As a professional ballerina turned personal trainer and now a Mom of 3 I have now been through the pre and postnatal process 3 times – and each time it has been a bit different for me! When it comes to prenatal workouts, one of the most powerful personal lessons that I have learned has been a foundational shift in focus away from focusing my time and energy towards how my body looks to tuning into how I feel. This lesson informs the way I live every single day as I strive to live my healthiest, happiest life, together with my family. I see this as one of the greatest gifts of motherhood!
Becoming a Mom has been for me a life changing opportunity to shift my priorities and perspectives while opening up my heart to love and care for my babies. Learning to set aside time for myself to take the best care possible of my body has been a wonderful part of the process.
Pregnancy forces us to slow down and listen to our body’s cues as we focus on the needs of the little one inside! For me working out while pregnant became a time to connect with my body and baby while working on my personal strength and stamina. If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant the first step to beginning any exercise program is consulting with your Doctor. From there if you are cleared to workout, I hope you will enjoy the below series of Ballet Baby exercises and stretches that were some of my personal favorites, and favorites of Miranda too!
Arabesque Lifts for the Legs and Butt
This movement works best in early to mid pregnancy. It is doable later in pregnancy but your range of motion will be more limited! I love the way that this exercise let’s you challenge and tone your legs and butt, it feels great to work these muscles!
Begin sitting up on your knees and stretch one leg to the back. Keeping the back somewhat up right (it gets harder to keep the back up as the belly gets bigger!), bring the back leg in towards the hip bending the knee and lifting the knee off the floor. Stretch the knee to the back again, lengthening into an arabesque. Do not focus on how high the legs goes but rather aim to straighten the back knee. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 8 and then hold out for 8 counts. Release the leg, take a gentle stretch and repeat on the other side.
Seated Leg Extensions
Seated Swan Arms
Seated Swan Arms:
This exercise can be performed either seated in a chair (as pictured) or standing. Begin in a relaxed position with the shoulders pushed down and the neck long. lower the arms down towards the knees, pushing from the wrists.
Lift from the wrists and take the arms up and out as you extend and lift, remembering to keep the neck long. Lower the wrists and arms again to repeat. Repeat 3-4 sets of 8, stretch and repeat.
Gentle Hamstring and Lower Leg Stretch
Easy does it when it comes to prenatal stretching. The pregnant female body releases extra hormones that are in place to help the body open and release for childbirth. From a fitness perspective it is very important not to overstretch or push your range of motion during this time because it is so easy to over do it! I love this simple hamstring stretch as a way to safely open up the back of the lags and release tension and stress.
Begin seated on the mat and extend one leg ahead. Bend the other knee and bend slightly forward (the amount you can extend and bend forward will depend on how big your bump is!), reaching towards the toe. Flex the foot of the working leg to add an extra stretch through the lower leg and calf.
Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Mary Helen trained at Manhattan’s prestigious School of American Ballet before being invited to join the New York City Ballet at age 16. Mary Helen danced for a decade with New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center and on stages around the world before founding Ballet Beautiful.
Mary Helen personally trained Natalie Portman for her Award winning role in Black Swan, bringing ballet fitness into the spotlight as never before.
At the heart of the Ballet Beautiful method is Mary Helen’s expertise, and the exquisite grace, beauty and strength that are the essence of a ballerina’s form. Ballet Beautiful’s transformative online classes and life-changing Custom Workout subscription are beloved by members in over 130 countries around the world.
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