Friday, May 13, 2011

Lotte Berk Method with a Twist: Nalini Method Review

Earlier this week the Nalini method opened the doors of its new location, and, to the delight of fitness enthusiasts all over the city, is offering pay-as-you-want classes for the remainder of the month. Over the years, the Nalini method has held residence at a few west side locations, including a recent, short stint at Pure Yoga West. Its new home is an 18000 square foot space, and is comprised of two studios where its signature class will be conducted. The Nalini method is the brainchild of Rupa Mehta, an MBA graduate who has extensive training in yoga and the Lotte Berk Method. The class is her take on the barre-work intensive Lotte Berk Method albeit with elements taken from pilates, yoga, aerobics, and resistance training. The studio opened for classes this Monday (May 9th) and on hearing that Rupa herself was going to be teaching the Wednesday 930am class, I decided that I could not let this opportunity go by and signed up to take a class.

The studio is located on a quiet stretch of 60th street, close to the west side highway. On approaching the studio, its bright and cheery blue lotus logo is equal parts striking and welcoming.

I went inside and Rupa came up and introduced herself. Her warmth instantly won me over. Prior to class we were told that NBC would be filming our class for an upcoming segment. Had I known, I would have been dressed in something other than the ubiquitous black!

The studio itself is bright, filled with sunlight that is coming through from a large window overlooking 60th Street. Mats were laid out prior to our entering the studio. We were all asked our names, which were written behind each spot at the barre. A lot of props are used in this class but for today's class we were asked to pick up two sets of weights (I opted for 8lbs and 5lbs), a set of ankle weights, and two yoga blocks. We were also handed a smartbell, an oval, curved, weighted disc ergonomically designed to be easily held with both hands.

Outside the studio
Ordinarily when I take a class for the first time, unsure of the format, I avoid being in the front, preferring, instead, the secluded anonymity in the back where I can quietly observe my peers and follow along in their choreography. Thinking Rupa was going to stand at one end of the room, I chose a mat only to subsequently realize that I was in the first row, smack center in the room, inches away from the lens of the NBC camera-man. Thoughts of my uncoordinated flails being broadcast on NBC flashed through my head, but alas, it was too late to choose a different mat as they were claimed exceedingly fast. Since Rupa was teaching it pretty much guaranteed that the class was going to be full!
Inside the studio. Source: Nalini Method
The class started off with the traditional barre class warm up of leg lifts which flowed into arm work (bicep curls, shoulder presses etc) using the heavy weights. We also placed a yoga block between our legs for simultaneous inner thigh work. A good number of repetitions were performed with quick transitions into different arm exercises. I suddenly regretted my decision to use the 8lbs! It did get challenging. I was relieved (believe it or not) when we moved onto the push-up/plank section, however, we were asked to strap on our ankle weights, which we kept on for the remainder of the class. Pelvic tucks were next and the ankle weights provided an extra resistance to this exercise which I greatly enjoyed. We then got up from our supine positions and did plies and lunges, only these plies and lunges were performed while simultaneously holding the smartbell and raising it and lowering it, or pushing it in and out from our chests. Thigh work was done at the barre. I was familiar with the exercises we did such as flat back chair, and parallel legs with high heels. I would have liked more thigh work but I do admit that the addition of the ankle weights provided a different, more challenging sensation.

Source: Nalini Method
We then moved back to our mats for seat work which was performed on all fours and we did numerous bent and straight leg lifts. For the abdominal section we sat in a "curl" position keeping our shoulders off the ground (see picture below), placed our heavy weights on our feet to keep them grounded, and held the smartbell either out in front of us, up above our heads or behind our heads (in increasing order of difficulty) and performed abdominal crunches and contraction holds. This was probably my favorite part of the class. I could really feel my abdomen contracting and I loved how the smartbell added more resistance.

The Curl section. Source: Nalini Method
The class ended with another plank and a stretch. I really enjoyed the class. It was fast-paced, fun and I felt like I got a good workout. I never once got bored and the 60 minutes whizzed by. Rupa's energy and enthusiasm was infectious and permeated through to all of us. She walked around making corrections,and uttering motivating words of encouragement. This particular class had a team of Rupa's instructors (Meghan, Ida and Shannon) assisting her who were equally enthusiastic and helpful in getting us deeper into poses. I would like to try a class with each one of them.

The Good:
1. The instructors: Everyone is so upbeat and enthusiastic that its hard not to get swept up by their energy.
2. Unique: I really liked the props such as the ankle weights and the smartbell. It added another dimension to the already challenging class.
3. Juice bar: While not currently functioning at its full capacity,the juice bar located right outside studio will soon feature juices and organic food, providing a nutritious post-workout snack.

The Not-so-Good:
1. Location: For an east-sider like me, the studio's location is inconvenient to make this a regular part of my workout schedule. Having said that I would like to take a class from time to time.
2. The workout: As I already mentioned I would have liked more thigh work. Normally the thigh section wipes me out in these classes. In this class, I was definitely challenged, especially with the strapped-on ankle weights, but I felt like we could have spent more time here to really feel the burn.

Overall: The Nalini method is a variation of the Lotte Berk method, the class providing its own unique twist with the addition of interesting and unconventional props. The energy of the instructors is infectious and they will make sure you are challenged. I highly recommend it. Definitely try out a class this month-I have already signed up for a few more!


Dori said...

Great review! I love Rupa, her energy and sweetness are just so welcoming. I love the ankle weights. When I've taken Nalini I always felt an intense thigh burn. I wish I was there for the cameras!!!

Mom at the Barre said...

Thanks, Dori. I was really unprepared for the cameras! I believe you about the burn in the thighs. My experience may just have been a function of that particular class.

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