By Joie Goh

Barre workouts are known to sculpt muscles and improve your posture. But did you know that it can actually aid in recovery and rehabilitation as well? Here, a very special client shares her inspiring story of regaining her strength and form through WeBarre.

A Sudden Stroke

In November 2016, Vanessa Muir suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in the middle of a barre class in London. “I was in side plank at the time, and my supporting leg – the right one – felt strange and kind of numb,” she recalls. “I came out of the pose and started rubbing it, and slowly started to realise it wasn’t responding. That’s when I knew something was horribly wrong.”
Vanessa was thankfully only a 6-minute ambulance ride away from a central London hospital with a hyper-acute stroke ward. Within 45 minutes, she received a CT scan and it showed bleeding in her brain in the area responsible for her right leg. The stroke had also caused partial paralysis in the right side of her body, and left her with diminished dexterity in her right arm.
Vanessa explains stroke recovery as though a ‘new’ part of the brain is slowly starting to take over ‘operations’ for the affected side. “I was trying to learn to move and walk again,” she says. While she eventually managed to regain function in the right side of her body, finer muscle movements were tricky.

Vanessa (right) with her sister, 12 days after her stroke.

First Steps

When Vanessa moved to Singapore for work after the stroke, she sought out a barre studio to continue her fitness journey. “I have a background in ballet and wanted to do the same type of exercises my body was doing before the stroke. I found this helped with recovery, and also made me feel a bit more like myself again,” she says. “However, it’s very hard when you can’t do things the way you used to, and struggling with coordination for the first time in your life!”
Her first barre class was a mere six months after the stroke, and was at WeBarre. “Everyone was lovely, helpful and understanding, and made me feel safe. It certainly helped my recovery, mostly with strengthening my body again. By trying to bring the two sides more in alignment, it helped me feel a little more ‘integrated’,” she says. “The coordination was difficult, and I had to modify a lot, but the more you do something, the better you get at it. And ‘muscle memory’ helps with this too.”
She also adds that being barefoot in the studio was also beneficial, as feeling different textures with the sole of the foot helps give ‘feedback’ to the brain. This can slowly increase sensitivity in the foot again.

Vanessa with former WeBarre instructor, Elisa.

Road to Recovery

Although Vanessa has since returned home to London, she still considers WeBarre a key factor to her rehabilitation. “I have a background in ballet, so I found the workout appealing,” she says. “It’s an all-over body workout that targets each and every muscle group, increasing strength and flexibility. The repetition of movement within an exercise is also helpful – it means you can get in a bit of a flow and really work on technique.”

“But one of the truly best things,” she adds, “Is that no two classes or instructors are the same, which means you are constantly challenged – both mind and body!”

Healthy and happy, Vanessa is living a full life! Here, she is pictured in Sri Lanka at a 3-week yoga retreat.

“There is a lot of understandable misunderstanding around stroke, given the visibility of its physical effects,” Vanessa concludes. “So, whilst it’s true that the affected side needs strengthening, it’s not like coming back from a bone break or muscle injury. The problem is neurological, and it’s really hard re-wiring the brain! It’s exhausting, and yet exhilarating at the same time, as bit by bit, movement comes back. But you can’t control what comes back or when. Patience is so important. And so is not giving up. Ever.”

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