Meet SOMA Coach - Dr. Vanessa Michielon

Curious what yoga poses even your yoga teacher has difficulty with? Read on.

Many of you love Vanessa’s classes and her precise attention to detail as well as her always impressive postures which make even the hardest ones look easy. You may not know that she also holds a PhD where she defined a new paradigm called “performative museum”, looking at how adopting Natural User Interfaces in Museum exhibitions is shaping the way we learn as physically engaged visitors.

We took some time out and sat down with her to learn more about how she got into yoga, her pet peeves when it comes to teaching and what postures even she needs to overcome.

How did you start yoga?

I came to Yoga through Contemporary Dance and Somatic Practices, as 10 years ago I was lucky enough to train with teachers, who would naturally integrate Asanas and Mindfulness in their classes and workshops. Still today, I experience Yoga and Dance as deeply connected, and the mat often feels like a restriction to me.

What does yoga mean to you?

Yoga is for me a practice to achieve enhanced physical and mental clarity, and a body of knowledge to understand myself on many different levels. What probably attracts me the most, is that really there is so much to learn and to relate to.

What is your favourite Element to teach and why?

Fire, I love moving around in space and practice partner work.

What is your most challenging yoga pose and why?

I am personally focusing on winning my fear of inversions at the moment, so I am enjoying practicing Pincha Mayurasana and transitioning smoothly in other poses.

Teacher pet peeve?

I tend to be very understanding in general, but I can’t tolerate if someone is rude to other students.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Coffee, no matter what science says about it, I will not give up my Espresso.

If you could only give yoga students one tip, what would it be?

If I have to choose one, I would borrow Bernie Clark’s words: don’t use your body to get into the pose, but use the pose to get into your body. So, look at poses as tools, not end goals, and you will let go of a good amount of useless self-judgment and pressure, and discover something much more precious.

What is your dance background?

I started dancing at the age of 4 and never stopped, shifting more and more from Ballet to Contemporary Dance and Somatic Practices about 8 years ago. In 2014 I moved to UK to attend a Master in Dance Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, where I toured with Transitions Dance Company, and later I started freelancing, especially in durational performances in museums and galleries, and creating works with smaller independent companies. As a natural consequence of my studies, in the past 10 years I have been focusing a lot on the integration of Digital Technologies and Dance, both as a performer and as a researcher.

What were you doing before becoming a teacher?

Before moving to UK, I used to work in University on various projects, and thanks to this very flexible job, I would have enough time to dance and teach as well on the side. Commuting time was not as in London: I would move from the barre to my desk in 10 minutes!

Beginners' Ballet Course

~Calling all Barre Addicts~

Beginners’ Ballet Masterclass w/Jennifer

Saturday 9 June, 1:30pm

Beginners Ballet Course. Always wanted to learn ballet? Have our barre classes gotten you interested in taking your technique to the next level?

If you’re looking for a beginners’ ballet masterclass, our clubhouse has it right here. SOMA House founder, Jennifer Hersch, ranked top London Barre teacher, will lead a Beginners’ Ballet Masterclass on Saturday 9 June, 1:30pm-3:00pm following our Barre Academy Masterclass. It’s the perfect jumpstart to you summer by learning how to do a ballet class correctly.

What You Will Learn. Fundamental Ballet technique – Jennifer will teach you the ballet basics so you can take correct technique into all of your barre classes and get more out of them. Many of you still need posture corrections, alignment help, learning how to lift the leg correctly, arm positions, etc.

How to do a Ballet Class. We will take you through a regular ballet class from the barre to center work. You will work just like the dancers at the Royal Ballet!

Short Choreography. You will learn an easy, short excerpt from a famous ballet so you can feel what it’s like to dance and put your technique into action. You already know a lot from our barre classes so it won’t be difficult.

Who is it for? Men and women who always wanted to learn ballet. Great for barre students who want to learn more. Sign-up with your partner and we can learn ballet partner work!

When? Saturday June 9th @ 13:30-3:00pm

*We recommend that you do the Barre Academy class at 12:30pm so you are warmed and ready to go. It also makes even more of a workout for you! It also provides more practice so you will catch on quicker to the ballet moves.

Sign Up

SOMA Academy of Barre: 12-Week Season Training Plan

Starts 16 April.

Who is it suitable for? 

The SAB 12-Week Season Plan is suitable for complete beginners to professional dancers with the common goal of building on authentic dance technique to increase your overall fitness level and obtain the dancer physique.

It is also great for cross-training as our male and female athletes use our barre method to balance and train different muscle groups while still being challenged both in terms of cardio and endurance.

Current members will build on their knowledge as we introduce new barre moves to progress your technique.

How is it structured? 

The 12-week plan is broken down into three type of weekly classes – Barre Ballet Blast, Barre TRX for Athletes and Barre Whipped – then concludes on the weekend with our SAB Ballet Barre Master class every Saturday at 12:30pm. This is a culmination of what you worked on during the week. We also go more in-depth with actual ballet technique. Expect to sweat and burn in all classes.

Overall, our barre programme follows the same training plan as our cyclists and total trx athletes so you can easily cross-train across disciplines. At SOMA, we specialise in cross-training so our classes fit together like a perfect puzzle.

SAB 12-Week Season Plan includes:

  1. Twin Training
  2. Glutes Activation
  3. More Efficient Posture for Jumping
  4. Adaptation to Training – challenge your muscle groups
  5. Quicker movements, less muscle use
  6. Adductor Activation
  7. Speed endurance – move quicker for longer
  8. Power Jumps
  9. Balance big movement with small movements
  10. Gradual Increase in training load
  11. 3 Part Endurance
  12. Improve Maximum Heart Rate

What new moves will I learn?

We will introduce new ballet jumps and foundational ballet steps that connect jumps so we can advance what members have already been learning.

Is it all Barre?

No. We highly encourage barre athletes to take at least 3 Hot Yoga classes a week to increase flexibility and work strength in a compatible way with barre. Yoga, unlike other weight training methods, will build the right muscle groups for dancers. You can also do our signature TRX Yoga Core classes to build flexibility and strength at the same time.

For those who need more cardio training, fit in 1 SCC ride a week to get the your cardiovascular system going even more and see how the cyclists do the same training we are doing.

 Summer Beginners’ Ballet Course –  June 2, 9, 16

For those who want to learn how to do an actual ballet class, SOMA founder, Jennifer Hersch will lead a 3 week beginners’ ballet course on Saturdays from 1:30-2:45pm. This immediately follows our SAB Master class should students want to double up.

It’s a great chance to really learn proper technique.


Want Glowing Skin? Try Our Antioxidant Smoothie!

Did you know that our Forever Beautiful Shake is also called the Antioxidant Superfood?

Yes, that’s right, get your beauty skin prescription to enrich the benefits of your workout.  

We all want beautiful, glowing skin and what better way then sweating out toxins, cleaning the skin and then nourishing your body from the inside out.

How does it help skin?

When you eat the correct balance of foods and feed your body the vital nutrients it needs to help it stay healthy, your skin will be clearer and glowing, your hair will be shinier and your nails will be stronger.

This is due to the miracle workers for youthful and healthy skin: antioxidants, the most important ones being vitamin A, C and E.

We packed our Forever Beautiful full of these as well as high levels of super-molecules from acai berries, maqui, acerola, maca, chia seeds and blueberries. We combined this with coconut water to rehydrate the skin as well after sweaty classes.

Which classes is it best after?

Your body is especially primed to absorb nutrients after a hot yoga session given we usually say not to eat 2-3 hours before a class and then you sweat and drink water during class giving your body a cleansing period.

Follow this up with a shower to wash away the toxins that came out during class and then give back to the body the highest level of nutrients in smoothie form so it’s easy to digest. The body can stay in a resting period without trying to immediately process food.

It’s like fine-tuning your body so it can absorb and accept the nutrients you need immediately post-workout.

How do I get it?

Just pre-order it at reception when you sign in for class. Unlimited members get a discount.


Barre Leg Workout: The Ballet Jump vs. Fitness Jump

Barre Leg Workout: The Ballet Jump vs. Fitness Jump

Students often ask how to get dancer legs: those long, lean defined muscles that allow for power, speed and grace.

The key is to learn how a dancer’s leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer’s workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

The fitness industry convinces people that the only way to get a “good workout” is to lift weights and do bootcamp classes with such equipment as kettle bells. They are based on a military style so build the body in that way.

For women who want a more feminine body or men who need to cross-train and balance leg muscles, they need barre. I created barre classes that give you a killer workout without bulking muscles.

Here are barre tips to use in your normal fitness regime. It is used by our members who are weight lifters, do CrossFit, runners, cyclists, hot yogis and dancers as well.

Tip 1: Plié rather than Squat – Protect and strengthen lower back while working gluts and inner thighs

A typical gym squat is done in parallel position and the bum sticks out to the back. In a plié, the body is kept upright, with the core engaged. You work all back muscles to elongate the spine. The legs are turned out which means instead of primarily working the quads, you work the adductors and external rotators under your bum as well as open hips. A plié is a whole body sculpting exercise – legs, back, core – for lengthening muscles rather than bulking.

Tip 2: Straighten Your Legs in Jumps – Prevents bulky legs

Think of your typical gym box jump or Cross-Fit type jumps where knees are kept bent. Or a jumping jack with knees bent. The legs never have to straighten which means the muscles are not elongated.

In ballet and our barre classes, we demand strength in the legs through muscle elongation. This means that students power through the legs to achieve a moment when both legs are straight in the air. This constant repetition of power from plie into straight leg jumps in the air shapes leg muscles like in the video.

 The key is to learn how a dancer's leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer's workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

Jennifer, SOMA Founder & Coach

Tip 3: Roll through the Feet in Jumps – Protects joints and tones legs

Fitness jumps are done with trainers on and people land on the whole foot. You’re doing this if you hear yourself land. In ballet, no shoes are worn and students must learn to roll through the feet. When you push off the floor for a jump, use the ball of the foot against the floor to power your body in the air.

When you land, think “toe, ball, heel” catching yourself like a car spring. This is like a BMW spring rather than a Ford Escort shock absorber for your joints.

Notice on the video, the soft landing each time.

Tip 4: Point the toes – Works the whole body and strengthens ankles for athletes

In a ballet jump, point the toes in the air. It looks it’s only the foot, but it involves the entire leg and body. To properly point the foot, the dancer extends the whole body towards the ceiling and points the foot in the opposite direction so the body is like a stretched rubber band.

You then work the back, the core and legs. Don’t simply curl the toes under.

In summary, 1) plié with bum underneath you engaging core muscles and lengthening spine, 2) jump in the air and make sure the legs are straight and feet pointed, 3) land softly “toe, ball, heel” to protect the joints.

SOMA House Member: Dr. Helen Kim

SOMA House unveils the fierce grace of our women members who prove that what you will, you can become and what strength you desire you already embody.

What personal milestone have you achieved this SOMA term?

I’ve learned that I like hot yoga! This is a personal milestone for me because I never liked it before and would start to panic in the heat. Now, I feel like I’ve achieved something significant in being able to withstand the heat and in enjoying the practice!

Give three words that describe SOMA.

Excellence, dedication, process/practice. I think SOMA is really about developing a practice or a set of practices rather than solely focusing on one’s goals.

How do you feel after a SOMA workout?

After a SOMA workout, I feel really elevated . Moreover, I feel incredibly grounded. Finally, I felt energised.

After a SOMA workout, I feel really elevated. Moreover, I feel incredibly grounded. Finally, I felt energised.

Dr. Helen Kim

My training

Mondays  | Hot Detox 26
Tuesdays  |  TRX Spartan or Yoga Elementals Soul
Wednesdays  |  TRX Yoga Core
Fridays  |  Barre for Athletes
Sundays  |  Yoga Elementals WATER and Yoga Elementals SPACE

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