The YogaBar Is A Yoga Utopia In The Heart Of Sydney’s CBD

By Toni Krasicki

Make sure to pack a yoga mat on your next visit to Westfield in Sydney’s CBD. On level five, nestled amongst one of Sydney’s finest food courts, is YogaBar, an innovative yoga studio that in addition to a range of yoga classes, offers YogaBarre, Pilates and the specifically designed (for YogaBar), YogaBar Define.

The YogaBar concept was conceived by fitness industry heavyweight, Tony De Leede, who brought the Fitness First health club chain to Australia. Adding YogaBar to his growing portfolio, Tony is behind the 24-hour gym chain Fit n Fast, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast, and Kommune Resort in Bali.

Program Development Manager, Judi Mead, says that Tony came up with both the name and the concept for YogaBar, assembling the YogaBar team six months before opening.

“We were all confident Tony’s concept of a yoga studio with complementary programs such as Pilates and Barre would be popular, especially in Sydney’s CBD where there is nothing offered in a studio setting.”

Since YogaBar offers several styles and levels of yoga, I’m not exaggerating when I say that there is definitely something for everyone. Newbies can work their way up from the basics to more complex and heated classes (30 degrees), then eventually to the challenging YogaFlow and YogaHot (34 degrees) classes. If that all sounds too much, there are also Yin and Zen meditation classes for chilling out and regrouping.

Although essentially a yoga studio, Judi says that fitness trends in the US and Australia are seeing many studios offering niche programs that fit with their core products. ‘It makes sense to offer Barre and Pilates, as both programs appeal to the yoga demographic,’ she explains.

“We offer predominantly a vinyasa style of yoga which tends to be strong and athletic – Barre Attack and Pilates add an extra fitness component in the form of core and strength training.”

Short on time, I decide to try something a little different from my usual vinyasa practice but still in a heated environment. I opt for YogaBar Define, which combines the flow of vinyasa yoga with strength work from the use of light hand held weights (optional) and a lot of planks and Chaturangas. It’s designed to build lean muscle mass and boost metabolism with the sequences performed to some strong beats in a fairly quick but flowing succession. I am surprised at how challenging it is, and those with a fitness background will love the powerful structure and strength, and the pre-choreographed nature of the class allows you to embrace the flow.

“I wanted Define to be challenging, flowing and fast, hot and uncomfortable,” says Judi. “I want people to sweat and feel the workout.”

I’m not long into the 45-minute lunchtime Define class, when Judi’s words ring true. The former National Group Fitness Manager for Fitness First says that after years of training with weights and always dividing workouts into ‘strength’ or ‘cardio’, she decided to blend her love of yoga with weight training in a type of pre-choreographed class to music.

Before I leave I take a peep at the very popular YogaBarre, which uses the dynamic Barre Attack program. Designed and developed by ex ballet dancer and international Pilates presenter, Renee Scott, Barre Attack combines fitness, ballet and Pilates exercises with core work and functional exercises. I actually skip this class because when I last tried it, every muscle from my butt down ached for days. 

When you are ready to leave the sanctuary and head back into the Westfield mayhem, stock up on the latest good quality and fashionable active wear at the onsite shop, and fuel up on nourishing salads, snacks and juices at the YogarBar café. Mats can be hired for two dollars, just in case you arrive without one.

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