Core Fusion Barre is Exhale’s original fitness class and it is a relaxed, zen take on the barre exercise genre. This was an open level class for a small group on a Sunday afternoon, and we really liked the relaxing vibe. Exhale’s Upper East Side spot covers a huge area on the second floor of an office building and the fact that it’s removed from the hustle and bustle of the street makes a big difference. Instructor Emily led us through a good toning workout that felt primarily focused on glute strength, though it left us missing the chance to get a little sweatier. We’ll return to the Upper East Side for sure.
The Exhale Core Fusion Barre class requires different props in each of the classes we’ve been to. In this case, it was a set of weights and a green stretchy band to go over our thighs. As with other Exhale classes, we saw people take surprisingly heavy 6- and 7-pound weights. Emily, our instructor, asked us to come to the middle of the carpeted floor and began with some standard knee lifts. We were just realizing how tight our hip flexors were when it was time to move from standing warm-up into plank runs. Oh no, was this just going to be like our barre cardio classes? Mercifully, we only stayed in plank for three minutes or so and then it was on to arm weights and exercises.
Arms at Exhale is usually short but intense, and Emily’s class was no exception, beginning with triceps kickbacks with the eight-pound weights we’d chosen and then transitioning into lat rows and alternating biceps curls. We got back down on the ground for pushups and tricep dips and all of us in class were shaking a bit after just a few minutes. We then got up and stretched our hamstrings and hip flexors (ahhhh) at the barre in anticipation of our legs series.
Thighs and glutes were the bulk of this class, and we felt it was a well thought out series. We started using a green playground ball between our thighs and did a number of small pulses, creating a good thigh burn, then branched out into calf raises and toe taps facing towards the middle of the room. Thighs also included a water ski position that had us bending backward almost till our bums were on the ground, which made it impossible to get up again but only in a good way. The glutes section was split into a round back chair pose that also worked our lats and arms, then an extended fold over series and then finally a number of clamshells on the ground. We flowed smoothly from the barre portion to abs, which started with some flat back exercises against the wall. We raised and lowered our toes and dragged our feet inwards so that our obliques and upper abs were working. Class was rounded off with a set of bridge exercises and then we were set free to continue on our Sunday evening.
Emily Royston is an enthusiastic instructor who brought good, low key energy to this Sunday evening class. She passed our first test for a good instructor: she explained the flow of class to any newcomers and introduced herself, asking if anyone needed modifications. The class was small enough that she could provide hands-on corrections to our positioning, which we also appreciated. Emily gave directions that were a little rushed and mumbled sometimes, and confused right with left on a couple of instances, but her music was the right tempo for this class – some slowed down Top 40 and interesting remixes that we enjoyed. We were left feeling like she plans a great class and is most of the way there on the execution. We hope that as Emily gets more classes under her belt, she continues to provide excellent hands-on direction and plans out the flow of her class, while honing the clarity of her vocal instruction.
Exhale’s Upper East Side studio is huge and we loved it. There are three studios with ample room to spread out, all of which have soft carpeted floors, barres at varying heights for short people like us, and plenty of props. The boutique area is large and more focused on spa accoutrements (lotions, candles, etc) rather than exercise attire like in other studios. The locker room was also large and well stocked and a great haven for before or after a barre class or a massage, with a steam room and four showers. There are razors, deodorant, white tea and orange-scented bath and body products and – this earned a million points in our book – heated towel racks. This might be our favorite Exhale location.
980 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10075 Upper East Side Barre $$$$
Exhale Upper East Side
Upper East Side Barre, $$$$
980 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10075
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This class consisted of five stations, each repeated twice, and then a brief abs section. The stations all had relatively simple directions which made it easy to get engaged and sweaty quickly. We were grateful for that! The stations were as follows: gliders, where we alternated skater lunges and sliding pushups on just one foot at a time; TRX, where we did single leg, dumbbell weighted squats and one pull movement that targeted our obliques; plyos, where we did traveling pushups and burpees over a box and then a -leg skater jump onto that box; core balls, where we alternated between Russian twists and a bicep curl/lunge compound movement; and finally, a “heavy weights” station, where we mostly used 10-pound dumbbells to alternate between a kneeling row and a clean and jerk.
The first time around, we stayed in each station for about five minutes, repeating the two different exercises for 40 seconds at a time. The second rotation around the room went by even faster, with a quick break in between each of the stations for some dynamic stretching and planks, all led by Bergen. The last ten minutes of class were devoted to abs on the floor, which were centered around a c-curve ab position and then some oblique crunches.
You know you’re in for a good workout when you recognize four different Exhale teachers who have come to take Bergen’s class. It’s clear she has earned this respect from her fellow teachers, and the die-hard following that make it so difficult to sign up for this class. She ran class with the efficiency of a drill sergeant, explaining all the stations very quickly at the beginning of class and then running around touching up people’s technique as we went through the stations. She is also responsible for the programming of each HIIT workout at Exhale, so we give her credit for developing stations that complement each other, leading to a great overall burn for legs, abs, and arms alike. We loved the top 40 remixes and mashups that Bergen picked as well and would love to take her class again.
This class is half cardio and half barre, focused around sun salutation-like intervals beginning with plank runs (aka mountain climbers) and plank jumping jacks, then progressing to downward dog through to single leg lunges. This first sequence always burns out the shoulders and helps us feel like we’ve done a week’s worth of planking in five minutes. Between these ab-focused sequences, the cardio section of class included four different intervals with kickboxing moves. We used hand weights to add difficulty to various punches, from a cross to a hook, and also did a few kicking sequences that left us feeling glad we’d brought our sneakers (which are optional in this class).
The second half of the class is performed at the barre and is generally a little more relaxing than the first section. On this particular day, though, we did a lot of chair pose to burn out our glutes, and we were guessing by the facial expressions of those around us that other people were finding it just as difficult. By the third time we changed positions in chair, we were ready to lie down on the floor and call it quits for the day. Instead, Nicole led us through ab exercises, focused around a c-curve hold position and including some Russian twists to round out the class before we all earned our five minutes in savasana at the end.
Nicole is a great instructor who always participates in basically the entire class sequence and manages to give direction at the same time, which we find impressive. She is always asking for more from those who attend her class and providing modifications, whether to make the workout harder or to make it easier for those with injuries. Nicole also takes the time to get to know those who attend class by name and checks in with people midway through class to make sure we’re all getting as much as we can out of it. Nicole seems really nice and like the kind of instructor we’d love to hang out with outside of class.
Micaela led a solid, even, well-paced class, which was heavy on barre work for our thighs and butt. We really liked the flow and felt we were never stuck in a position that was too crazy impossible for very long. We started with a floor warm-up, consisting of marches and planks. Micaela recommended heavier weights than we’re used to (five- and seven-pound dumbbells) for the short weights section, and focused on the triceps. From there, we moved on to the barre section and thighs, with two types of chair right after one another. The first butt exercise was foldover, after Micaela gave us ample time to stretch our legs out. We concluded the glutes section with new-to-us moves on the floor: leg lifts and kicks from an all-fours position which helped wake up our obliques again. We moved naturally from there into an abs section that we also thought was excellent. It included long curl and then c-curve hold positions before going back to the barre to conclude with some straight-backed ab exercises for the lower abs. Class went by very fast!
We really liked Micaela’s no-fuss instruction. She gave explanations for moves that were short, direct, and to the point, and led the whole class as if it were somewhere between a yoga flow and a dance class, flowing seamlessly from one section to the next. She kept us on track and on the beat for 55 minutes and still managed to come around and focus on individual technique. Best of all, her music for this particular class seemed like a handpicked selection from 2011, heavy on the Nicki Minaj.