I’m having a love affair with Houston. I’m so pleasantly surprised by how much greatness and generosity is here in this fantastic city. At the very center of all this is DEFINE: body & mind, where I am currently having a personal exercise revolution. That sounds a little dramatic, right? But it’s true. Read on.
When I found out we were leaving California, my two concerns were 1) would I find a barre class and community that I loved as much as The Dailey Method, and 2) where would I find local, organic foods that became part of our everyday lifestyle in the Bay Area.
Enter DEFINE. I knew I’d like it since it was recommended to me by my friend and the owner of my Bay Area barre class, Susan, so I went into DEFINE within two days of arriving in Houston to take my first class. DEFINE is the vision of Henry Richardson and his genuine, kind, and positive energy shines in every corner of the seven studios. There is a distant vibe the moment you walk into the studios – it’s a perfect blend of energy and peace. The spaces are decorated in a shabby-chic meets clean modern style. In addition to the small retail area, they sell local cleanse juices, and have two rooms, one for the Body classes, and one for the indoor spin class. Everything just feels clean, calm, and good. Susan was right, I loved it here.
1) Variety of Classes
DEFINE offers several types of classes so you can find what is the best fit for your body, your schedule, and your overall balance. I’m kind of a one trick pony when it comes to exercise. I go through phases, and when one thing works for me, I stick with it. DEFINE opened my mind and practice to include Revolution and Yoga and I started mixing up my routine, gaining strength, balance, and courage.
Body: 60 minutes of high energy ballet barre (combo of Pilates, yoga, ballet, and core strengthening) to target all the major muscle groups in the body. If you’ve taken barre classes at other studios, you will feel most comfortable in Body, although the pace and the flow is quick (meaning higher heart rate and more sweat for me). The only equipment you use is a yoga strap, light hand weights, a ball, and of course, sticky socks. I try to take at least three Body classes a week.
Revolution: Or “Rev” as the locals call it. This is a spin class like no other. It’s an intense full body workout all on the bike, including abdominals and arms, and you can expect to leave dripping with sweat. Many of the women and men who take Rev described it as a dance party on a bike, and since I never miss a dance party, I finally mustered up the courage to try a class. This was my first spin class ever, and since I’m not a biker, I needed assistance adjusting my bike and even getting my bike shoes clipped in to the pedals. The rhythm based choreography in Rev is pretty involved and requires a lot of core strength, and my first class was humbling, to say the least. Let’s just say that despite the fact I lost a shoe and almost fell off my bike (so much so that Henry got down off his teaching platform to check on me, OMG) that I’ve been back at least once a week since my first class. I’m definitely getting better at the class – I’m learning to trust myself, find the beat, a sense of ease, and just go with it. Rev offers a new challenge for me, and I really love the intensity of the workout.
Yoga: I’ve done quite a bit yoga over the years, but the flow at DEFINE is really special. I was incredibly sore for several days after my first Yoga class with Erin (she’s amazing: take her class!) especially in my obliques and outer hip areas. It’s completely full body and the intensity increases as the flow builds. I’ve started to take one yoga class a week, and I’m finding that the extra focus on length and breath is exactly what I need.
Mind: This class is described as a soothing 60 minute class focused on gaining flexibility, refreshing the body, and calming the mind. So anyone who knows me in real life will say, “It calms the mind? Sign up for this class now!” I haven’t yet experienced a Mind class, but when I do, I’ll be sure to report back.
Kids: This is a new program that DEFINE is rolling out and I can’t wait to learn more and bring my boys. I think it’s very important for children to see their parents exercise and take good care of themselves.
The music at DEFINE is not just a beat in the background, it’s part of the experience and speaks right to my heart. There’s a story arc to the classes that’s all guided by the music. You know that feeling when you meet someone who loves the same music as you do and you have an instant kindred friendship? Well, that’s how I feel about DEFINE. I want to make them a mixed tape to show my love.
The first Rev class I took (remember the one where my shoe fell off and I almost face planted?). Well, towards the end, just when I felt completely depleted and doubting my ability to finish, I heard the familiar keyboard intro of my favorite song of all time, Just Like Heaven by The Cure. I felt like it was playing just for me, in that exact moment. I literally started singing out the words and before I knew it, the song and the class were over, and I felt elated, proud, and strong. In one of my first yoga classes, the Of Monsters and Men song Slow and Steady came on, and the timing of the music, the lyrics, and our flow was nothing less than poetic. We could have been in a music video for the song, that’s how in tune our movements and breath were with the song. I move slow and steady, but I feel like a waterfall. Another time that felt particularly poignant to me was during Shavasana after Body class, and the instructor played MGMT’s Kids and the chorus, control yourself, take only what you need from it, seemed to shine in a new way and I had to refrain myself from singing along. It was such a wonderful completion to the hard work of class.
DEFINE’s focus on whole-body balance is really showcased in their Define Foods offering at the West U location. Erin Stewart, the co-owner, besides being an inspiring instructor, is a trained natural food chef and shares her expertise through fun and seasonal workshops. Her classes include tours of the local farmer’s market followed by instruction and food demonstration in their onsite professional kitchen. I recently attended her workshop on weeknight dinners, and Erin used fresh, local, in-season ingredients for three recipes perfect for weeknights. I’ve already made two of her recipes for my family, and it really spiced up my recent bout of the cooking doldrums.