I’m sure many of us are envious of the ballet dancer’sathletic figure and grace. Ballerinas train for years in order to getthat long and lean physique, but now the ordinary layperson can start to changetheir body within a few months with a few changes to their lifestyle.
Mary Helen Bowers, a former professional ballerina who retired from the stage after an injury and took up teaching even after she healed. Her most well-known client is Natalie Portman, who Bowers trained for her role in the film Black Swan. In her foreword of Bowers’ book, Portman praises Bowers’ technique, saying how it changed her life “and it was all possible without equipment”!
And now you can change your life, too, by following these five simple steps start living the Ballet Beautiful life.
#1 Purchase Ballet Beautiful, by Mary Helen Bowers
I discovered Bowers’ book searching online for videos or books on ballet, thinking that I could start doing it at home as an exercise. Rather than giving you a dance workout that potentially cripples you, this book gives you actual ballet stretches which not only improve your flexibility.
Ballet Beautiful is also available as an iBook, which has two versions: the first is just a book with text photographs and diagrams, while the other has clips of the stretches and exercises embedded into the text. This is more convenient for when you're travelling and don’t want to bring a book, a DVD player or a laptop.
Bowers also includes several exercises that you can do throughout the day when you have a minute or two to yourself, which is a good idea for me. And if you don’t have the time to exercise for half an hour to an hour, there are the fifteen-minute blasts, which are especially good if you are intimidated by some of the exercises.
#2 Get the clothes and equipment
You might think that you need a leotard, tights and ballet shoes, but that isn't true. You can wear whatever you're most comfortable exercising in.
As far as shoes, you can just pull on a pair of slip-resistant socks that usually worn for yoga or Pilates, rather than ballet shoes. The sticky pads on the soles will stop you from slipping on the floor or mat. But them but if you really want, you can purchase canvas dance shoes which are cheaper than the satin slippers that ballerinas are known for wearing.
Many of the Ballet Beautiful stretches and exercises are done on a mat like one you use for yoga so if you already have one, or even an exercise mat, you have no need to purchase one.
#3 Find appropriate music (optional)
Music is a great help in motivate you or it can calm you down. Bowers wrote in a post on her Ballet Beautiful blog that she likes to exercise to Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.
Though ballet is normally danced to classical music, it doesn't have to be; one of my favourite tracks is of Verona's Breathe and Fiona Sit’s 醜小鴨天鵝湖 (the Cantonese version of Morning Grace, the Princess Tutu anime theme song) . But for ballet purists there are plenty of classical music albums for ballet classes available to purchase.
If you are exercising at home where you live with someone else or at the gym, then it might be a good idea to purchase an armband for your phone or iPod you can stretch and workout to the music without disturbing anyone else.
#4 Makes changes to your diet
Like most health books, Bowers' Ballet Beautiful book recommends making changes to your diet. Rather than following fad diets that go to unhealthy extremes or fasting, she suggests small changes and identifying your bad habits. Ballet Beautiful has a whole section devoted to nutrition and diet, including quick and healthy recipes full of flavour and nutrients. And like any good athlete, Bowers recommends sipping water during your workouts which helps to retain water levels in your body as well as regulating your appetite. Apparently, often when you feel peckish you are actually thirsty!
#5 Work at it and have fun!
This is probably the most important step. If you want anything badly enough the only way to get to it is to keep going, but at the same time, enjoy yourself. You might find it hard, but nothing worth having is not worth making the effort.
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