Back in December, at the Dunfermline Quarterly Workshop, the intensity of Body Balance release 63 blew me away. The room we were in simmered with heat, mirrors clouded up and everyone slid around on the swampy floor. But we all put great effort in and felt the effect on our muscles the following day.
Having spent the Christmas holidays learning this release, it’s been an absolute joy to launch it to my classes in early 2014. I’ve received amazing feedback from my participants. Everyone loves the moves, the music and the effect this release is having on their bodies. Yes it’s tough. Yes it’s painful. But it gets results. Groans are always accompanied by smiling faces.
So let’s have a look at the tracks.
Tai Chi Warm Up (Insane): This is a short simple Tai Chi Warmup with two sequences. A lovely figure 8 arm swinging sequence which warms up the legs as we shift the body weight from side to side. And another sequence involving a circular arm movement with a bird’s tail and snake lunge sideways.
I like the music although it seems it’s about somebody going insane which might not actually fit with the calmness this track should invoke, but it is at the same time strangely haunting.
Sun Salutations (Breathing): Now the hard work starts. Normally in a Body Balance Sun Salutation, each sequence includes a move from downward facing dog into high plank, followed by low plank, followed by upward facing dog, followed by downward facing dog. In this track we complete this Vinyassa twice in each sequence. By the end of four rounds of Sun Salutations our shoulders and arms are burning with the effort. We are all warm and already feeling fatigued. Everyone knows by this point that they face a challenging class.
Standing Strength (Only You): This chart topping song by Ellie Goulding provides an immense challenge very early in this Body Balance release. We hear the song twice once for the right side of the body and once for the left. We are working our legs for just short of nine minutes.
Within that time we have three rounds of Warrior 2 pose, three-legged downward dogs, Extended Warrior pose and Sun Warrior pose plus a very low crouching animal pose which burns the inner thighs. The first time I taught this track my class thought that I had messed up the choreography by not changing to the left leg halfway through the song. Of course they realised once we got to the end of the song that the left side was going to be the entire song played through yet again.
This is possibly one of the most challenging standing strength tracks we have had a very long time. It invokes memories of God’s Top 10 from release 33.
Balance (Skinny Love): After challenging our legs in that standing strength track, it’s only fair that the balance track is short. Here is a beautiful piece of music called “Skinny Love” and a new yoga pose called Divers. You have to trust yourself that you are not going to fall forward in this new pose but the stretch it creates up the back of the legs, in the calves and the hamstrings is exquisite. I also love the variation of Dancers Pose. Very short but certainly very sweet
Hip openers (Open): Finally we get to sit down on the floor and progress view through some beautiful hip opening moves. Seated star pose, modified half lotus and a simple series of hip stretches set to another beautiful piece of music with a very appropriate title.
Core abdominals (Gone Gone Gone): I remember this one from the Quarterly Workshop and remember how tough it was in that very sweaty room. It’s a relentless abdominal track starting in a plank and finishing on our backs with Pilates hundreds. It never lets up but carries us through it by a very catchy tune. Another relatively short track it does its work creating massive fires burning in the abdominal muscles.
Core Back (True Love): Starting in Horse Stance with hands under shoulders and knees under hips, we do a Scorpion tricep push-up. This is difficult enough on our knees. For those who choose the “on their toes” option, it represents an even tougher challenge. After a modified camel pose we’re down on the floor for some back work. This is a bizarre variation of breaststroke. By the end of the track my participants are groaning and judging by the sweat on the faces this track is also delivering results.
Twists (Beneath your Beautiful): A very beautiful twist track with only two poses. Twisted lunge and twisted intense pose. However musically this is possibly the standout track of Body Balance release 63.
Forward bends and Hamstrings Part One (Young and Beautiful): In this track we have what I would call the “dodgy” pose for this release of Body Balance. We start in a three-legged downward facing dog then attempt to flip that downward facing dog into either a tabletop pose or a full back bend.
This is a very challenging advanced yoga pose. It is vital to build up to this gradually over a few weeks. At the start I am only offering my participants the three-legged dog option. Not many people can flip over to fall back bend. In fact not many people can flip over to tabletop pose. In fact I can’t recall many types of yoga where I’ve seen this move performed other than Baron Baptiste Power yoga in the USA.
Forward Bends and Hamstrings Part Two (Blue Ocean Floor): This very long and seductive song by Justin Timberlake lasting nearly 8 minutes. It takes us slowly into our relaxation and meditation. We have plenty of time to experience seated twists, seated forward bends and finally Happy Baby pose what a beautiful and relaxing way to finish the energetic parts of this Body Balance release.
Relaxation/meditation (Caelum Meun): After that powerful series of strength, flexibility and stretching exercises we finally spend a few moments trying to relax the body and slow the breath. This beautiful piece of piano music soothes us and eases as back to a calmness.
Once again Diana and Jackie Mills have produced a very challenging very beautiful Body Balance class combining moves which flow perfectly together with a truly stunning collection of music. All my participants have given me extremely positive feedback and I expect this release will remain popular throughout the entire three months.
Now it’s Your Turn: Do you agree with my review of Les Mills Body Balance release 63? Are you a participant? Is this the hardest Body Balance class yet? Are you an instructor? How are you coping with the Downward Dog Flip? Please share your views or post a link to your own review.