Hanging loose: Bel Air Athletic Club's PowerWall brings stretching to a new level

For The Baltimore Sun

When Jennifer Olszweski first tried yoga, she had trouble getting her back flat in her pigeon pose.

Now, after taking an exercise class on the new PowerWall at Bel Air Athletic Club, she can successfully get into the pose and reach farther than before.

“I have really tight hip flexors, and normally when I’m practicing yoga on the floor, I haven’t been able to get into the difficult yoga poses that use the flexibility in your hips,” says the 43-year-old. “Now, after using the wall, I can extend my hands beyond my toes into a great stretch.”

The PowerWall went up at the gym in April and has been challenging members since.

The wall features straps that are locked in with metal connectors and can be placed around the hips to help deepen stretches by taking the pressure off the feet and suspending the pelvis and legs in the air.

“It helps to improve alignment, and it acts as a prop to help you get into poses that you wouldn’t be able to get into on your own,” says Lori Berry, who is the mind-body manager at Bel Air Athletic Club. “It can put you into inversions where you’re free to be upside down and be held by the wall. It can be very restorative and helpful for those with chronic pain.”

The club offers several types of exercise classes on the wall including cycling, Pilates, yoga and barre.

Cycling includes a 30-minute cycle class that moves to the PowerWall after cardio to deepen stretches, strengthen the core and work on alignment.

“I love the idea that we can get warmed up in a cycle class, you can get your heart rate up there, your body gets warm and then when we get to the wall, we’re ready to get into those poses and use the sling and the straps and get even deeper in your poses,” says instructor Sani Braun.

The barre on the wall class is a 60-minute exercise regimen that combines standard barre exercises with resistance bands and straps to intensify the workout.

The Pilates class uses the PowerWall to support a 60-minute workout with straps to give support, length and strength to the exercises.

Yoga on the wall helps to enhance poses by using the wall as a platform to deepen them and increase flexibility.

Braun says the wall can be surprising because the suspension points out when the body is not lined up properly.

“The straps really help set your alignment to where it should be,” Braun says. “You may think that your body is aligned and then you go to the wall and realize that you might have been doing things all wrong.”

Wen Cadden, 53, who has been practicing Pilates for a while, was first exposed to the wall more than 15 years ago at another studio. When she heard that Bel Air Athletic Club was installing a PowerWall, she couldn’t wait to try it out.

“The wall really helps me to reach my stretch and fitness goals,” Cadden says. “You can use it for everything from suspended handstands to side crunches on the wall. It’s challenging but at the same time it’s very supportive.”

Bel Air Athletic Club

658 Boulton St., Bel Air



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