Dancer’s bodies are typically long, lean, and strong. Many people envy the physique but don’t actually realize that they can get a similar shape.
Use these tips to shape your workout routine in order to get a dancer’s body.
Start doing Pilates.
Pilates develops long, lean muscles in the arms, legs, and glutes. Doing Pilates on a regular basis will help you get the kind of shape and strength you’re after. It will also increase your flexibility, so that you can move as fluidly as someone who dances, as well. Pilates exercises are also great for strengthening the core, which translates to better balance, a taut midsection, and a toned back.
Do Pilates a few times a week to tone your body with a method that doesn’t build bulky muscles. Check out our free 32 Minute Pilates Video for ideas on good exercises to make part of your routine.
Do 30 minutes to an hour of cardio every day.
In order to get into this kind of shape, you need to be at a healthy bodyweight. If you aren’t already there, regular cardio can help. The other component of this important factor is making sure that your diet is healthy. Make sure that the majority of your diet consists of fresh and raw foods and whole grains. Avoid eating things that come from a package as often as possible as they are usually empty calories (at best) and packed to the brim with sodium, which leads to bloat.
Even if you are at a healthy bodyweight, cardio is good for your heart and will help you maintain a lean composition. Do this short Home Cardio Routine a couple of times a day to keep your metabolism stoked.
Strength train
If you want to be lean and toned, strength training should be on your radar. Women can physically not “bulk up” (read Women and Weightlifting), so there is no reason to steer clear of weight training.
If you want to stay very lean, use light weights and high repetitions. For example, you should use a weight that is light enough that it’s hard to complete the exercise by repetition number 18-20, instead of 8-15, such as when you are trying to build strength. Keep in mind though, that lifting heavy has a longer lasting benefit in terms of helping you stay lean.
Lastly, to get a body like a dancer…Dance!
It is one of the best ways to go about this goal, and it’s fun! This physical activity burns a lot of calories and the sporadic movements call upon many muscles. If you really want to have that kind of shape, start dancing!

Get a Body Like a Dancer

These 16 inspired moves transform and tone.

There are hundreds of reasons to dance, and cultivating a dancer’s body is one of them. These are our favorite go-to exercises to give you the nimble strength and posture of a dancer, not to mention more confidence.

While not all of us feel comfortable commanding the global stage and shaking it like Beyoncé, we can all manifest svelte legs that can dance the night away with a lean core and regal posture that captures everyone’s attention. And luckily, we don’t need a degree from Julliard to earn a dance card. These classic moves inspired and approved by dancers allow anyone to attain a dancer’s lean body and endurance. The key to success is the discipline to show up and practice the fundamental moves.

TRAINING THE UPPER BODY

Dancing is a total-body endeavor, and a strong upper body is critical to help control movements on stage and prevent injury when choreography calls for lifts, catches or rolls.

Triceps Press-Up

How to Do It:

Close-grip push-ups or triceps push-ups are one of the most effective movements using your own body weight. Start on your hands and knees with your legs together and your shins pulled off the floor or toes tucked under for support. Arrange your arms underneath your shoulders with your neck neutral and extended in a straight line from your hips. Keep your core muscles engaged as you lower your body toward the floor, keeping your elbows close to your torso until it is a few inches off the floor. Keep your shoulders back, and pinch your shoulder blades together. Push the ground away to straighten your arms. Repeat 15–20 times.

Shoulder Stretch

How to Do It:

No matter the dance, expressive arms require regular loving care. This shoulder stretch feels great and keeps the shoulders and neck relaxed and ready to move. Sit or stand tall, and reach both arms out to the side. Bring your arms together at the elbows, and twist your forearms until your hands gently clasp. Drop the shoulders away from the ears, and relax your neck in a neutral position. Breathe comfortably and hold for 60 seconds or more before switching sides.

TRAINING THE LOWER BODY

To kick, pivot or arabesque, your hips need to be liberated and ready to move in any direction your feet point. This requires healthy, happy and flexible hips in all ranges of motion and directions of movement. As this is a complex joint, it is easy to forget some of the angles, but it’s super important that you listen to your hips, understand their fluidity, and address any growing restrictions or pain points. Definitely address your adductors and abductors—or inner things and outer hips—as they must work together as a team to keep your pelvis moving well.

Standing Balance

How to Do It:

Balance is an expression of articulation, focus, grace and power all in one move. Begin standing tall with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Keep your body long and press your weight into your right foot while you lift your left leg behind you as you tip forward, lowering the torso and bringing your body parallel to the ground. Extend your arms forward so they are level with the neck and spine. Maintain the position by reaching through the back of your heel as if you’re pressing a wall behind you. Keep the muscles of both legs actively engaged, and move to straighten the standing leg and lift the back leg as high as possible. Avoid locking the knees, and keep your spine and neck long and your hips parallel with your shoulders. Breathe evenly, bringing awareness to the present moment. Hold the pose for 60 seconds or more. Release gently and repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch

How to Do It:

It’s hard to dance when restricted by tight legs that create strain on the back and hips. Daily hamstring stretching is basic hygiene for a dancer. Stretches throughout the day and during practice increase range of motion and serve as a set point for checking in on the body’s readiness to perform. The seated hamstring stretch is a classic move that feels great, downregulates the nervous system and is an excellent movement to visually represent progress for the body.

Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knees if necessary for comfort, eventually straightening the legs as flexibility increases. Reach actively through your heels and lift your arms overhead, lengthening your spine. As you exhale, bend forward from the hip joints to reach toward the toes, tipping your torso and head toward the knees. Keep your core engaged, and extend your spine to avoid rounding the back. Hold for 60 seconds, breathing consciously and relaxing the back of the legs. To release the stretch, tuck your tailbone down to the floor, inhale and lift your torso.

Bridge

How to Do It:

Healthy glutes are the key to all lifts, jumps and deep squats—essential movements in most forms of dance. The bridge is a great all-in-one glute strengthener, hip opener and backbend and is excellent to include as a daily move. Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet planted hip-width apart, and your arms aligned next to your torso. Keep your neck long and relaxed and your core engaged as you press strongly into your feet and lift your pelvis up toward the ceiling as far as possible without straining. Maintain parallel thighs and breathe naturally. Hold for 60 seconds or more, and then release back to the ground.

Inner Thigh Stretch

How to Do It:

Maybe natural flexibility is not part of your DNA, but trust that by putting in the work, it will be possible to progress toward an inspiring range of motion. Start by sitting upright with excellent posture. As you engage the core, bring the soles of the feet together and pull the heels in toward the pelvis, allowing the knees to open toward the floor. Hold your feet with your hands, and lift your chest toward the sky as you inhale. Then fold toward your feet as you exhale. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 60 seconds or more with impeccable posture and composure.

Seated Glute Stretch

How to Do It:

Tight glutes are problematic for most movement. Strong glutes that are supple and have full range of motion are critical to maximize performance and reduce the risk of injury. Start seated in a cross-legged position with excellent posture. Work on leveling the pelvis and stacking the ribs over the center of the hips with the neck over the spine. Move the bottom shin forward slightly, and then stack the top shin on top of the bottom leg. Line up the ankles over the knees, and flex the feet. Keeping the pelvis neutral and the spine lifting out of the hips, lean toward the shins as far as is comfortable. Breathe into stretch and hold for 60 seconds or more, and then shake out the legs and switch legs.

Full-Body Hip Stretch

How to Do It:

As you advance, you can graduate to this complex stretch that addresses freedom of the entire hip joint. This outer hip stretch combined with a hip flexor opening is a powerful tool to reset any stored tension. It allows you to stretch the entire front body and create space in the hip flexors at the same time. When combined with an upward posture, you also create strength and tone in your back muscles and improve overall posture.

Start on your hands and knees, and slide the right knee to the right elbow with your right ankle in front of your left hip. Stretch the left leg back behind you, and anchor your hips to floor. Square your hips and torso as much as possible, and create length in the front of the body by tucking your tail. Reach around to hold your back foot with your elbow or hand, maintaining the original hip position and continuing to lengthen the spine out of the hips. Do not strain to create a range of motion. Once you are in the posture, hold it for at least 60 seconds, and then gently release and repeat the movement on the other side.

TRAINING THE CORE

A dancer’s body is dependent on a strong, supple core that can support the body as it moves and grooves through space. This takes more than a few good crunches; it requires full awareness of how to consciously engage the core musculature in a variety of positions both in training and in practice and performance.

Stabilized Curl

How to Do It:

This move takes the traditional crunch to the next level. It allows for stability and mobility (and great looking abs). Start on your back, and bring your hands behind your head without pulling on the neck or head. Lift your legs, and place your thighs over your hips with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your shins held parallel to the ground. Keep your legs stable and exhale as you roll your upper back and shoulders off the floor as far as possible. Hold this position for a complete exhale, and roll back down to the ground. Continue for 15–20 repetitions, exhaling with each controlled lift.

Oblique Cross Crunch

How to Do It:

Rotation is essential to movement, posture and aesthetics. To build this movement pattern, start on your back, and bring your hands behind your head without pulling on the neck or head. Lift your legs, and bring your knees to your chest. Lift one shoulder, rotate your torso to meet the knee and extend the leg out straight from the hip. Keep your hips stable, and contract the core to create the movement. Alternate side to side, holding each repetition for a full exhale. Repeat 15–20 times, exhaling with each controlled lift.

Plank

How to Do It:

As a dancer, stability is paramount. And core stability means having the ability to maintain a neutral spine as a foundation in any position. Plank pose will get you there. Start by stacking your arms underneath your shoulders with your hands spread wide. Lengthen your body out behind you with your legs straight and your neck following the line of your spine. Engage your core to square your hips and shoulders. Maintain the position with your body contracted lightly from head to toe and breathe freely. Hold for up to 60 seconds with impeccable posture and composure.

TRAINING THE BACK

A dancer needs a spine that moves with and supports the body in motion—whether in the air or on the ground. Keeping it free of restrictions from all angles is incredibly important, and moves that extend and twist the spine can keep it flexible and mobile.

Back Extension

How to Do It:

Back extension gives us the power to stay upright with impeccable posture and the mobility to express dance in a variety of ways. Start on your hands and knees with your arms under the shoulders and your knees under the hips. Keep your shoulders parallel with your hips and your core engaged as you extend one arm and the opposite leg out until parallel with the ground. Maintain a neutral neck, and work on extending out as far as possible without impacting the positioning of the core. Hold for 60 seconds or more and release gently. Repeat on the other side.

Seated Twist

How to Do It:

When controlled and deliberate, twisting moves are incredibly helpful and also serve to create muscle balance and release stored up tension. Start seated in a comfortable position. Cross the legs or sit in any way with the torso lifting out of the hips. Moving the upper body as one unit, rotate to reach across to the opposite leg or hip, turning the head to look over the shoulder and engaging the core with the exhale. Hold for 60 seconds or more and release gently. Switch the legs and repeat on the other side.

Full Backbend

How to Do It:

One of the most glorious angles of a dancer’s body is the flowing curvature of a spine well extended. Backbends are breathtaking but not always easy to master. They require a mobile and limber spine and freedom in the joints around the shoulders and hips so as to not overly compress the spine while in motion.

For a full backbend—often referred to as a wheel in the yoga world—start on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor with your heels as close to the hips as possible. Bend your elbows with your palms spread wide on the floor beside your head. Aim to arrange your forearms perpendicular to the floor, according to your flexibility, and point your fingers toward your shoulders. Press down into floor with your feet, and lift the hips up toward the ceiling, maintaining a neutral pelvis by gently tucking the tailbone toward the belly button. Keep your legs parallel, and as you breathe, push down into your hands and squeeze the shoulder blades into the back to lift up onto the crown of your head. Maintain parallel arms and freedom of breath as you straighten your arms, lifting your head and shoulders off the ground and lengthening the torso into a backbend. Root through the hands and feet and keep the core engaged as you breathe in the pose. Practice lifting the legs during the pose into different arrangements, perhaps easing toward the splits.

TRAINING THE MIND

The skill of a dancer and the grace and grit of the dancer’s body stem from more than deep practice and years of training discipline. These also come from developing a certain mind-set. Dancers are trained to use the mind’s eye and visualize the forms and experience of the music to tap into emotion and embody the movement in form. Visualization is available for all of us to experience and use to manifest our own dream physical experience.

Child’s Pose Rest

How to Do It:

Mental relaxation begins with physical relaxation. Child’s pose is a staple in any fitness routine. It releases the back, begins to calm the mind and links the breath to an embodied experience. Start on your hands and knees with your feet together and your knees either together or apart for comfort. Press into the hands, and round your spine with your core engaged. Walk your hands out in front of you until your head comfortably touches the floor. If preferred, fold your hands to support your head. Hold for 60 seconds or more, and then gently walk your hands back and slowly lift your torso and head.

Relaxation Visualization

How to Do It:

Create a quiet, safe space, and then lie down on your back using pillows, blankets and props for comfort. If possible, cover your eyes and shut out all stimulation. Bring attention to your breathing, and practice slowing the pace of the breath while simultaneously increasing the volume of the breath. Do not force a change, simply explore. Notice how the body feels on the mat: the heaviness of the limbs, the support of the ground and the temperature of the room. Create an image in the mind of your future body dancing or moving in some specific way in a vibrant setting. See the expression on your face, and imagine the emotion and sensation of the experience. Cycle your attention between the breath, the sensations in the body and the images in your mind. Continue for 5 minutes, and then relax for 1 minute before returning to a seated position.

DANCE FOR IT

We were all born with a unique body structure that is ours and ours alone. Embrace that and don’t compare yourself with others. Others may be naturally more flexible or have more strength and stamina, but you can do things to improve your own fitness and flexibility starting today. You can perform many stretches and dance-inspired movements now! Some will be more comfortable than others, and some will work better for you than others. The point is to get moving and grooving in your own way.

Photo credit: fizkes, Adobe Stock

Misty Copeland’s best advice for achieving a ‘Ballerina Body’

Cara Kelly USA TODAY Published 11:21 AM EDT Mar 21, 2017

Want to know how Misty Copeland maintains her impeccably sculpted dancer’s physique and her mental health at the same time? She guessed as much.

In her new book, Ballerina Body (Grand Central Life & Style, on sale March 21), written with USA TODAY reporter Charisse Jones, Copeland has compiled her best advice for looking leotard-ready. And most importantly, for shaping up without the anxiety of trying to meet a certain body image.

‘Ballerina Body’ by Misty Copeland handout

Few people have as much experience with that mental battle as Copeland, 34, the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. She broke the mold of lithe, white ballerinas, though it wasn’t easy. It took years to find a combination of exercises, types of food and mental preparation that left her feeling her best self.

“But when I did, not only did I feel fitter, not only was my body sleeker and more powerful, but I also had come to a realization that was more important than any other — I came to understand, to accept, that all along my body had been perfect for me.”

Here are a few tips that are easy to follow:

Be mindful

It’s a buzzword that can sound overwrought, but Copeland makes a strong case for mental clarity. Like a pro athlete envisioning crossing the finish line, she suggests painting a picture of your ideal ballerina body, then finding inspiration to keep your motivation high, and even journaling through the experience.

Good posture is everything

One reason ballerinas look like goddesses is training in correct posture, which “magnifies your presence.” What does that look like, exactly? Your back should be erect, shoulders even and relaxed, face peering straight ahead.

Copeland outlines a key stretch to help with posture that can be done anywhere: “When you find yourself slouching, stand, clasp your hands behind you, and then stretch them down and away from your body.”

Misty Copeland, and her legendary calves. Henry Leutwyler

Stretch whenever possible

Copeland drives home the point that exercise doesn’t have to be done exclusively at the gym — it’s important to move all day long. One easy stretch she explains is a head, neck and shoulder roll.

Start by holding your head high, tilt it forward as far as it’ll comfortably go, then return to center. Repeat by dropping your head back, then return to center.

Dance on the floor

While recovering from stress fractures in her tibia, Copeland kept up her training by replicating the warmups ballet dancers complete at the barre while lying on the ground. It’s a surprisingly challenging routine that, after one workout, will leave your hip flexers and calves sore but feeling longer. One of the most dramatic segments is the plié, or bending, combination.

While on your back, arms pressing against the floor, hold legs in first positions in the air, making an L-shape with your body and legs. Bend your knees until feet are on the floor, then stretch the lower legs back up, with toes pointed. Repeat (with a tight core!) and you’ll feel instant results.

Don’t be scared of fats

In order to keep energy high, Copeland found she needed a high fat intake. She recommends animal proteins, plant fats and beneficial oils, and includes detailed meal plans and more than two dozen recipes in the book.

One interesting tidbit is a recommendation on those confusing omega-3s and 6s. “Eating more omega-6 fats than omega-3s may cause you to gain weight,” she writes.

“So, as in all other aspects of our lives, balance is key.”

Published 11:21 AM EDT Mar 21, 2017

Ballet at home- DVDs, YouTube, and Tips

I am starting to feel like there’s an overarching theme to my posts- I’M BUSY! haha. But, to be honest, a big part of my life as a grad student who is also in the beginning stage of an internship is that I don’t have a lot of free time and the free time that I do have is at weird hours. I’m sure there are plenty of ladies and gents who may be reading this can relate to this! One of my favorite ways to get around this issue is to do ballet at home. This can be a real challenge, especially for beginners who haven’t had much experience taking a class. Where do you even begin? Well, luckily I spend the time between classes on YouTube doing mindless searching and have created a nice list for you along with some of my favorite ballet at home tips!

DVDs

  • “Ballet Class for Beginners with David Howard”. This DVD is my favorite for home ballet. It can be a little bit frustrating because you have to play some parts twice in order to do both sides, but it’s a minor inconvenience in my opinion. I was able to find the DVD on Amazon for about $6 and got it in a matter of days. Smoking deal! It covers a ton of different techniques and the run time is about 40 minutes, but that doesn’t include repeating. What I like about how it comes in chapters is that you can choose to mix and match your workout so that it never has to be exactly the same.
  • The NYC Ballet Complete Workout. This DVD is less ballet class, more ballet fitness but it has much more ballet in it than most ballet inspired workout videos do. It takes moves like pliés and mixes them in with bicycles and crunches. It’s rough! I have managed to rope my fiancé into doing the videos with me and they even make him sore. The video isn’t necessarily the newest so the video and the music is super cheesy but thankfully you can choose to use the classical music in the startup menu rather than the awful “hip” background music. You can get it here on Amazon.
  • Ballet Beautiful by Mary Helen Bowers. Holy grail of ballet fitness. The workouts are more based around the idea of sculpting a lean ballet body rather than ballet technique but I find that the workouts greatly improved my posture and technique in class. She has a few different DVDs. I have the “Classic 60 – Minute Workout” (which has since been rebranded as “Total Body Workout”) and “Body Blast”. Both are available here at the Ballet Beautiful website. The DVD’s consist of approximately 15 minute workouts including two butt series, her bridge series, her famous swan arms series, total body workouts, and more. What I like about this format is that the workouts are totally mix and match-able. You can do 15 minutes of a total body workout, or you can build up to about an hour or more of workouts. It really just depends on what you have time for! Another wonderful asset she provides are her online streaming videos. They are similar to the DVDs but you can have access to them any time you have access to the website.

YouTube

  • Dancing’s technique based and educational videos. These videos are great! They’re made by eHow… Ok, slightly cheesy seeming but they have been so helpful to me. I suck, like bad, at things like rond de jambe and I love being able to watch these videos at home over and over again to see how it’s done and to try it. I have found value in almost all of their ballet videos. There is such a wide variety- warming up, technique, how to care for ballet shoes, how to do your hair.
  • Maestro Greenwood Online Classes. These videos are also really great. They have a lot of technique practice and they include some video with verbal instruction as well as video with just music. I enjoy that because there are times where I just want to hear classical music and copy what I see, but then there are other times where I really want to focus harder on exact technique. I also really appreciate the stretching videos! !

General Tips

  • Keep an inner instructor in your head. I try to my best to focus on my technique at home. It can be really hard to make sure you’re doing some things well when you don’t have someone there watching to correct you so try to remind yourself “posture”, “breathe”, “stomach tight”, etc. Focus on technique because if you keep practicing it incorrectly at home, you may find yourself in a sticky mess when you finally get to a class and it’s twice as hard because you need to forget how to do it the incorrect way and learn to do it the correct way.
  • Invest in a full length mirror you can move around if you don’t have one. It’s important to be able to see what your body is doing in order to do the step above. There are some pretty affordable mirrors at Target, Walmart, and thrift stores.
  • Build a barre (shameless plug to my DIY post! haha), or use a counter/chair/couch/railing. That extra balance is important, particularly for beginners, in order to help you learn the best technique and also to prevent injury from falling face first into the floor. haha.
  • Try to avoid doing ballet on carpet, it can be a little extra sticky under your feet and cause some tripping/toe injuries. If you do ballet on tile or wood flooring make sure you have proper traction.
  • If you can, try to video even just a portion of your workout… I totally get what some of you may be thinking: AWKWARD, I don’t want to see myself dancing. But I assure you, it will help you get better! You’ll have a nice opportunity to watch back the video and see that this whole time you thought your ronde de jambe was perfect but alas you forget to point your toes in the back! Or maybe you might even find something you’re doing better than you thought you were.

For now, I think that’s all I have for videos and tips but I will be sure to post again when I have more. I hope that you at home ballerinas find this a little bit helpful. Does anyone else have any home ballet tips or favorite videos to use? Let me know in the comments!

-Caysie

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Ballet Exercises You Can Do At Home

Whether you’re enrolled in a class, or just want to vary your fitness routine, there are simple ballet exercises you can practice at home. If you don’t own a ballet barre, use the back of a chair, or a counter top for support. Also, you’ll want to clear a space so you can move freely. While these 5 exercises are fairly easy to maneuver, always use caution in confined spaces!

1. Plié aka squats

Plies are the most basic movement in ballet. Start in first position, by placing your heels together, and letting your feet form the letter V. Slowly bend your knees, then straighten. This motion strengthens your quadriceps, or upper thighs. Also, when as you straighten your knees, squeeze your gluteals, or butt muscles, as you come up. Do four sets of eight plies. Then, if you’re able to, bend your knees in a wide diamond shape until your heels come off the floor. This is called grand plie, or big plie. If you have bad knees, take it easy, and avoid doing this step.

2. Cambré aka arm circles

Cambre means to “arch”. While not exactly the same as arm circles, it’s a great warm-up for the upper body and arms. Standing in first position, with one hand supported, and the other to your side, lift your arm over your head and gently arch your body backwards, letting the arm follow. As you return upright, let your free arm extend to the side, and then slowly bend your body forward from the waist, letting the arm drop down towards the floor. This exercise can also be done without moving the body at all. This is called port de bras, or “carry of the arms”; standing upright the entire time, simply extend your arm above your head, as if you are trying to reach the ceiling, then let it extend to your side, and eventually let it float down under your abdomen (like your holding a bowling ball). When done fluidly, this exercise improves grace and increases mobility in the shoulder joint.

3. Relevé aka calf raises

Relevé is great for toning the lower leg. Standing in first position, simply lift your heels off the floor, and rise to the balls of your feet. The trick is to keep your knees as straight as possible as you rise. Then, slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Do a set of eight, then finish with a plie. Doing a plie immediately after each set helps stretch the achilles tendon and calves to reduce post-workout strain. As you become accustomed to the sensation, you can repeat this exercise faster if you wish.

4. Développé aka leg lifts

Développé means literally “to develop”, and is an excellent way to strengthen your legs, butt, and core. Standing in first position, with one hand supported, place your other hand on your hip. On the side where you have your hand on your hip, lift your knee along with your lower leg off the floor, then extend your leg straight in front of you. It does not have to be high, but make sure your knees are straight, and your toes are pointed. Then, let your leg float down to first position where you started. Repeat the same movement to the side of your body, then behind you. As you lift your leg and extend it, engage your abs by keeping them pulled into towards your spine. As you advance, try doing this exercise without a support. You will find it improves balance and strengthens your core.

5. Sauté aka jumps

Sauté is a small jump, or hop. This increases stamina and gives your entire body a workout. Think of it as jumping rope without the rope. Starting in first position, hands on your hips, do a small plie, then jump up straight, pointing your toes. Always land in a plie. Try to land toes first, then balls of the feet, arch, then heel.This will help guard against shock compression that cause shin splints or sprain. Do one set of eight, and notice your heart rate increase. Be sure to breathe, and if you have bad knees, take caution. If you’re advanced, try doing a rapid set of eight. If you want more of a challenge, go slower, using a deeper plie with each jump. Feel the burn!

These are just a few basic exercises you can do at home. Giving yourself a little homework outside of the classroom will help improve your technique and boost your confidence. Just be careful when attempting any changes in your fitness routine.

Two-Week Stretch Challenge

A stretch challenge that helps to vary your stretching routine. Don’t worry if you can’t do some of them (especially oversplits–which should not be attempted until your extremely flexible). While some of them are shorter (10-15 minutes), try to fit in 30 minutes of stretching a day, either at once, or in shorter segments (1o or 15 minutes) throughout the day. A good way to do this would to incorporate some of the split stretches from Day 1 or 6 into your daily routine.

Note: This is kind of a a work-in-progress, and I’m hoping eventually to expand it into a 30 day challenge, testing them out as I go. If you try any of them, let me know which ones you liked and which ones you didn’t.

Day 1: How to do Splits From About.com

Day 2: 15 Minute Beginner’s Yoga Routine

Day 3: Fat Burning Yoga

Day 4: Post-Run Stretches from Back On Pointe, A Dancer

Day 5: Yoga Poses for Headaches

Day 6: How to Do Splits From FitSugar

Day 7: Yoga Poses to Get Rid of Back Fat

Day 8: Essential Stretches for Tight Hips

Day 9: Stretches You Can Do in Bed

Day 10: Good Morning Yoga Sequence

Day 11: Pick your favorite set from Days 1-10

Day 12: Runner Stretches (Good for Tight Hamstrings)

Day 13: Stretches that Help You Sleep

Day 14: Stretches for Splits–Barre Stretches (Don’t have a barre or these look tough challenging? Pick your favorite individual stretches to create your own stretch routine today!)

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LIFESTYLE: BALLET BEAUTIFUL 30 CHALLENGE

I’m embarking on a 30 Day Ballet Beautiful Challenge with a few friends who piloted it. I’ve been a devotee for over a year now, and by committing to this challenge with them, I hope to inspire + challenge them to do it every day for 30 days.

It’s THEE most effective workout I’ve ever done – body, mind and spirit.

I slipped into my first pink ballet slippers at the age of 3, with a tiny pink tutu, and danced for 16 years. It’s extremely special to me, and immensely nostalgic. It’s graceful, peaceful, calming, YET still makes you sweat, improves your posture, controls appetite, and lengthen and leans your muscle.

My normal schedule is around 3-4 days a week, so I’m truly amping it up! Excited to see transformations both inside and out. The body can achieve anything you put your mind to.

I subscribe to the Unlimited streaming, which allows for variety and convenience of working out from HOME. It’s brilliant I tell you.

Who’s up for the challenge? I started yesterday, but if you want to start today I’ll continue until December 5th with YOU. I want to inspire and challenge you to try something different, get your body moving, and to embark on a ‘workout’ that breaths femininity, grace and beauty from the inside out.

5, 6, 7, 8 . . .

love & light

Courtesy of YouBeautyMary Helen Bowers demonstrates this week’s move.

I have a confession: I haven’t worked out in three years, and I pretty much eat like crap.

I had my second child eight weeks ago. But exercise left my life after my first son was born in 2009. As a working mom, I became ridden with guilt if my every waking moment not on the job wasn’t spent with my little guy. My nutrition went kaput too. Using the kid as an excuse (cupcakes, why not?) I finished his dinners and instigated dessert.

Mine is a familiar story of a woe-is-me lifestyle that moms, and everyone who’s ever fallen off the “healthy wagon,” can empathize with (and anyone who hasn’t can roll their eyes at)—a vicious cycle of excuses and procrastination that becomes the one pound of weight the average person packs on yearly, which, over a lifetime, adds up.

In my case, it’s been more: With my first born, I kept about 10 pregnancy pounds after giving birth, and gained 45 pounds with my second born. I’m determined not to let it stick—not just for my own heath, but for that of my kids. How will they adopt a life-long healthy lifestyle if their mom is a hypocritical schlub: As the editor of a health and beauty website created by two of the greatest doctors in the country, I tell people to be healthy, but I don’t do it myself. It’s high time I practice what I preach!

MORE: Pregnancy and Your Body Shape

Enter Mary Helen Bowers (that’s her, above, making a grimace-inducing abs move look impossibly graceful). The professional ballerina—who danced with the New York City Ballet before attending Columbia University, starting her business, and penning her new book, Ballet Beautiful—trained Natalie Portman for her Oscar-winning role in “Black Swan.” Her fans follow her with a cultish devotion normally reserved for David Bowie, because, as the actress Zooey Deschanel puts it, “Mary Helen knows how to make ordinary women look like ballerinas .”

I, along with the five winners of our Ballet Beautiful Contest, are training with Bowers for the next six weeks. I’ll be reporting back on the moves I learned in each session so you can follow along at home. Here’s our first!

MORE: See All of Mary Helen’s Ballet Beautiful Moves

MOVE: The Ballet Twist from Side to Side

WHAT IT DOES: Works the obliques, the sides and the center part of your abdominals. “I love the way this exercise lets me quickly connect to my center,” says Bowers.

ME: This move was particularly hard for me because my stomach muscles are basically non-existent—during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate your growing belly, losing strength and tone. At first, I was barely able to complete these, and cheated by putting my arms behind me. After a few sessions, though, I was able to complete the full set. Progress!

HOW TO DO IT (watch the moving image for a visual!)

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, knees slightly bent, arms in first position (coming together in a crescent over your knees) and your stomach pulled in tight.
  2. Extend back 30 degrees, twist your upper body and pull your stomach in tight, scooping your belly button in toward your center.
  3. Keep pulling your abs in as you change sides, rotating from left to right. “I find that moving a bit more slowly and taking a beat on each side to truly pull in and connect to my abs makes this exercise more challenging and rewarding,” says Bowers.
  4. Repeat, doing four sets of ten.

Take Your Ballet Workout To Go: Training Portman required Bowers to travel with her for a year, and in order to avoid bodily harm from her adoring clients, Bowers set up an online fitness studio where I (or you!) can join a butt-kicking session of pliés in Bowers’ SoHo studio from the comfort of my own home. Called BBLive, the interactive, full hour sessions stream in real time on your computer, and Bowers leads you through the workout just like you’re there in class.

Bowers also armed me with her Blast videos to squeeze in when I can. These handy, 15-20 minute sessions are intense; some focus on one area (the Butt Blast is a particular favorite). They help you feel the burn and more importantly, stay mentally on track—I’m much less likely to reach for the coffeecake my babysitter is dangling in front of my nose if my arms are still tingling from a 15-minute “Swan Arms” session. Check out balletbeautiful.com to get started on your own workout!

MORE: The Best of the Ballet-Inspired Workouts

Weight Loss with Ballet: 8 Secrets for Success

January 12, 2017

Recently a woman sent me this question: How can ballet exercises be used as part of a weight loss regimen? EXCELLENT QUESTION! (Thanks, Gayle!). So here are some no-nonsense tips for how to engage your ballet practice to reach your weight loss goals.

  1. BE CONSISTENT. As with any exercise and diet regimen, the most important aspect is CONSISTENCY. It is far better to do a little each day (or several times per week) than to binge exercise. I am a total advocate of doing what you enjoy and will look forward to as exercise.
  1. ENGAGE THE POWER OF INSPIRATION. Ballet is one-stop fitness. Not only does it hit all the right fitness markers (strength, tone, flexibility, balance, agility, coordination, and endurance), but it also draws from a concept of beauty from both the movements and the music. When you allow yourself to be touched, moved, and inspired as you engage your body, the joy itself can be as transformative as the exercise!
  1. START SIMPLE. The biggest killer of exercise enthusiasm is feeling overwhelmed physically and/or emotionally. Although you may think “I’m going to kill it!”, all you’re really doing is setting yourself up for a cycle of overload→ exhaustion or injury→ guilt→ resistance. All exercise (including ballet) should be approached progressively. As your body develops more ability, your confidence increases right along with your fitness level, giving you more satisfaction and motivation over the long haul.
  1. DITCH THE GUILT! Instead, do what you naturally ENJOY and then use that empowerment to add to your program. This is exactly why I made Everyday Ballet Members as a library of both full-workouts (of many different varieties), as well as shorter segments and individual exercises. You can choose to do something small and lovely, an intense workout, or anything in between. It’s important to tune-in and give your body the exercise nourishment it craves. None of us can give 100% all the time, so don’t let yourself feel guilty! Instead, do what you can and acknowledge your effort. Feelings of pleasure, accomplishment, and satisfaction are what keep you coming back for more!
  1. MOVE YOUR BODY (before your mouth). When you feel the urge to break with the sensible dietary parameters you’ve established for yourself, especially if a sense of guilt starts creeping in, try moving your body a little. Heck, turn on some music and dance like no one’s watching! I find that when I start feeling anxious one of the very best antidotes is to pick a piece of music I love and move to it. Oftentimes, just taking a pleasurable little “body break” can bring some happiness and perspective back to a hectic or anxious mind. Also, allowing yourself to connect with your body for a few moments is a wonderful step towards self-awareness and acceptance that will go a long way towards developing a kinder and more effective relationship between you and food, and you and exercise.

  1. FOCUS ON CORE STRENGTH. It’s not that you have to do core exercises all the time, but rather that you pay attention to your posture and core as you do each ballet movement. You will gain much more strength and ability while also flattening your tummy! If there is one secret to ballet, it is using your core to move. The Everyday Ballet program is designed around proper posture and core engagement with every single exercise. Eventually, using your core becomes a muscle memory habit that’ll keep you toning your midsection without even having to think about it!
  1. BUILD GOOD HABITS. This is the key to weight loss through diet and exercise. I am a pragmatist. Far too often I see women who are anxious about food and their bodies. My approach is to follow some very simple rules and live easily with them, so that I can have patience and kindness for myself when I don’t always meet my own expectations. My video Eating Like a Ballerina outlines my food philosophy. It’s soooooo important to be gentle and patient as you build good habits! Being kind to yourself goes a very long way to supporting your journey to better health!
  1. MAKE JOY A PRIORITY. Doing things you love and spending time with people you care about are keys to feeling fulfilled (and less likely to binge or otherwise engage behaviors that try to fill up emptiness). Pleasure naturally keeps you coming back for more, so connecting with your body, exercise, and eating in ways that are enjoyable (instead of guilt-induced) will keep you on a healthy path.

HAPPY DANCING & DINING!

–Tiekka

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Image Source: Unsplash / Kiersten Ramshaw

First position: plié. Once, twice. Relevé, and hold. Balance, plié. Repeat in second, then fifth. What once would have been like another language to me (OK, fair, part of it is in another language) is now a calming repetition I consider the only form of meditation that has ever worked for me. Bonus: my butt is toned as hell.

A couple of years ago, I knew two things to be true: I hated working out, and I loved ballet. Watching ballet, that is. I’d dabbled in dance the way that most 6-year-old little girls do — I donned a sparkly pink tutu for an end-of-year recital (I have photographic evidence of this), tapped and jazzed my heart out for a short stint, and then called it quits when I lost my patience with the monotony of following strict rules and pointing my pink-slippered toes in a creaky old studio.

Despite giving up on my prima ballerina dreams at an early age, I still loved the art itself. Watching it, reading about it, and following dancers I admired for their strength, skill, and, most of all, complete and utter dedication.

So when I began to take an interest in my fitness (I hit my late 20s; it was bound to happen eventually), I tried countless classes and workouts that made me feel miserable and defeated. I wanted to be toned and strong but had no interest doing anything at the cost of my happiness and comfort. I stumbled upon several studios offering adult ballet classes. I assumed this meant for adults who had ballet experience and training from childhood but who decided not to pursue professional careers. I assumed they were at a skill level I couldn’t possibly aspire to. Wrong.

Adult ballet isn’t about the pounds you’ll lose — it’s about everything that you will gain. ADVERTISEMENT

There are studios in many cities that offer various levels of adult ballet classes, from (very basic!) beginner to advanced and even adult pointe training. Was I willing to put myself out there and explore a part of the fitness world that isn’t necessarily as well-known or conventional? What if I was terrible and everyone was dancing circles around me? And how exactly would I feel sporting a leotard and tights?

Well, two years and a lot of late nights at the barre later, I can tell you that taking that first (literal) leap into adult ballet didn’t just change my body but my life. My mindset about health and wellness is radically different, and I am more fit than I’ve ever been. Thanks to the rigorous and challenging nature of ballet, rest assured, you will get a worthwhile workout. I’ve been able to evolve and grow in a way that’s been safe and beneficial for my body as I get older. Ballet, with its rhythm and repetition, its musicality and its simmering heart, is also a solace for those with busy minds who find it hard to turn off their thoughts.

Thanks to the rigorous and challenging nature of ballet, rest assured, you will get a worthwhile workout.

When I came to my first class at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco, the teacher laid it bare. “You won’t lose weight in this class,” he said with his characteristic frankness. But adult ballet isn’t about the pounds you’ll lose — it’s about everything that you will gain. Each week, twice a week, I’m not doing hours of cardio so I can lose weight. I am building muscle, toning every last inch of my body: abs, butt, legs, arms, feet, back (oh the beautiful backs ballet dancers have!). I am improving my posture, my balance, my core strength. Taking stairs by two is easy, thanks to improved quad and calf strength. Lugging home bags of groceries is a walk in the park since I spend an entire class holding my arms chest height or above and shaping them into graceful positions. Watching my classmates — adults of all ages, from different backgrounds and places in the world — I can see how far we’ve come since we shyly shuffled into the studio that first night. My turnout is still far from perfect (one might even say it’s far from good), but my mind is clear every time I leave that place, and for me, that is no easy feat.

If you are interested in trying out adult ballet, don’t be intimidated. If you’ve always wanted to do it but thought it was “too late” to start, you’re just plain wrong. It’s never too late. You will see results you may not expect, and you just might find the type of fitness class you’ve been looking for.


Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Hilary White

How to get the body of a dancer?

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