Health & Fitness

By Bahar Takhtehchian

With the popularity of the hit TV show “Dancing With the Stars” who doesn’t want a sexy dancer’s body these days? A new exercise program, Fluidity, goes beyond yoga and Pilates basics and helps develop a dancer’s sleek physique.

In recent years, yoga and Pilates classes have been filled with women coveting the long, lean dancer’s body. Both disciplines have gained popularity because they help develop a person’s “core” and create a state of relaxation, but according to fitness and nutrition expert, Michelle Austin, they’re not always successful in working out the entire body. And traditional weight training and cardiovascular activities at the gym too often isolate and develop specific muscle groups while ignoring others. The result? A disproportionate frame or even worse, bulky muscle formation.

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A former ballet dancer and personal trainer, Michelle spent years developing the Fluidity exercise program to help women achieve an elongated, toned and well-proportioned body while gaining physical strength. Fluidity combines yoga, Pilates, ballet and resistance training principles and works the body’s 600 plus muscles at once. All of the exercises are performed on the Fluidity bar, a free-standing, adjustable bar that resembles a wall-mounted ballet barre.

On a recent weekday night, I decided to enroll in one of Michelle’s packed hour-long classes at the Printing House in downtown Manhattan to see what the buzz was all about. When I first met Michelle, the bubbly fitness guru told me that I looked like I was in “good shape.” I agreed and told her that I was physically active– I try to do a combination of cardio and weight training for a total 45 minutes at least four days a week. I was pretty confident I’d be able to keep up with her. Little did I know.

At the start of the class, each student was asked to grab a Fluidity bar and place it next to a partner. The bars, which were developed by MIT engineers, can be purchased online for home use as well. We began the class by doing a few basic movements that resembled dancers’ warm ups. Having never taken a dance class before, I was a little slow at doing the pirouettes and such, but I followed along as best as I could.

As the class progressed, we focused on working out various body parts: dips and lunges for our backside, push-ups for our triceps and isolated circular movements for our inner thighs. We used the bar to give us balance (for lunges and dips) and to provide resistance when doing biceps and triceps curls. Each exercise required a great deal of poise, balance, concentration and most importantly, determination. I was able to “keep up” with Michelle and the gang for about half of the work out, but quickly realized that my own routine at the gym wasn’t doing enough to help me build a strong frame. I may have looked strong, but I felt so weak!

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Towards the end of the routine, while Michelle and her students were zooming through the final movements, I was so beat my legs starting shaking every time I tried to finish a set of 10. Sure, I wasn’t as sweaty as I would be after a 45 minute run on the treadmill, but I felt like I had really worked out my entire body, which is something I rarely feel when I exercise on my own. Michelle assured me that my inability to keep up with her was normal. Like any exercise routine or class, it takes time to get the body accustomed each of the Fluidity exercises.

Despite my failure to complete the entire class successfully, I would definitely give it another go. The class was challenging and engaging and at the end of the hour, I felt like I had made good use of my time. My body was sore the next day, but as we all know, no pain, no gain.

One hour Fluidity classes are available at New York Health & Racquet, The Printing House, Reebok Sports Club, Bally’s and The JCC. Visit www.fluidity.com for more information.

Originally published December 2006
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