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If there’s one thing almost everyone would like a bit more of, it’s flexibility. We might be disciplined at putting in hours at the gym, pounding the streets or pumping iron – but when we’re pushed for time, it’s the post-workout stretch that’s often cut short.

However, flexbility is an aspect of health that we really shouldn’t ignore. From helping to treat back pain to improving circulation, regular stretching offers a wide range of benefits, which is why it’s the focus of English National Ballet’s unique exercise class BalletFit. Held at Markova House, the home of English National Ballet, this ballet-inspired Pilates workout is challenging yet completely accessible to adults of all genders, shapes and sizes. Absolutely no dance experience is necessary.

‘The essence of ballet that I bring to these classes is the sense of aesthetic quality; exercise is often perceived as very unglamorous and it’s good to feel nice while you’re working out,’ explains the teacher Rhiann, who is an experienced professional and teaches clinical Pilates as well as BalletFit.

For ballet fans, it’s almost enough of an enticement that you do the class in the very same studio that English National Ballet’s dancers train and rehearse in during the day. The high ceilings provide a wonderful sense of space and it’s quiet and peaceful, helped by the mellow playlist.

We started at the barre with some gentle warm-up exercises and stretches. I’ve done a lot of ballet, but not for a long time and although it felt wonderful to plié deep and sweep my arms in port de bras, I was shocked at how tight my hamstrings have become. We moved from the barre to mats, working on core muscles with some tough abdominal exercises (in turn-out and with pointed toes, of course) and some deeper stretches, before ending with a couple of minutes’ relaxation.

Pacing around the room, Rhiann demonstrates every exercise clearly and is hands-on in correcting alignment. Of course, you can’t expect to improve your flexibility in one class, but according to a number of class participants, you’ll definitely see a progression over the 12-week term. Becoming stronger and more supple can also help to prevent injury and make it easier to perform other types of exercise or sports, while the dancer’s posture is something that many people long for. ‘When you’ve been a dancer, people can tell for the rest of your life that you’ve danced, even if it’s just at an amateur level,’ says Rhiann. ‘That’s something people really aspire to, so to bring it into the exercise world is a great thing.’

For more about BalletFit morning classes and taster classes, or to book, visit here.

Article originally published at blog.ballet.org.uk

Words by Samantha Whitikar

Please credit: Laurent Liotardo

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