Happy hour at the barre - the calming effects of ballet while in (or out of) quarantine
I grew up wanting to hide. I was a painfully shy child and it showed itself in so many ways. I would hide behind my mother’s legs if anyone dared look at me, let alone talk to me.
Ballet became a huge part of my life. I never felt shy when I was dancing. I mean, I could dance no problem, just not speak! I found a place where I could express myself how I wanted to, and a huge part of that was in my love for ballet.
Ballet is still my go-to place for calm, quiet reflection, connection with between my mind and body and most of all has always soothed and settled my anxiety. Ballet has always been my safe haven. It allows me to escape, create and imagine. I feel serene and it allows me to disconnect from all going on around me. It’s just about me. Moving my body allows me to connect with my own thoughts.
When I was younger it gave me respite from bullying at school and the shyness that I found so debilitating. As an adult, it still gives me time to myself, distance from the chaos of family life, my emails, the to-do list and the variety of roles I play to those around me. This love and passion for this form of movement is what drove me to want to teach and provide others with the same experience of escape and calm.
Now more than ever I am called to help women find this safe space for themselves. To appreciate and love the body they are in enough to want to move it in a way that benefits them physically but more importantly mentally and emotionally.
We know we need to move for our health and wellbeing but ballet is so much more than exercise.
Here are some of the many benefits of ballet.
One of the key ways to find inner power and balance is through ritual, those actions we repeatedly turn to in order to calm ourselves, to help us cope. Of course rituals can be rooted in religion, or superstition but movement of your body in an intentional, gentle and graceful way through ballet can help to soothe your mind and settle any building anxiety. These rituals can take you away from the thoughts dancing around in your head. It gives you the opportunity for quiet reflection and a renewed ability to manage your emotions.
Finding a way to tap into your inner resolve and draw on it when you need it is vital. You can increase your self-awareness by engaging in meditation, breathing exercises, drawing, or any activity that gives you peace. Take what you already enjoy and deepen the experience to enhance your feelings of wellbeing and become centred. If you haven’t already tried ballet, I would encourage you to do so. To not only learn a new form of movement to stimulate your brain and body, but to experience that special feeling of calm and sanctuary.
Ballet improves your posture and there are so many benefits to practicing good posture and they extend far beyond how much better you look in the mirror. Good posture can lift your confidence, give you an energy boost, reduce stress and optimises your breathing. Maintaining and being mindful of this better posture will help keep your back strong, reducing back pain and keep you looking as graceful as Audrey Hepburn! Hepburn had many years training in a professional ballet school and this training showed in her poise and grace on stage and behind the camera.
Stimulate your mind & body
Ballet requires you to engage your mind with what your body is doing and enter a flow state. It is full immersion into movement and lifts and transports you away from your problems. You are not able to go on automatic pilot as you might do on a running machine, watching a TV screen to take your mind off what your body is actually doing. It is a far cry from some of the mindless physical activities available at the gym. You can’t plan your shopping list, worry about your child’s progress at school or when you are going to achieve all the chores on your to-do list.
Ballet stimulates the mind and requires a strong connection between mind and body. It makes you feel more elegant, strong and confident. It also gives you a wonderful sense of achievement without the feeling of punishment involved in some workouts!
The power of music
The classical music that accompanies ballet has its obvious beauty but it also has many documented effects on the brain and our emotions. Studies have shown that classical music can lower blood pressure, arouse emotion, alter brainwaves, foster brain developments in children and exert a calming effect. To move your body to this music allows it to feel graceful. It is gentle and soothing to listen to but when you move to these rhythms, it uplifts your soul, makes you smile and allows you to express yourself in a very different way than you may have ever experienced before.
I know just how important exercise is for physical and mental wellbeing. As a result of my journey, of finding that safe place in my passion and for overcoming the challenges of my mental health, I encourage you to please give ballet a shot. From the comfort and privacy of your own home you can experience all of these benefits to help you cope with your current circumstances and to help you navigate this new way of life over the coming weeks and months.
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