Yoga and barre are like peanut butter and jelly. Some prefer one to the other, but it’s often the two are found close together in fitness offering lists. When practiced together, they are great complements to one another, with barre strengthening the muscles that yoga helps elongate.
A common trend in yoga studios across the nation is incorporating barre programs into class schedules. Andrea Lucas, the owner of Barre & Soul, a barre studio company with five locations in Boston, Massachusetts, explained that when done right, barre can be a great addition to a yoga studio’s offerings.
One of the key components to any fitness class’ success is the instructor teaching it. They are the brains making your vision become a reality, so it is important they are educating and challenging your clients correctly.
“Studio owners should know that, unlike yoga, there really is no governing body to barre,” said Lucas. “If someone says they are certified, that can mean a lot or very little. There are some reputable organizations that are putting out barre certifications, which while they may be safe, might not be in any way related to the authentic barre practice started by Lotte Berk, the founder of the barre method.”
Because there is no governing body to the barre method, it makes it all the more important to educate yourself on what to look for when evaluating potential instructors. If a teacher presents you with a barre training certificate, there are a few things you can immediately evaluate.
“First off, look at how many hours the training was,” said Lucas. “If it was a couple hours or a day or two, it is not authentic. Ideally, they will have been trained for at least 100 hours. Go to the website of the certifying body and find out as much as you can about that specific training. Also, trace the lineage of the training and see if it goes back to the Lotte Berk method in some way.”
If all of these credentials seem legit and pass your approval, the next step would be to take a mock class from the potential instructor. Key things to be on the look out for are anatomical cues and safe alignments, but also a challenging class.
“If students at a studio are interested in barre they probably want a hard class, which means they expect a good workout,” said Lucas. “If the studio owner doesn’t find the class challenging and hard, then the class probably won’t be popular. I always say to my trainees, the worst thing they could do, obviously other than having someone get injured in the class, is to not kick their butts.”
Once the instructors are established, then comes the time to add it to your schedule. But with existing yoga classes it can be hard to find the right time to fit a barre class in. One strategy to gauge interest in your students is to offer pop-up classes or a workshop based on the barre method.
Using free-standing barres during the workshop will help you evaluate if this is an offering your clients would enjoy, before you make the investment and commitment to install wall-mounted barres around your studio.
“Be prepared for students to be a little resistant to change,” said Lucas. “Students get very nervous when things change, especially if they start to suspect barre is taking away a time slot for yoga. If you intend to still be a yoga studio first, lead with that in marketing, and present barre as a supplement to the program. Use words like ‘beginner-friendly classes’ to have it feel inclusive. If your yoga teachers are able to teach barre, that’s a really great way to encourage students to cross over and try it.”
If the workshops or pop-up classes become a success over time, barre may become a new offering to put on your schedule. However, Lucas advised recognizing that it will be a commitment, as installing the barres in your studio room requires a bit of construction and a loss of floor space.
“Be aware that, depending on which brackets you use, the barres will protrude into the space,” said Lucas. “Also make the commitment to use the right type of brackets. Standard railing brackets found at hardware stores don’t necessarily stand the test of time due to the pulling motion found in barre classes. I use a company called Alvas for my brackets. It is very heavy duty, well-constructed and sturdy. That being said, those brackets protrude six inches. So, you have a six-inch bracket plus the barre — and you have that on two walls — so you are losing a lot of floor space for mats. That is something to really keep in mind.”
While barre is a commitment to your studio, it can be a great revenue stream and a good way to bring in a new type of clientele, or give your current students a new offering. “When I added barre to my first yoga studio, the first thing I did was get free-standing barres and did special workshops once a week,” said Lucas. “Once those classes were sold out, I went into putting barres into the wall and it has been a success ever since.”