That crunching sound my knees make when I transition from the kitchen table (sorry “desk”) to the sofa after working from home all day is probably a sign I’ve been sitting in one spot for too long. After weeks of extended stay-at-home orders, and stiff joints from spending too much time in a chair designed for dinner parties not video calls, I thought I’d try a new low-effort exercise class – one that combined two lockdown comforts: booze and stretchy leggings.
Physiotherapist Alice Baquie has been running online Pilates and mobility classes since June 2020, during the second lockdown in Melbourne. She found some of her regular students were loosening their joints with a dram of whisky, especially in the evening sessions after hunching over screens all day. Rather than berate anyone, Baquie embraced the combination and Winedown Stretch and Mobility classes were introduced.
Now a permanent fixture on Baquie’s online program, Winedown sessions are 45 minutes long and more social than you might expect. Signing in to the Zoom session, I was met with regulars having a yarn, sharing what they were drinking and getting comfortable on their mats. I poured a glass of Basket Range chardonnay into a flat-bottomed glass (not wanting to risk accidental spillage when flinging my arms and legs into the air) and wondered if I’d drank enough water that day to avoid a post-workout headache.
I needn’t have worried. Baquie takes a light-hearted approach to this class, knowing we’re all there for different reasons and carrying different stress levels and joint pain with us from the day. She starts with gentle chest-openers – each one moving a little deeper and releasing the stiff prawn-shaped backs we’ve started to develop. We hold poses for five seconds and Baquie counts us down to that satisfying release moment. Every now and again she’ll prompt us to “take a sip” of whatever booze we’ve brought with us. Red wine was the popular choice tonight.
Baquie tells Broadsheet one of her members made a cocktail book of all the drinks he tried in Winedown sessions last year, and it’s become one of her most popular live-streamed sessions. “It’s the perfect WD40 for the joints and mind I think,” says Baquie. “[It’s a] safe space to workout but also to relax and booze. I’m so happy to see people move and if they want to bring cocktails and snacks, I’m all for it.
“It’s become a very engaging close-knit community. There’s a wide range of athletic and non-athletic people who’re aiming to stay mobile when they’re less active at home in lockdown.”
Baquie uses Pilates stretches in the class, but it’s not a punishing workout. It’s as much about carving out space to activate your muscles then sink into a deep stretch as it is building strength. We moved from warming up the lumbar spine with moves such as bird dog and pike – you’ll know these by other animal-themed names if you’re into yoga – to hip-openers such as lunges and pigeon, then to a mermaid side stretch that felt like it was unsticking my ribs from my organs. I’d say I was presenting more like Ursula than Ariel, but the effect was a lengthening skin-stretching move that made me realise how much I needed it.
The promise of a lighthearted class might have brought me here, but the sensation of feeling slightly looser and more energised would keep me coming back for more. I glanced at my wine glass and realised I’d forgotten all about it. Maybe I’d take it to the sofa, feeling a little limber if not quite tipsy, but a lot more relaxed than I would have been if I’d chosen to just check one more email.
Alice’s physiotherapy platform includes other Pilates and mobility classes – live-streamed and pre-recorded sessions. A $99 monthly subscription gives you access to daily classes, many of which are more focused and energetic than the Winedown classes, or you can opt for the Winedown Bundle, which is $15 a week for two live classes and 20 on-demand sessions. There’s also a two-day free trial on offer.