How Can Yoga Improve My Dancing?
Most people that start practicing yoga do it to improve their flexibility and fitness. Well as dancers we already spend so much time on these things. So you may be wondering, how can I possibly improve my dancing through yoga?
Peace of mind
Patanjali defines yoga as Chitta Vritti Nirodha, which means ‘to still the fluctuations of the mind’. This means that any unwanted thoughts or feelings that arise during the day we acknowledge them, accept them, and simply push them aside. They say that a true yogi isn’t perfectly zen all the time. Just like any other human they will have all kinds of unwanted thoughts and feelings, but they are experts at honouring and accepting their true selves. Learning to have control like this takes time, but can be super beneficial for yourself and your dancing.
Connecting breath with movement
Yoga and dance actually have a lot more in common then you may think. Much like dancing, yoga connects almost every movement with a breath.As dancers we are spending a lot of time in the studio striving for excellence and perfection. Whilst we are always working extremely hard, we may be completely unaware of the fact that we are not breathing properly. This means having a shallow short breath from your mouth, and breathing tightly up into your chest. Breathing like this can often lead to having too much carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, triggering the sympathetic nervous system, which may leave you feeling stressed, tired or fatigued.In yoga there is an incredible thing you can learn to do called Pranayama, (alteration of breath). There are many different ways you can alter your breath to suit your personal needs. A great Pranayama practice for dancers to do is Ujjayi breath (victorious breath). Ujjayi breath will help you with breathing from your belly, lengthening your exhale, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and bringing you into a parasympathetic state. To learn how to do Ujjayi breath, you can practice with something called the mirror method. To do the mirror method you must place yourself in front of a mirror, inhale through your nose and then take a really long exhale through your mouth so that you fog up the glass. Whilst you are doing this, try your best to focus on having a longer exhale than inhale, and initiating the breath from your belly. Once you have nailed the mirror method then you can try that exact same technique, but without the mirror and with your mouth closed. Then that’s your Ujjayi breath!Next time you are feeling nervous for an exam or performance try your Ujjayi breath for a few minutes and see how you feel after.
Yoga is a mind and body practice. It is also a form of self care and love. Taking a regular yoga class when you can, will allow you to simply just be the way you are, with no judgement or competition from yourself or anyone else. Doing this is super healing for your soul and can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin. Therefore you are gaining more confidence within yourself that you can take away and incorporate into your dance classes and daily life.
Increasing full-body awarenessIf you start taking a regular yoga class amongst your other fitness and dance training, you will find that you are exploring and moving through some different asanas (poses)that you may not have done before. Some asanas will challenge and improve your balance, flexibility or strength. Some asanas won’t, but I can almost guarantee that through regular yoga practice you will soon start to feel a positive influence on your dancing. You may also start to recognise some imbalances and patterns within your body and mind that you did not notice before. As a hard working dancer you are generally your toughest critic. But no matter what, please continue to honour and love your true self with no judgement.
Written by Tatum Stanley. Tatum is a certified Hatha yoga teacher. If you have any questions in regards to yoga then please feel free to contact Tatum at anytime. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org