When I was 2 1/2, my mom dressed me in a black leotard and pink tights and introduced me to dance. It was my first ballet class, a magical place with giant mirrors and a worn wooden floor that seemed to go on forever. We leapt and chased with abandon. We lay on our tummies and arched our backs into tiny baskets. Miss Patricia spun tulle above our heads, and we twirled with our arms stretched high, like tulips.
I grew up dancing. There was never a reason to quit, not an ache or pain or even a protruding belly. Turns out, pregnancy was a great time to head to the barre.
“I’ve got ex-ballet dancers in their eighth month of pregnancy taking classes,” says Charlotte Richards, a ballet instructor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and at Conjunctive Points, a new arts complex in Culver City, Calif.
For those of you who have never stepped into a slipper or have only dabbled in dance, incorporating just a few exercises from this rigorous discipline will keep you strong and toned throughout pregnancy. And because these moves also will improve your posture and balance, there’s no better workout to offset the added weight in your belly and your tendency to slump forward.
The Pregnant Form
In doing the following combination, which was designed by Richards, make sure to keep your shoulders in front of your hips, so that your weight is forward and your pelvis is neutral, not tipped. “Pull up in front and down in back, and stay forward and square,” Richards says. “Think about lifting up behind your ears for the best body placement.” Avoid the temptation to arch your back.
The first exercise is a grand plié and relevé in second position. This move strengthens the quadriceps and tones the inner thighs. The second is a wrap-and-resist isometric movement in first position, which will improve posture and the firm buttocks and upper legs. For shaping the upper back and abdominals, Richards recommends the port de bras, the third exercise in this routine, in which the arm stretches up, to the side and back in a big circle around the center of your body.
If you already have been taking ballet, do these exercises along with your modified routine. If you’ve never danced before, do them along with your usual prenatal fitness regimen. Be sure to limit jumping, turning and any movement that may throw off your balance. Now is not the time to be a prima ballerina.
Do these 3 ballet moves 3 days a week, on alternating days. If you feel any discomfort or pain, stop and consult your physician.