that she has seen an increase in people being recommended yoga and pilates by their osteopaths, physiotherapists and doctors.
Jane now offers classes of ‘no risk abdominals’ at her studio. This new method, created by Blandine Calais-Germain, is a safe workout programme, designed to increase core strength whilst avoiding damage to the spine, pelvic floor, diaphragm and internal organs, which can occur with most common abdominal exercises, such as crunches. Jane’s methods are also suitable for pregnant and post natal women and these classes are taught in English. The adaptation of many of the pilates exercises reduce the impact on the pelvic floor and perineum. The benefits of pre and post natal yoga are being widely recognised and in the UK health professionals are calling on the NHS to offer free pregnancy yoga classes to their patients. According to Jane, these types of yoga “work to prepare the body for birth and after birth, and for a healthy sex life". Yoga and pilates are excellent forms of exercise in themselves and there is no shortage of places to learn and practise both techniques in the city.
Barcelona, with its wealth of innovative professionals, has also seen a breakthrough not only in techniques, but in professional outlook and philosophy. Whether you’re looking to relax, achieve optimum health, prepare for childbirth or heal an injury, you can opt for trying one or the other, or to follow the professionals’ lead and combine the physicality of pilates with the emotive nature of yoga.
More information on any of the aforementioned studios:
Ashtanga: A physically demanding practice, Ashtanga was brought to the West in the seventies by Pattabhi Jois. It follows a specific sequence of postures that are synchronised with the breath. It improves circulation, flexibility and stamina.
Bikram: Bikram yoga is a system of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury in the seventies, based on traditional hatha yoga techniques. There are 26 poses that always follow the same sequence. All Bikram classes last 90 minutes and are practised in a 40ºC room. It builds muscular strength, endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and can help with weight loss.
Hatha: Hatha is an easy-to-learn form of yoga that is the foundation of all yoga styles. The classes usually incorporate postures, regulated breathing, meditation and kundalini. Hatha yoga is gentle and often used as a way to relax and create inner calm.
Hot Yoga: Hot yoga classes are held in studios heated to 40ºC. The style differs from bikram and tends to be a flowing vinyasa style of yoga.
Iyengar Yoga: Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar over 60 years ago, Iyengar yoga uses coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other styles of yoga and promote strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. It is effective for people recovering from injury for its slow pace and meticulous attention to detail.
Kundalini: Kundalini concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. As well as postures, a typical kundalini class also includes chanting, meditation and breathing exercises.
Power Yoga: This is a style of ashtanga yoga but pushed a step further. The postures incorporate push-ups, handstands and toe touches and each posture flows into the next, making it a powerful workout.
Vinyasa: Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for “flow”, and vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices which are coordinated with the breath. There is a smooth transition between postures and classes are often carried out to music. This is an intense and physically demanding practice.
Yoga Con Gracia: This studio is located in a former factory in the heart of Gràcia and offers hatha, sivananda, ashtanga, jivamukti and kundalini as well as prenatal, and mother and baby sessions. Ca l'Alegre de Dalt 55, 3a. www.yogacongracia.com
Sarrià Yoga Asana: This studio is located in the heart of Sarrià and offers a wide array of yoga styles including ashtanga mysore, hatha, yoga pilates and postural yoga, and pregnancy and post-natal classes. C/ d'Ivorra 20. www.sarriayoga.cat
BCN Yogashala: Ideal for those who want to practise yoga in a cool, relaxed space. Classes of Hatha Raja yoga, which are dynamic and fun, and adapted to all levels, from beginners to advanced. Pare Laínez 42. www.yogashalabcn.com
Bikram Yoga: This centre is Bikram-certified and has two studios in Barcelona. Pau Claris 97, Pral 2. Caravel·la la Niña 18. www.bikramyoga.es
Happy Yoga: Happy Yoga has four studios in Barcelona with different options, including kundalini and hatha andashtanga classes, as well as prenatal and postnatal. Pelai 52, 3º 2ª. Pujadas 182 bajos. Laforja 118 bajos. Bruc 7. www.happyyoga.com
Yoga Linda: Classes in Yoga Linda combine traditional hatha yoga and vinyasa flow for all levels. This is a “hot yoga” studio, meaning that all classes take place in a studio that is heated to 40ºC. Rosa Sensat 4. www.yogalinda.es
Centre de Ioga Iyengar de Barcelona: This studio is dedicated exclusively to the practise of Iyengar. All the teachers are internationally certified. Portal de l’Àngel 42, 4T B. www.iogabcn.cat
Yoga Body: Yoga Body offers 60-minute classes and a flexible schedule. Practical and comfortable, with a “no incense, no chanting and no gurus” policy. Roger de Flor 118. www.yogabody.es
Studio 180 Barcelona: Offers personalised Pilates classes to small groups or individuals of all abilities, in the quaint surrounding of a former workshop. Nou de la Rambla 180. www.studio180barcelona.com
Symmetry Pilates: Founder and director of Symmetry Pilates Barcelona, Nuria Burgell, started to dance jazz when very young and at 20 became an Aerobics teacher. She has lived in Johannesburg, London and now Barcelona, where she trained in Pilates. She was taught by Michael King, one of the biggest names in Pilates, who was trained under one of the first students of Joseph Pilates himself. Carrer d'Enric Granados 111. http://www.symmetry.cat/nuria-burgell-3/?lang=en
Pilates Las Ramblas: Doina Taylor is British and has undertaken more specialised training in clinical Pilates, which is used to treat specific musculoskeletal problems, such as low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and rehabilitation following injury. La Rambla 74, 2-1. www.pilateslasramblas.com