Injury Prevention

Don’t Forget to Breathe!

3:35 PM

If you’ve ever taken a class with me, you’ll hear me say this several times. Breathing is important. Obviously if you don’t breathe you’ll die. But I don’t mean just inhale-exhale as you need it. I want you to use your breath to your advantage. I have learned to harness my breath and use it as a tool.

My general rule of thumb is this: When you’re flexing a muscle, you should exhale, and when you’re lengthening, you should inhale.

For instance: When many people do a grand plie, they start off by taking a small breath, and exhaling as they go down. That causes the diaphragm and the lungs to get smaller, and they tend to sink in their backs. Many beginners will hold their breath as they do a developpe, or a jump series, because they’re focused on their body rather than their breathing. Neither of these things help them at all.

To start training your body to do this, start by doing this exercise: Do a nice deep demi plie. Inhale as you go down, and exhale as you push up. Then, place your hand on your shoulder, or do a port de bras to fifth as you do another demi plie. Imagine your collar bone is the top part of a slinky, and someone is releasing the bottom half when you do your plie. the bottom part of the slinky (your spine) is stretching downwards. Then, move the whole stretched-out slinky up in space as you stand out of your plie. Try the same thing in your grand plie. The idea is to put air space between the ribs and spine, and to lengthen as much as possible, and then keep that length as you stand up.
If you do your plies this way, I promise three things:
  1. You will be warm after plies. Bye-bye sweaters and leg warmers!
  2. Your spine will grow stronger and more flexible (with time), and allow for an awesome cambre.
  3. You will learn to better isolate your muscles
Experiment with your breathing in class. Should you inhale as you do a pique arabesque, or exhale? What about a big sissone, or a grand jete? A grand battement? a fondu? Try to focus on your breath and you fill find that you can harness strength you didn’t know you had.

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  1. I loved reading your post because I also love ballet and know how much my teachers tell us to just breathe. Its good to hear other people had the same experience and it was really cool how you showed why! Your blog is full of really interesting ballet posts and I loved reading them. I also have a blog about ballet if you want to read it you can find it here at


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