Today is Day 14 of my 2 Weeks 2 Wunda Challenge at the new Wundabar Studio in Soho, NYC. It’s been years and years since I felt motivated to dive in with this level of commitment to a new form of exercise – outside of yoga. I regularly try different workouts and change things up in my workout regime, like a spin class here or a session with a private ballet teacher there. But my baseline has always been my yoga practice; I may sometimes dabble away from it, but I always drift back to it with the thought that there’s nothing else I would rather be doing. So everything else has always felt a bit like extraneous filler. Something I felt I should be doing, but not necessarily something I really wanted to be doing or thought was the best thing I could be doing.
After noticing quick physical changes in a fellow mommy-friend of mine after she started
taking Wundabar classes, I became curious. The New York City studio happens to be a few minutes walk from my home, classes are only 45 minutes, and the first class was $10, which would be donated to charity. It was a no brainer.
I walked into my first class with no idea what kind of workout it was going to be. I didn’t know that Wundabar was a hybrid of various types of Pilates. I didn’t know it was uber popular in California, where it started and where, incidentally, I am from as well. I had never heard of low-impact jumping. And, I had no idea that just 5 reps of a precisely aligned and formatted movement could be so tremblingly challenging.
It’s been just over two years since I was suddenly wheeled into an operating room and had emergency cesarian surgery to birth my son, who after 18 hours of active labor, was distressed and in danger, his head turned one way and his body stuck the other way. Two years feels like it should be more than enough time for everything to have healed and for my body to have gone back to how it was before. I feel silly even mentioning it to a teacher or trainer (or educator, as Wundabar teachers are called), as if I’m telling them about a toe I stubbed several months ago. I know a lot of women who’ve had a cesarian go back to their pre-pregnancy workouts and get back into their skinny jeans in a few weeks’ time, so, apparently it is possible, though most doctors would advise to take it easy for the first six months.
For me, the process of healing has been slow, challenging, and confusing. I have been stuck with those dreaded last-ten-pounds, although I didn’t even gain that much weight through pregnancy and I think surely most of it was shed with the birth of my 8-lb baby. I am certain it hasn’t been for lack of effort or discipline on my part. I work out at least six times a week, sweating buckets in hot yoga, spin, TRX, and barre classes. Extreme dieting probably could have worked, but, that goes against my belief in keeping things in balance. So I’ve been trucking along, trying to stay patient, but often feeling stuck and frustrated about why my body didn’t seem to be changing.
What I realized in my first Wundabar class was that there were all these tiny muscles and movements that I hadn’t been accessing. Nearly every single move we did in class was completely new to me. I was instantly super intrigued: What is this Glam Line the educator keeps talking about? Why am I shaking like this? Whoa, what muscle is that?
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I bombarded my first Wundabar educator with questions after class. By what I consider to be divine coincidence, she also had experienced a cesarian birth, so she knows firsthand the deep core disconnection I’m still trying to figure out. I live for these kinds of synchronicities; I take them as signposts or guidance that I’m at an important juncture where learning and growth lie ahead. So I decided to sign up for the 2 Week Challenge: 14 consecutive days of class.
The 2 Week Challenge: 14 consecutive days of class
The day after my first class, going about my day I felt a bit sore, but, nothing major. Then I went to class. Which started with jumps. With my very first jump, I immediately felt my deepest abdominals, which were screaming with soreness – that feels-so-good soreness where you know you’re getting stronger. I didn’t even realize that those low-impact jumps were getting into my core so much.
A few days in, I was looking in the mirror and noticed my jawline and cheekbones looked more defined. My arms looked more streamlined. As I sat down throughout the day, I noticed that my waistline was feeling less oppressive. And I had the thought: Oh my gosh, I’m finally getting my body back.
About a week in, I took my friend’s yoga class. It was the first yoga class I’d taken since I started the challenge, aside from doing my own gentle practice at home. I immediately noticed a difference. My poses felt more solid, my body as a whole felt more switched on. My hops from Down Dog to the top of the mat were catching that moment of air – something that I hadn’t managed to reclaim since having the baby. Tears filled my eyes, tears of relief and gratitude that I actually wasn’t stuck, that healing and strengthening was indeed happening.
I think for me, I needed something brand new for my body to work with, to be that tipping point. A new dialect, new angles of movements, a return to a true beginners mindset. This principle runs through the Wundabar system. When you do a set of movements on one side and then repeat them on the other, the educator often switches up the order of which movement comes first, “to keep your body guessing.” It’s exactly what I’ve been needing.
Here’s what I want to share about Wundabar:
It’s a Pilates class done on a unique WundaFormer, a patented machine that includes a jump board, ballet bar, and Wunda chair. You also use various accessories including the magic circle, weights, theraband, and peanut. I’m not sure what I dread more – having to squeeze the peanut between my thighs or the ring between my ankles. Well, holding the weights up gets pretty tough too. And the band. Basically it’s all challenging, so you won’t be walking away from class thinking you didn’t get your time or money’s worth.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another system that gives you a truly whole-body workout in a deep way (in a quick 45 minutes no less), awakening muscles that are often bypassed. Listen to the educator guide you on where you want to move from and where you don’t want to be feeling the work. For example, there’s a reason they emphasize lifting your heel just an inch off the floor in certain movements. It’ll be the difference of using the deep stabilizing muscles of your core or your inner thighs, areas that are underused, versus just moving from the joint. Or getting really specific about lifting from the pelvic floor rather than defaulting to your quads. This will be the difference between getting the true Wundabar workout versus making random movements that might look impressive from the outside.
The “shake” is gold! At first I was embarrassed that my whole body was vibrating as I hinged back in a Teaser or did Plies with my heels lifted an inch off the floor. Then I noticed that it was happening to educators when they were taking each others’ classes. I realized it meant I was working right where I needed to be working, giving those muscles a chance to get stronger. I love the shake now!
The famous Glam Line that is mentioned multiple times in every class is the line where the top of your thigh meets the bottom of your bottom. I think the secret to the Wundabody is mastering movement from your Glam Line. I’m still working on it.
I’ll be continuing my Wundabar journey (but first, a day – or several – of rest…) as I am loving the changes I’m already seeing but more importantly feeling in my body. It’s the perfect companion to my yoga practice, and a super efficient workout for my time-pressed schedule. Next time you’re in Southern California or NYC, make sure to check out a class.
Words by Leah Kim.
About Leah Kim
Before becoming a yoga guru and devoted mother, Leah Kim found herself in tears daily as she trained to be an accountant. But since taking the leap into yoga teaching, she hasn’t looked back. Leah has been Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador since 2009, travelling the world as their spokesperson and head trainer. She has also started designing yoga programs for the Nike + Training Club app.