It’s a beautiful spring day in Frankfurt. The sky is startlingly blue and the sun shines down on Balance Yoga’s flagship studio. The space is so bright and beautiful, in fact, that I actively gasp as I walk in.
Balance Yoga is one of four studios in the Frankfurt area. Today we’re visiting the Inner City studio which shares a building with a complex of banks. This adds an extra element of charm to the space, turning it into a welcome oasis of calm within a corporate business mecca.
Balance Yoga has an open-plan design with windows that span two storeys, meaning the place is flooded with natural light. The studio is home to three practice rooms, expansive changing rooms, saunas, showers, a shop, a cafe and a co-working space. Friends chat over coffee or work on their laptops, soaking up the bright and calming atmosphere. The many luscious plants and floor-to-ceiling windows gives the impression we’re in a botanical garden rather than a yoga studio – but no botanical garden serves coffee this good.
Brigitte is the founder of Balance Yoga. We sit at a beautiful distressed wooden table, munching on peanut butter and banana smoothie bowls as we chat about the business she grew from the ground up. Brigitte is dressed impeccably in an electric blue blazer, white shirt and trousers. She has a calm and collected way of speaking and she talks with warmth and modesty about the beautiful space she has created. “I founded the company in 2003 so we’ve been in business for sixteen years,” she says. “Back then we were the first to offer yoga that was open to everybody. Yoga was still a niche market then.”
Brigitte, originally from Frankfurt, started her career as a banker. “I was quite happy as a banker but then I had kids and had a hard time working a full-time job in such a conservative, male-dominated sector. I wanted to work but I also wanted to be independent and take care of my kids.” When Brigitte realised this would be a challenge in the banking sector she decided to start her own business.
Brigitte fell in love with yoga after practicing it post-pregnancy. “I wanted to find a place to practice yoga regularly – but back then there was just one hour per week in the fitness studio or esoteric places where I didn’t feel welcome in my business suit.” After noticing the power of the yoga movement in the US she decided to open her own studio. “I wanted to open yoga up to a broad variety of people,” she says. “And it was the right idea at the right time.”
Since opening in 2003 Balance Yoga has built a strong, open-minded community of yogis who can flex their muscles in a variety of different styles and classes. “We have Hatha yoga, Yin yoga, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Vinyasa, Pilates and since last December we also have Barre classes.”
Today we’re taking part in a Pilates class. As soon as we step foot in the Pilates room a sense of calm and wellbeing envelopes me. Our teacher today is Maya who’s very presence is soothing, and as we lay out our purple yoga mats and collect our wooden blocks Maya puts on a slow soundtrack of groovy beats. We warm up with some light standing stretches, which feels peaceful and easy. But this is Pilates and the real workout is yet to begin.
Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise but don’t let that fool you – it’s low impact, maximum pain. Pilates strengthens your core, which means we’ll focus on exercises that target our abs, butt, back and chest. All the movements in Pilates are slow and deliberate, giving your muscles a steady and challenging workout.
Today we start with legs. We hold the wooden block over our heads and squat and pulse downwards. This movement requires a lot of strength and flexibility and we have ten rounds of each exercise to complete. By round eight I am ready to collapse. However Maya’s soothing voice and chill soundtrack keeps me motivated. “Don’t forget to breathe,” she says to me – a reminder I need every few seconds.
After more painful variations of leg exercises we lay on our backs and Maya instructs us to place the blocks between our knees. We crunch and pulse upwards for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest; unfortunately no amount of calming music or nice-smelling candles can distract me from this agony.
To target our core further Maya tells us to hold the block over our heads, crunch our arms and legs up simultaneously and bring them slowly back down. “This is called a V Sit,” Maya says. My arms, legs and core are on fire.
Next we work on our balance. Maya guides us through an exercise where we hold a block in one hand and lift the opposite leg. We then lean forward so our chests are parallel to the floor. Maya’s class is full of innovative exercises that target one specific body part. It’s extremely challenging – by the end of the class I am totally exhausted – but it feels good knowing I’ve really worked every core muscle group.
After the class, while resting my weary muscles over a final cup of delicious coffee, I ask Brigitte about the beautiful design of this studio. “We moved into this location 18 months ago,” she tells me. “We were in the neighbourhood but our old building was torn down so we had to move out.” After a long hunt Brigitte finally found this colossal space. She could see the potential but had to think outside the box to make use of all of the extra room. “I wish you could see pictures of what it looked like when we first rented it – it really looked awful,” she laughs. “The floors were black – the ceilings and walls were painted light blue or red or yellow. Everything was made of glass and steel. But I decided to create an urban jungle in here. I bought in plants, lamps, furniture, and it turned out to be really nice. People love it here.”
I look around to see groups of friends chatting and laughing, munching on freshly made plant-based food, the sun shining through the huge windows, and I can really understand why people might feel that way.
If you’d like to try out Balance Yoga, take a look at their website to see what classes are in your area.
And Urban Sports Club has tons of yoga and Pilates partners across Germany. Take a look at our site to see what’s on in your area.