If you’ve ever heard me talk about all the MANY things I love about barre, you know that for me it’s more than just the physical benefits. I love the way that barre has transformed my body, giving me tone, definition and strength like nothing else has and the buzz of the #barrehigh, but it’s so much more than that. As I shared previously, barre has taught me many important life lessons and provides me with ongoing opportunities to develop mental strength and grit. And just recently, I was reminded of exactly how this happens. Last month I read Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself which included research and case studies providing astonishing evidence for the neuroplasticity of our brains. As the author outlines, it was formerly believed that the brain was relatively fixed and that outside of a critical development period in childhood and cognitive decline with age, it does not change. However, as we continue to learn more through experimentation and observation, we have now seen that the actual structure and function of the neural pathways in our brains adapt and adjust given the circumstances that we subject them to and that to which we attend. In other words, we now know that there is physical evidence for the longstanding wisdom related to the power of our thoughts. It goes far beyond any seemingly flippant admonishments of the well-intended proponents of positive thinking – our thoughts DO shape our lives. I wrote previously about Dr. Carol Dweck’s famous work on growth vs. fixed mindsets and recently I’ve been thinking about exactly how barre cultivates a growth mindset.
Dweck argues that although genetics, early experiences and natural tendencies provide a starting point for each of us, “everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” When you adopt a growth mindset, you believe that change is possible, failures are simply setbacks and opportunities for learning, not disasters, and you actively seek out ways to challenge yourself or stretch your limits. Encouraged by Doidge last month in regards to the malleability of our brains, I recently revisited some of Dr. Dweck’s strategies and recommendations and instantly began to consider all the ways that barre cultivates a growth mindset. And not only does barre help to expand your mental attitude for the better, but applying a growth mindset to your barre workout makes it even more effective.
Barre cultivates a growth mindset by increasing your awareness.
Awareness is usually the first step to solving a problem or making a change in almost any area our lives. Dweck argues that first we must become aware of instances in which we are falling into a fixed mindset and take note of how we respond to challenges, obstacles, or mistakes. Barre requires tuning into your body, strengthening the mind-body connection, and becoming more aware in general. It’s a skill which I would definitely argue has improved throughout my many shake sessions and has improved my time spent at the barre and away.
Barre cultivates a growth mindset by presenting you with challenges to be overcome.
Dweck says that eventually we all come to a point when we’ve simply had enough – we get bored, tired, hungry, or mentally stretched, but when we push ourselves through the challenge to work a bit harder or longer, we bolster our growth mindset. Barre involves many such instances and when you dig that little deeper and stick out those final 10, you’re not only reshaping those thighs, but also the neural pathways of your brain. And the even better news, although you get stronger, it never gets easier so you’ll always have new challenges to overcome!
Barre cultivates a growth mindset by providing opportunities for constructive criticism and review.
As I shared just recently, it’s important to make time for review and to listen to the feedback and advice of others if you want to grow. In a group exercise class like barre, you are able to experience the benefits of an enthusiastic instructor’s watchful eye and hands-on corrections or adjustments. Dweck emphasizes the benefits of listening to and learning from an outside opinion or perspective whether that’s to right us where we’ve gone wrong or to provide a different lens to reevaluate our mistakes or trouble spots. As you deepen your understanding of barre technique, you begin to recognize opportunities to work harder and better.
Barre cultivates a growth mindset through a positive environment.
Surrounding yourself with a positive community of others who are invested in their own growth and supportive of yours is key. Dweck says it’s important to understand the power of the words that we use to describe ourselves and our performance. There’s a big difference in telling ourselves “I can’t do this” versus “I can’t do this YET” and the company you keep can definitely shift you in one direction or the other. The barre atmosphere is positive – from the upbeat music, to those happy endorphins, to the inspirational people all around you, each working towards becoming their best version of themselves. Just when you start to think you can’t stick it out a second longer, you look to your left and see your classmate shaking and sweating just as hard and you get that little push to dig deeper. And every time you do, you expand your potential and growth mindset.