BodyART is really one of those classes where you have to experience it to understand it's power and ability to move you, but we thought we'd put the spotlight on this unique movement experience that you can't find anywhere else in the Toronto. Who better to dive into it than our resident BodyART Instructors, Jaclyn and Garnet?
BodyART is a fusion of a few different styles of movement - can you tell us what it’s comprised of and how it came to be?
Jaclyn: BodyART is a combination of strength and awareness exercises (pilates), therapy work and yoga inspired movement. Creator Robert Steinbacher, former dancer and movement therapist, wanted to create something that was helpful to prevent injury and also bridge the gap between body and soul. He combined the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine with exercise training to create what is now bodyART.
Garnet: BodyART training is a holistic movement concept that focuses on functional movement patterns. You will see movements familiar to pilates, yoga, chi gong, animal flow, dance, aerobics, etc. A bodyART class moves through five phases, each related to an element from Traditional Chinese Medicine - arrival is related to Earth, expanding to Wood, circulation to Fire, descending to Metal, and relaxation to Water.
The movements and energy in each section of class is designed to reflect the particular qualities of these elements and thus the natural cycles of the world around us.
Can you explain the Yin and Yang concept associated with bodyART movement?
Jaclyn: Along with the physical training of strengthening and stretching the body, a bodyART class will relax your mind, empower your spirit and leave you feeling completely balanced. The Yin and Yang philosophy creates this balance through a polarity of movement such as expansion and contraction, control and release, hard and soft movements, which are synched with the energy of your inhale and exhales.
Garnet: The concept of yin/yang is at the core of bodyART. We use this as a vehicle to help participants find balance in their body, mind and spirit. By circulating the opposite, yet complementary, energies of yin/yang, we can establish a new dynamic balance which helps to create the space to process whatever it is we need to.
Where is bodyART most popular across the globe?
Jaclyn: bodyART is most popular in Europe, where Robert Steinbacher has spent most of his life sharing this method, but it is starting to create traction in North America.
Garnet: BodyART is currently in 28 different countries and counting. As Jaclyn said, most of the bodyART action happens in central/eastern Europe as Robert is Swiss-German and has built a pretty serious following around Zurich, Munich, and Budapest. There’s also a really strong and growing community in NYC and we’re currently in the process of opening the first official bodyART studio in Manhattan.
What kind of moves can we expect to experience in a class?
Jaclyn: All exercises and positions in a bodyART class will train various muscles of the body at once. It will combine exercises of pilates, yoga, dance and thai chi to gain flexibility, strength and balance.
Garnet: In a bodyART class, you will see movements that are primarily based along the myofascial lines of the body. This approach to training is the secret to what makes bodyART feel so damn good and ensures that the entire body is moving together as a unit, rather than focusing on separate parts.
Are there different approaches to teaching bodyART?
Garnet: Since bodyART is a principle based philosophy, every instructor has the ability to teach in their own unique style within the framework of the concept. This allows our instructors to teach to their strengths while ensuring the participants get complete and balanced workout. There are over 30 different bodyART concept classes that each have a specific focus. They range from bodyART Flow - slow and steady, based on activating and stretching the meridian lines of the body - to deepWORK - fast and intense, burning the yang energy to create space for the yin.
Will you work up a sweat?
Jaclyn: Yes! The deepWORK section embodies the element of fire. It incorporates elements of dance and dynamic flowing sequences that build heat in the body. The rhythmic movement encourages you to step up to your edge, stay centred in your own body and move without inhibitions.
Garnet: Absolutely. The bodyART approach to training ignites the internal fire and heats the body from the inside out. It is like wringing out all your tissues and organs and sweating/breathing out all the stagnation that builds up in daily life.
What kind of music is paired with bodyART?
Jaclyn: The music is inspired by the tone and feel of each section of the class. For the most part the music has a steady beat to connect and move to, and very little lyrics, like that of House music.
Garnet: You’ll definitely hear some killer beats in a bodyART class, but we like to say that “BMP” stands for “Breaths Per Movement.” It is always more important to follow the internal rhythm of your own breath than to try to keep up with an external beat of the music.
What is it about bodyART that you fell in love with?
Jaclyn: I found bodyART at a time when I was craving different movement in my practice. My body and spirit instantly connected with the creativity of this class. It is so unique and complex, because each exercise trains multiple body parts, and so, requires extreme focus to be performed with as much benefit as possible. When I’m concentrated on my body in this way, there are no distractions, no thoughts, just the feeling of flow. I’ve found that moving without inhibition, in this way, creates a release in my body, that I didn’t even know I needed. The result is a lightness, a clarity and a confidence that is like nothing else I’ve tried.
Garnet: What I fell in love about bodyART was the feeling of release. The feeling that I get from letting go of tension that I didn’t even know i was holding is something that I don’t find anywhere else. Because the movements in bodyART are all based on functional patterns, everything feels natural and logical to me. This means that I’m able to just focus internally and let everything else around me go. The reward of stillness after a expending all that yang energy is so delicious. I always have the best mediations after a bodyART class.
Any famous examples of BodyART we should reference? (on YouTube for example)
Jaclyn: Yes – here's a great bodyART trailer.
If you were to give bodyART 3 human characteristics, what would they be?
Jaclyn: Subtle, detailed, dramatic.
Garnet: Informed, nonjudgmental, dramatic
How would you compare bodyART to contemporary dance?
Jaclyn: Some of the shapes we make and movements we do in bodyART resemble that of modern dance: curving of the pelvis, hollowing the chest, swinging of the torso and arms, head rolls, and sometimes a little bit of drama can be found in both!
Garnet: There are lots of movements in a bodyART class that are reminiscent of different styles of dance. We make a lot of swinging movements that you’d find in a contemporary/modern class. There are some Martha Graham qualities that inspire some of the exercises we do. The emphasis on repetition of breath and movement can have a bit of tribal feel to it.
What kind of emotions get conjured up in a bodyART class?
Jaclyn: My hope is to hold space for students to feel comfortable enough to release any built up emotions they have. Once we’ve moved dynamically, warmed up, and pushed our physical limits beyond what we thought was possible, you’re likely ready to let go of anything you’ve been holding on to if it’s not in alignment with what’s in your heart.
Garnet: The whole spectrum of emotions can play out in a class. We store so much of our emotional baggage in our bodies that it can be hard to access without the right tools or openings. By challenging the myofascial structures of the body and shifting the focus onto the information coming from the body to the brain, we can access emotions and memories that have been buried under years of tension and habits. Sometimes this release comes in shape of laughter, anger, sadness, etc. What’s important for me is that we just allow the body to process whatever it needs to without expectations or judgments.
Anything else you’d like to add about BodyART?
Jaclyn: Nothing feels quite like the bodyART movement experience. Overall, it’s a hard class to describe, so I encourage everyone to just try it!
Garnet: BodyART is so much more than a series of exercises or a class format. It is its own complete method, philosophy and concept. The message of bodyART is about living your best life in a positive, honest and open way, free of judgement on yourself and others. The global community of bodyART Warriors is made up of so many seriously amazing people from all walks of life. If you really allow yourself to go beyond the physical impact of bodyART and embrace it on an emotional level, it will change your life.
Intrigued? As Jaclyn said, you just have to try it for yourself. BodyART is offered every Wednesday at 6:30pm – head to the schedule to see who's teaching!