Never has exercise at home been more necessary and needed. (Whose missing ballet class?) Because pre-corona world, I was moving to different places on different jobs, I really wanted something that would keep me tapped in to ballet, even when I wasn’t able to get to class. So the past couple of weeks I delved into Mary Helen’s world of Ballet Beautiful, as it seemed like the perfect time. In this particular Ballet Beautiful review I’ll be focusing on the book (more to come on the videos later.)
In a nutshell ballet beautiful is based around a series of exercises that aim to imbue you with the grace, strength, tone and carriage of a ballerina, but in a way that is calm, nourishing and forgiving to your body, whilst giving the results that we all crave, and FAST (hooray!)
Basically, if you love dancing, this book has your back. The author is a massive advocate of healthy body image and Ballet Beautiful isn’t just an exercise regime, it’s a lifestyle. The best part is you will be guided every step of the way (pretty impressive for the cost of 3 lattes in Starbucks, right?)
So Who Is Mary Helen Bowers?
So now I’ve got your attention, some of you might be wondering, so let’s fill you in. Mary Helen Bowers is the creator of Ballet Beautiful and even if you don’t know the name you might actually know of her work. She was actually the ballerina who trained Natalie Portman for the film Black Swan. The book itself also has a foreword by Natalie attesting the results she achieved through Mary Helen’s program (of which she says were even noted by her dad who said her posture ‘looked like [she had] swallowed a broom.’)
Bowers was a prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet who she worked with for over a decade. Fellow clients of Ballet Beautiful that Mary Helen has personally worked with and trained include Liv Tyler, Zoe Deschanel and Kirstin Dunst, as well as supermodels such as Helena Christensen. So you’ll be in pretty good company. Needless to say, with such a strong following, I was pretty excited to do this Ballet Beautiful review!
So What Is Ballet Beautiful?
Essentially it is an exercise program based on the fundamentals of ballet technique, used to completely transform your body, and the way you move. It shows you how to look like a ballerina without actually becoming one. It also teaches you the lifestyle tips and mindset resilience necessary to completely revolutionise the way you view yourself and cultivate a more loving approach, working from the inside out. The program very much focuses on making you FEEL beautiful, whilst giving strategy rather than pep. It also discourages dieting and deprivation, tooting contentment, ease, and balance as the order of the day. No food is bad or off limits, but Mary Helen teaches you the flexibility to have a little of what you fancy without it becoming groundhog day and going all out.
This Book Is For You If…
(Any of the below)
- You want to achieve your ideal weight and be able to be maintain it instinctively and easily.
- You’ve always loved and wished you could do ballet, but never had the opportunity.
- You lead a busy lifestyle, such as business women or mums and want something you can do at home, with minimal time for maximum results.
- You’re already a dancer and want a way to maintain your technique whilst your on contracts eg. holiday parks, cruise ships etc.
- You’re in training as a ballet dancer and want to learn the best way to train your body whilst creating a resilient mindset and healthy relationship with food.
For dancers, I really want to emphasise that although this program is targeted at non dancers, I actually think that it’s JUST as useful to dancers, particularly those on contract who aren’t able to get to classes, or who have a packed rehearsal and performance schedule. You can make it as low impact, or intense as you desire (so you can still keep your energy high for shows and performances, whilst keeping strong and conditioned.) In a nutshell, it’s perfect for maintaining technique. In fact Mary Helen used these exercises when she was performing every night professionally and said she’d never danced better!
She also talks a lot about her personal journey and how she overcame certain obstacles, which is why I particularly recommend this book for ballet dancers in training. She shortcuts you to the best possible version of yourself without the damage.
(Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be a ballet dancer to do the program- it’s made for everyone!)
The Structure And The Outcome
The book is split into 3 parts and very much works from the ground up. The sections are as follows:
PART 1- Mindset (as well as Mary Helen’s backstory.)
PART 2- The actual program/exercises. (It also includes a stretching section, a ballet glossary of terms you’ll need and the workouts. There are two main workouts within Ballet Beautiful- the 15-minute ballet beautiful blasts and the 60-minute classic workout, although these can also be mixed and matched to create 30 or 45 minute sessions as well.)
PART 3- Creating a conducive lifestyle. This includes tips, the 5 principles of eating, a host of recipes, creating a routine and what a typical week will look like.
And if you’re wondering if it will work for you, Mary Helen says:
‘Ballet Beautiful works for every woman because it is tied to the way the female body inherently moves.’
It also teaches 5 principles to change your relationship with food so you start to experience healthy weight loss (if you so wish.) She urges us to ‘Take the time to make conscious choices until it doesn’t feel like work anymore and is just a part of your new life.’
It is however important to get some regularity going to achieve results. She suggests a minimum of 3 days a week, and you can see results in as little as 3 or even 2 weeks. It’s the sort of thing where when you actually start to see the results you’ll be hooked! So following this Ballet Beautiful review, if you want the book to yield the results promised, make sure to set aside a little time.
- Extremely versatile- you can do it pretty much any time, anywhere (you don’t need a barre or a studio.)
- You can tailor your workouts- whatever areas you want to work on, there’s targeted exercises.
- Made to order. Pushed for time? You can do 15-minute ballet blast. Want something more in-depth- you can do the classic 1hr work out. Want to mix it up? You can opt for 30 or 45 min ones. It has been created with you in mind and made to mould to your life, just like the perfect pair of pointe shoes.
- Recipes- easy to make, easy to prepare, minimal ingredients.
- You’ll gain a working knowledge of ballet as you do it.
- Develop the poise and elegance that ballet dancers have.
- Strength- this program is HUGELY strengthening, you’ll probably feel the strongest you’ve ever felt in fact. However unlike weights, you will stay streamlined and don’t have the worry of developing bulk.
- Weight loss in a healthy way that works both internally (through your mindset and creating a healthy relationship to your body,) and externally (both through calorie burning and a sped up metabolism due to increased muscle mass.)
- Gradual build up. You can build up through increased stretching periods (rest) which then lessen in frequency as your strength improves.
- It takes a little more patience to interpret the movement from text rather than screen (but Mary Helen provides clear pictures with an additional index of ballet terminology for reference, so don’t be intimidated by the idea of having to work the exercises out for yourself. She also explains any terminology she uses clearly as she goes along.
- No music if doing it on your own, with just the book. (That being said, if music is what gets you moving, there’s no reason you can’t put your own music on once you get to grips with the exercises. This might even be beneficial as the exercises rely on counts- typically 4 counts of 8 per exercise.)
- Some exercises can get a little repetitive (but there’s no reason you can’t mix and match if repetition isn’t your thing.)
My Ballet Beautiful Review Findings
I have found that since I have adjusted to a healthier way of life since Christmas and using Lifesum, a lot of her advice I have found myself implementing almost on instinct so I can say firsthand: this stuff WORKS. It was really nice to have those confirmations while reading this and to pick up some extra tips and brush up on by mindset along the way too. There is also a good deal about self trust and intuition which interestingly I also talk about in my post on goal setting here.
One of the best things, Mary Helen said is ‘in the past I might have thought about and obsessed over how I LOOKED. Now I am interested in how I FEEL.’ And it’s so true, I instinctively know when I need to eat more, and I never let myself go to bed hungry. On the flip side, I also have a much better understanding of when I’m snacking coz I’m bored, or hungry because I haven’t drunk enough, or am overindulging in sugar.
Technique wise I feel stronger, my balance is better. It’s even helped with my weak ankle that I had an injury with last year. It allows you to focus in on working particular muscles in a more sustained way than in ballet class and if you’ve always secretly wanted to be a ballerina it lets you experience a more streamlined and poised graceful physique too.
I genuinely recommend this book, particularly if you fancy a less full on approach and feel jaded by the normal gym, hard core vibe. (Not to say that the gym is bad, but different things work for different people, right?)
If this rings true for you, then give yourself a break from running yourself into the ground. Ballet Beautiful focuses on a nurturing, more gentle strengthening approach; one that thrives on subtlety but also seeing results quickly.
So if you fancy dipping your toe in, or in this case your ballet shoe clad foot, I’d say go for it! Those who follow this website or the Instagram will know that I only ever advise things I genuinely believe will truly work and are of benefit, so please know that this is an honest ballet beautiful review. In my opinion this can do extraordinary things for your life if you let it and I also would highly recommend it for those looking to redefine their relationship with food.