BarreAmped Teacher Training at Samahita Retreat, Koh Samui with BarreAmped Master Trainers, Karen and Jess. My first ever retreat – with lots of sweet fellow barrerinas. Such good timing – when I signed up for this in the early spring, I had no idea I’d be leaving Asia and my daily practice at Barre2Barre a mere month after the course, which makes it such a sweet way to say goodbye to this, the initial, part of my barre journey. Other than keeping my journal here, calling Sanoop and my parents on a semi-daily basis and taking photos, I keep the week free of digital elements. The days are packed full of good stuff – it’s a perfect getaway right now; together with a holiday in Spain in two weeks, this is a great pause between the two jobs, and whether or not I actually pass the exams and get the certificate is less vital than the course itself; self-care and -growth featuring one of my favourites hobbies. The past 4 months have been all about performance – and the ‘test result’ in that context, the outcome of the job application, would result in either major changes to our lives or a huge disappointment, something big to deal with either way, whereas in this situation, I care more about the learning process and the barre community feel and the retreat situation itself than the actual assessment – if I really want to teach, I’ll get there; but for now, the focus is on immersing myself in the process, and then to focus all of my attention on moving and on the new job. Then perhaps sometime in the new year, if it makes sense, I might do a barre teacher apprenticeship. For now, I am excited and grateful that this is happening. Flying off alone to a tropical island. The opportunity to gain a deeper insight into and awareness the workings of the BarreAmped method, which I find so easy to love so much even if it makes me shake and ache, not to speak of my own body, physique and anatomy and those of others. In the company of prima barrerinas from all over the world, but mainly Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore. In a blissful, wholesome tropical eco setting with natural, vegan, msg- and refined sugar-free food, a salt water pool and ocean view. Intense and intensive programme from 7:30am to 9pm daily, conducted in an idyllic wooden yoga studio on the beach: exercise classes, lectures on form and alignment principles of BarreAmped, anatomy overview, exercises dissection, pre- and post-natal and injury modifications, class framework and formatting, teaching skills, practice and code of conduct, co-teaching…. A full body workout with traits from pilates, yoga and dance, BarreAmped is all about small, precise, mindful muscle engagements and movements, contractions within contractions, with isometric holds, to really feel a burn, shake and effect in all of the right places, i.e. create long, lean and strong features whilst protecting joints and supporting a good posture. Having happily practised it for 2 years, I like to think that I always come to class with a focussed mind, carefully observing myself and each of the teachers, their different styles and cues, their words of encouragement, adjustments and troubleshooting. In this short week, though, I learn so much more, especially the vast difference between being a (passive) student and assuming the perspective of a teacher – and what it means that every body is different. And how much I still slouch although I’ve been thinking about keeping a neutral spine for so long – it’s all a process. Barre has always been a sanctuary for me: the good energy in the Barre2Barre studio, the lovely community, the nurturing attention to detail, taking classes at other boutique studios when travelling. When at night, Sanoop asks me what my favourite moment of the day was, something barre-related often comes in as number one; I’ve brought countless friends visiting from overseas to classes and loved to see how they found it both challenging and invigorating; I’ve felt the positive effect on my own body and mind. The only other types of physical movement I really feel attracted to are running, swimming and yoga, partly because they allow me to completely switch off and focus on my breathing. Now, in order for barre to really feel satisfying, some cerebral effort is needed. Until this week, I never quite understood how much, haha. The week’s rhythm: sunrise swims off the wide, white beach; physically and mentally exhausting and stimulating work all day; new friendships made through pea butterfly juice, endless amounts of raw veggies, sweat and laughter with a bunch of girls exuding good vibes – everyone is super present and open, and it’s interesting to experience our different dynamics coming together, our different motivations for being here, whether solely personal or also professional, and our different stages of progression, of fatigue kicking in, of needing some time alone to process, of connecting and supporting each other. Some of my favourite moments are when Karen teaches a Fire class, Hayley and Jess teach Bootcamp classes, Denise teaches a Barre Yoga class and Ali teaches a TRX class… yes, there are the wooden yoga shalas, the beach and ocean view, the palm leaves lining our little oasis rustling in the fresh salty breeze… but truly special about the classes is the radiant, vibrant, focussed energy emanating from everyone during the exercises and the teachers’ spot-on observant cues and heartfelt encouragements… that’s what’s addictive. I feel so grateful to Barre2Barre and its passionate, talented, creative and attentive founders and teachers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, each of whom has taught me a lot through sweaty, stretchy, super aligned, physically and mentally challenging, releve-balancing, hamstring-activating, quad-burning, glute-firing, hip-dancing, core-shaking, shoulder-chiselling, arm-quivering, posture-enhancing, mind-and-body-connecting, energising, fun and loving morning, noon and evening classes over the past 2 years – helped me stay fit in multiple senses, made injury recovery a breezy, enjoyable affair and welcomed me into an inspirational community of wellbeing, creativity, friendship and general good vibes.
Birthday. As it’s my 31st birthday on the final day of the course, I treat myself to an hour-long Thai massage after finalising the 1-hour written and FOUR-hour (!!!!) long practical exam during which I wore the most beautiful new Nimble leggings, gifted to my by Sanoop. I don’t know it at the time, but I do pass. Which, despite my grandiose words above, I am thrilled to find out, haha. After the massage and a long, hot shower, I meet the other girls for a celebratory dinner at a fancy resort on the other side of the island. When I arrive back in Singapore around noon the following day, the 29th, and open the door to the flat, I find Sanoop smiling radiantly behind the biggest, most beautiful bouquet of all of my favourite tropical flowers – plus a pale blue hydrangea, probably from Holland, my most top favourite flower. So, so happy to see him. And he looks so, so happy to see me, haha. We take a walk in the neighbourhood, picking up chocolate sorbet from Tiann’s, which I’ve saved as a birthday treat for months, and meander around the neat little circular park they’ve made in front of the Highline while I’ve been away. It’s full of kids playing, adults reading and meditating on those adorable rocking benches, birds chirping. So neat! After a – pretty short due to all of the birthday adrenaline my childish self is capable of producing even at 31 years of age – nap, I shower, put on another gift from Sanoop, a beautiful dress from Our Second Nature, and then we head to Dempsey to check out my favourite gallery, REDSEA, and dine at Como Cuisine – where a surprise ‘cake’ appears after the delicious vegan dishes we share: mango carpaccio with pandan leaves and coconut ice cream. Yum!
Sunday. Slow morning at home, just the two of us – and lots of homemade chai. Lunch and garden wander at Bollywood Veggies with a group of friends, followed by a longer hike through Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, two such lush, wonderful experiences – Singapore has some pretty amazing natural sites! In the evening, we meet some other friends for dinner at the Tiong Bahru Market, followed by a short walk up to Creamier for ice cream. Pure bliss! I feel as absolutely physically exhausted and mentally refreshed as you typically do after a ski trip. It’s one of the best feeling combos in the world.