In class, dancers have to worry about a million things at once. The choreography, technique, alignment, expression, musicality not to mention the ever-present mirror reminding you of any insecurities they might have about their appearance. Yoga asanas let you step away from all that and just focus on the movement.
In Hatha yoga, the slow and steady progression of the class makes picking up the movement a piece of cake for dancers, so you can focus on engaging the correct muscles and lengthening in the stretches. Dancers don’t have time in technique class to go back to basics and just feel their muscles working. Taking a lower level class can be boring, and taking a class at your technical level doesn’t leave you with enough freedom between movements to explore the body. In yoga, the placement of each individual toe and weight distribution is emphasized. Moving slowly and deliberately lets you place your limbs into correct alignment with precision.
In Ashtanga vinyasa, the repetitive nature of every class provides a controlled benchmark for improvement. Dancers are so self-critical, but by executing the same sequence of postures every session, the increase in strength and flexibility is clear.
Vinyasa yoga can help work on an often neglected part of dancer’s training, upper body strength. The repetitive chatarangas and arm balances are sure to tone up your arms for an improved port de bras.
1) Working Turned in
Additionally, stretching and strengthening in a turned in position is important for balancing the body. We over use our rotator muscles and need to let our body reset and strengthen with turned in exercises. Less prone to injury, because in long sustained poses no muscles will be jerked around risking muscle tears.
2) Back Muscles
Yoga can improve your arabesque! Back strength for movements in derriere or arabesques is often lacking in dancers. With yoga, poses such as urdvu dhanurasana, bhujangasana (cobra) and salabhasana (locust) directly work with strengthening and stretching the lower and upper back muscles. Try performing a backbend sequence and notice how your back extensions feel lighter!
3) Body Awareness
Furthermore, most yoga classes don’t have mirrors. So many dancers learn to grow dependent on mirrors as a visual benchmark for how they are performing. With yoga, there’s no mirrors, no talking, no musicality. Just you, your body and your mind. Reteach your body to feel movements intuitively instead of relying on the mirror for affirmations of good alignment. This can help you increase your body awareness.
A dancer cannot reach her fullest potential until she finds how to link her breath to movement. Breath at the right times can enhance releases and sustained movements. Sharp exhales can emphasize sharp and angular movements. In yoga, breath and movement is so intricately linked it can help dancers train their breathing to coordinate with movement. The yoga principle of exhaling to expand movement and inhales to contract movement can be applied in dance to take your artistry to the next level.
So dancers, give yoga a try!