My Body Changed Dramatically When I Started Adult Ballet but Not From Weight Loss

First position: plié. Once, twice. Relevé, and hold. Balance, plié. Repeat in second, then fifth. What once would have been like another language to me (OK, fair, part of it is in another language) is now a calming repetition I consider the only form of meditation that has ever worked for me. Bonus: my butt is toned as hell.

A couple of years ago, I knew two things to be true: I hated working out, and I loved ballet. Watching ballet, that is. I'd dabbled in dance the way that most 6-year-old little girls do — I donned a sparkly pink tutu for an end-of-year recital (I have photographic evidence of this), tapped and jazzed my heart out for a short stint, and then called it quits when I lost my patience with the monotony of following strict rules and pointing my pink-slippered toes in a creaky old studio.

Despite giving up on my prima ballerina dreams at an early age, I still loved the art itself. Watching it, reading about it, and following dancers I admired for their strength, skill, and, most of all, complete and utter dedication.

So when I began to take an interest in my fitness (I hit my late 20s; it was bound to happen eventually), I tried countless classes and workouts that made me feel miserable and defeated. I wanted to be toned and strong but had no interest doing anything at the cost of my happiness and comfort. I stumbled upon several studios offering adult ballet classes. I assumed this meant for adults who had ballet experience and training from childhood but who decided not to pursue professional careers. I assumed they were at a skill level I couldn't possibly aspire to. Wrong.

Adult ballet isn't about the pounds you'll lose — it's about everything that you will gain.

There are studios in many cities that offer various levels of adult ballet classes, from (very basic!) beginner to advanced and even adult pointe training. Was I willing to put myself out there and explore a part of the fitness world that isn't necessarily as well-known or conventional? What if I was terrible and everyone was dancing circles around me? And how exactly would I feel sporting a leotard and tights?

Well, two years and a lot of late nights at the barre later, I can tell you that taking that first (literal) leap into adult ballet didn't just change my body but my life. My mindset about health and wellness is radically different, and I am more fit than I've ever been. Thanks to the rigorous and challenging nature of ballet, rest assured, you will get a worthwhile workout. I've been able to evolve and grow in a way that's been safe and beneficial for my body as I get older. Ballet, with its rhythm and repetition, its musicality and its simmering heart, is also a solace for those with busy minds who find it hard to turn off their thoughts.

Thanks to the rigorous and challenging nature of ballet, rest assured, you will get a worthwhile workout.

When I came to my first class at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco, the teacher laid it bare. "You won't lose weight in this class," he said with his characteristic frankness. But adult ballet isn't about the pounds you'll lose — it's about everything that you will gain. Each week, twice a week, I'm not doing hours of cardio so I can lose weight. I am building muscle, toning every last inch of my body: abs, butt, legs, arms, feet, back (oh the beautiful backs ballet dancers have!). I am improving my posture, my balance, my core strength. Taking stairs by two is easy, thanks to improved quad and calf strength. Lugging home bags of groceries is a walk in the park since I spend an entire class holding my arms chest height or above and shaping them into graceful positions. Watching my classmates — adults of all ages, from different backgrounds and places in the world — I can see how far we've come since we shyly shuffled into the studio that first night. My turnout is still far from perfect (one might even say it's far from good), but my mind is clear every time I leave that place, and for me, that is no easy feat.

If you are interested in trying out adult ballet, don't be intimidated. If you've always wanted to do it but thought it was "too late" to start, you're just plain wrong. It's never too late. You will see results you may not expect, and you just might find the type of fitness class you've been looking for.

POPSUGAR Photography | Hilary White