Both barre ballet and Bikram yoga help improve flexibility.
When it comes to exercises that lengthen muscles, improve core strength and sculpt a lean body, Bikram yoga and barre ballet classes fit the bill. If you fondly recall the plies and arabesques of childhood dance classes, barre will feel like an old friend. If you feel too clumsy to dance but think you can hang in a very hot, very humid room for 90 minutes, Bikram could be your dream workout.
Barre Ballet Basics
Barre classes at gyms and dance studios go by different names, but they have ballet moves in common. Participants go through traditional barre exercises designed to strengthen the core, flatten the abdominals, tone the arms and sculpt the muscles in the back and legs. Other barre classes combine ballet exercises with Pilates, boxing and weight training. Depending on the cardio component of the class, you can burn 500 or more calories in a one-hour session. You won't become a ballerina in barre class, but you'll stretch and tone like one.
Bikram Yoga Basics
Bikram yoga, the brainchild of Bikram Choudhury, originated the hot yoga craze in the United States. A Bikram class consists of 26 poses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind the heated room is that not only does it help your muscles stretch, but it also purifies your body by releasing toxins. Just staying in the room, Bikram says, develops discipline. Whether you agree with the need to sweat or not, there's no denying the fact that Bikram yoga changes bodies. Some proponents claim it's possible to burn 1,000 calories in a 90-minute class, but Martica Henner writes in an article for MSN Fitness that the calorie burn may be closer to 300.
Injuries are possible in any fitness program, but Bikram yoga has one dangerous flaw -- in a hot, humid room, you might overstretch a muscle without realizing it. Bikram teachers might encourage students to practice through the pain, a mind-over-body approach that isn't always good advice. In barre classes, the same danger of overstretching exists, particularly if you haven't warmed up first. Competition is, unfortunately, a part of group exercise classes, and it can be tempting to try to stretch as deeply as the person beside you. The best way to make Bikram or barre classes safer is to be mindful of your own body's limits at all times. Take as much time as you need to develop the strength required to do an exercise correctly.
The Best Workout for You
Choosing between barre and Bikram requires evaluating your fitness goals. If you want to gain flexibility, either class will work. If you want to lose weight, barre may be better. If you want to develop mental and spiritual discipline alongside physical discipline, you'll probably prefer Bikram. If done correctly, yoga can help relieve pain, so if you're recovering from an injury, give Bikram a go -- slowly and cautiously, of course. Barre helps build serious core strength, while Bikram builds serious endurance. If all these benefits sound good, try both classes and find the one you connect with.