A Guide to a Dancer's Body - Part I

Words Ashleigh Wilson Photography Bryony Whitfield

Recently we at Vaara got to know Ashleigh, a classically trained ballet dancer with a passion for fitness, who has worked towards her own method of a Ballet-based HIIT exercise. Ashleigh employs a minimalist approach to achieving a beautifully balanced body and help bring about an inner balance of the mind, body & spirit. An ethos we couldn't agree with more!

Together with Ashleigh, in these series we are going to explore her tips and techniques to creating the Ultimate Guide to a Dancer's body: strong, lengthened and effortlessly graceful. Starting out with an overview, we'll be following up with a series of specific exercises to help achieve the lean and strong look so many of us work towards.

Ballet dancers may be blessed with long limbs and gorgeous shoulder lines, but in reality, we work extremely hard to create this aesthetic. And it’s not only beautiful, it’s functional. We need to defy gravity as we dance across the stage. So, whether you Tendu in a tutu or not, Here are a few tips to achieving your longest, leanest, strongest body.

 

1. Work with Length

Your muscles have memory. Are you creating a bulky muscle memory or one that builds length? Working slower and with more control creates lean muscle tissue. Train your body to work with length. Think of growing out the top of the head. Imagine your body expanding in opposite directions. If you create space in the body before a stretch or a movement, you have somewhere to go.

2. Balance Your Muscles

The way our body is designed, we rely on certain muscles. For example, we tend to overuse the quadriceps (at the front of the thigh) for a lot of everyday movements like getting up from sitting. Without being aware, your quads are getting stronger and your hamstrings, weaker. This can lead to issues with the knees, lower back, hips and ankles. Not only for a perfectly balanced body, but also to prevent injury, improve posture and build equal strength, try to activate the weaker muscle groups. Target the hamstrings, inner thighs, upper back and triceps. Connect mind to muscle: switch the overpowering muscles off and the weaker muscles on.

 

3. Address Your Posture

Modern technology is dictating our posture. The shoulders collapse forward and the neck hangs over our laptops. Be aware of your posture and make little adjustments. Walk with your spine lengthened and straight. Strengthen your upper back to open out your shoulders. You will age gracefully because the effects of gravity on the body will be much less. Don't wait for your workout, build strength in your body from the moment you stand on your feet in the morning.

4. Release Tension

Bulky muscles tend to be tight and overused. Dedicate time to really stretch all the main muscle groups. Be patient, its a little painful, but it's worth it. I suggest stretching about 25% of your workout. Not only at the end or after a sweaty run, but also after a specific exercise and just before you go to bed. Before you know it, you're body will be craving a good stretch, you'll catch yourself sitting tall and your muscles will be long and strong without you even realizing.

 

 

Find out more about Ashleigh at www.ashleighwilson.net

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