Ballet For a Healthy Back

A few summers ago I took a ballet class through a local community college. Some time before that, I had endured an injury to my low back, followed by plenty of chiropractic care and follow-up appointments. I know taking a ballet class after a back injury seems counterintuitive, but by the time I signed up for my class I had healed and moved into the next phase: strengthening my body through controlled movement. In other words: “Use it or lose it” — it’s just that I had to be careful not to overdo it with the “use” part.

With the ballet class, my goal was to incorporate more stretching into my life, build up the muscles in my core, improve my spinal flexibility, and of course, have fun trying something different.

As it turned out, my summer-long foray into the world of pirouettes and plies definitely covered all the bases I expected it to, and then some. In fact, I learned firsthand how much of a full-body workout ballet was — one that absolutely challenged a person from head to toe.

Dancers everywhere already know what I’m about to say, so this is more for those readers who haven’t had much experience, but here goes: Dancing is a sport. That’s right, it’s hard. And those who do it professionally are clearly not just artists but also athletes.

I expected a lot of legwork, what with all the jumping and toe-pointing I’d witnessed in other scenarios (namely, those in which I was a viewer and not a participant), but I’m not sure I was prepared for my abdominal muscles (oh, the bending and twisting!), my arms (try holding yours up in the air for a half hour or longer!), and my feet (so much flexing!) to be as sore as they were after the first week.

Ballet, like many other forms of dance, is not only a killer workout for your legs and backside, it also practices good mobility of the neck, strengthens your arms, engages and strengthens the core (which, in turn, improves and maintains excellent balance), and works the hip flexors, back and pelvis.

Practicing ballet is also wonderful for developing good posture, since execution of the movements requires the body to be in proper alignment and perform gracefully. For this reason, it’s a fantastic mental workout, too. I found my class period would fly by quickly because I was concentrating so hard the whole time.

Looking for a way to get some strong and lean dancer’s legs this year? Consider signing up for an adult ballet class at a local dance studio or community college. Just make sure the facility and instructor are credible and make it their priority to provide safe, fun classes in a positive environment.

Image via Edward Langley on Flickr.

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