Find the Ballerina Within With Mary Helen Bowers

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About the Author: Nicole Gregory is managing editor of VIVmag.

Mary Helen Bowers offers step-by-step instruction in her “Ballet Beautiful” book, with workouts you can do at home.

If you’ve ever left a holiday performance of The Nutcracker wishing you could move like the dancers, there’s a book that can make your dream a reality. Ballet Beautiful: Transform Your Body and Gain the Strength, Grace, and Focus of a Ballet Dancer (Da Capo Press, 2012) by Mary Helen Bowers. She offers an introduction to ballet exercises for all parts of the body, as well as an attitude of feminine pride to help you find a new way to move and think about your body.

Actor Natalie Portman, who trained for her Academy Award-winning role as a ballerina in Black Swan with Bowers, provides the intro to the book. (Bowers’ other celeb clients include actor/musician Zooey Deschanel, actor Liv Tyler and model Helena Christensen.) The book contains the basic moves, and 60- and 15-minute programs with photo illustrations, as well as tips for setting realistic goals and creating a healthy eating plan.

If you have trouble following exercises from a book, visit Bowers’ website,, where you’ll find streaming videos such as “Swan Arms Cardio” ($10), “15-Minute Ballet Beautiful Body” ($8) or the special holiday “Sugarplum Workout” ($10). You can also take a live online class. Bowers’ DVDs ($12.99$29.99) are available via Amazon.

Graceful and poised, Bowers encourages women of all ages to try her routines. Her message is all about life balance and taking care of yourself — hardly the extremes that ballerinas are known for.

But Bowers does know that life. She became a professional ballerina at age 16, spending a decade with the New York City Ballet. Performing six days a week, with hours of rehearsal in between, took its toll. Bowers injured her left foot but hid the pain and continued to dance, hurting herself further. Finally, she was forced to take a break and during that time she found relief — both physical and emotional — from the rigors of performing. Yet because she still wanted to be strong, she developed her own routines, and Ballet Beautiful was born.

With no equipment necessary, there’s little to lose in giving yourself the gift of becoming a ballerina — at least in your own living room!

Have you tried ballet-inspired workouts?