As a former professional figure skater and performer turned yoga teacher, I learned that taking care of my body and my mind off the ice, greatly influenced my ability to perform well on the ice.
Dancers, just like figure skaters, must master a combination of technical and artistic skills, of physical and mental fortitude, that make the disciplines challenging and demanding.
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional dancer, whether you dance ballet for fun or are a renowned hip-hop performer on the world stage, yoga for dancers can be a great tool that can help you find more balance and take better care of yourself.
So grab your yoga mat and read on!
Finding balance as a dancer
However, the repetitive nature of dance movements can lead to muscle imbalances and potential injuries.
Long practice hours, travel, and other demands of the discipline can create physical and mental imbalances that, through yoga for dancers and other techniques, can be rectified and even avoided in the future.
From poses that enhance core stability to those that improve alignment, dancers can find a renewed sense of equilibrium, ensuring longevity in their careers by incorporating a yoga practice into their routines.
Dancers often face performance anxiety1 Walker, I. J., & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2010). Performance anxiety experiences of professional ballet dancers: the importance of control. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science: Official Publication of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, 14(4), 133–145. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21703084/, burnout, and the constant pressure to meet high standards.
Techniques such as breath control, meditation, and visualization become invaluable tools in cultivating a calm and focused mind, empowering dancers to navigate the highs and lows of their artistic journey.
The intersection of dance and yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that goes way beyond the physical poses that you may have seen on social media or practiced at your local gym.Yoga is a holistic practice that includes a moral code of conduct2 Path to Happiness: 8 Interpretations of the Yamas + Niyamas. (2009, April 7). Yoga Journal. https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/philosophy/yoga-sutras/path-happiness/, philosophical principles, and other processes.
However, when we narrow our focus to the physical aspect, particularly the intricate interplay of breath and movement, a captivating synergy emerges, finding common ground with the world of dance.
Here are some of these intersections:
- Both dance and yoga prioritize heightened body awareness. Dancers and yogis cultivate a deep understanding of their bodies, emphasizing alignment, movement precision, and a mindful connection to physical sensations.
- In dance, intentional breathing enhances endurance and expression, while in yoga, it is a fundamental element that connects movement and mindfulness, promoting a sense of calm and focus.
- Both dance and yoga contribute to flexibility, lengthening, and strength. Yoga poses build strength and increase flexibility, supporting dancers in executing intricate movements with ease.
- Whether moving through a dance routine or holding a yoga pose, you will cultivate a heightened awareness of how your body moves and responds to various stimuli.
- Both dance and yoga require balance and coordination. Dancers execute precise movements with poise, and yogis maintain balance in various poses, promoting overall physical stability and control.
5 Benefits of yoga for dancers
Introducing yoga into their routine and self-care habits can be very helpful for dancers who would like to learn to take better care of their bodies and minds.
Here are some of the main benefits of yoga for dancers:
- Yoga poses targeting various muscle groups contribute to increased flexibility, crucial for executing dynamic and fluid dance movements.
- The incorporation of strength-focused yoga poses builds the physical stamina necessary for enduring the demands of rigorous dance classes and routines.
- Yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness and breath control (pranayama breathing techniques) is an excellent way to enhance the connection between the dancer’s mind and body, promoting a more profound and intentional expression of movement.
- Yoga serves as a preventive measure against common dance injuries by promoting proper alignment and providing a gentle yet effective avenue for rehabilitation and wellness.
- Mindfulness practices in yoga empower dancers to manage performance stress, and anxiety, de-stress, and enhance mental resilience, contributing to a more composed and focused stage presence and peace of mind.
Yoga for dancers: best poses
Taking any yoga class, or practicing any style of yoga will be beneficial for most dancers. However, there are specific yoga for dancers postures and practices that can be more beneficial.
Here are some of our favorites for before and after your dance session:
Before dancing: yoga poses to warm up
A comprehensive warm-up routine lays the foundation for fluidity, flexibility, and injury prevention.
Integrating yoga for dancers poses into this pre-dance ritual not only primes the body for the physical demands of movement but also cultivates a mindful connection between the dancer’s body and breath.
1# Sun Salutations
There are a few different types of Sun Salutations, all of them designed to warm up and awaken the body, but also each with their benefits.
These sequences are a great way to warm up and energize your body, also activating your mind. Begin your session with a series of Sun Salutations to gently awaken you.
Here is one of the most popular Surya Namaskar sequences for you to try:
This flowing sequence combines breath with movement, warming up major muscle groups, and increasing circulation.
It includes major yoga asana such as downward facing dog pose, mountain pose, plank pose, forward fold, and chaturanga.
2# Energizing practices
If you want to warm your body up while engaging in practices that are invigorating and energizing consider taking a class:
4# Warrior Series
These poses build leg, glutes, and core strength while encouraging stability and balance—a crucial foundation for dance movements.
Finish the warm-up with the six movements of the spine, also known as pratapana.
- Forward Flexion (Flexion): Bending the spine forward, bringing the head toward the chest.
- Extension: Arching the spine backward, backbends, lifting the chest, and opening the front of the body.
- Lateral Flexion: Bending the spine sideways, bringing one ear toward the shoulder without rotating the torso.
- Rotation: Twisting the spine around its axis, bringing the shoulders to face sideways while keeping the hips stable.
- Axial Extension: Elongating the spine, creating space between the vertebrae through traction or decompression.
- Axial Rotation: Twisting the spine along its axis without moving the shoulders, creating a spiral motion.
It’s essential to perform these movements mindfully and within your comfortable range of motion for the back muscles to avoid strain or injury, especially when warming up your body.
After dancing: yoga poses to cool down
When you finish your dance session, taking some time to cool down with yoga for dancers can be beneficial.
If you want some specific yoga poses to cool down after your dance session, here are some of the basic ones:
1# Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This is a restorative posture that gently stretches the back, hip flexors, tailbone, and ankles.
It promotes a sense of surrender and relaxation, allowing the body to unwind from the intensity of dance.
2# Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Seated Forward Bend is great to stretch the spine, hamstrings, and lower back.
This pose encourages a gentle release of tension accumulated during dynamic dance movements.
3# Hip-Opening Poses
Dancers often engage the hips extensively while practicing different movements and styles.
4# Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Release tension in the spine with a supine spinal twist after dancing to release tension in the torso and spine.
Gently guide the knees to one side while keeping the shoulders grounded, facilitating a subtle but effective stretch across the back.
5# Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
End the cool-down by practicing this grounding and calming asana; legs up the wall.
This restorative inversion aids in reducing swelling in the legs, calming the nervous system, and promoting overall relaxation.
Practical Integration: Yoga Sequences for Dancers
Now that you understand the benefits of practicing yoga for dancers, it’s time to put it all into practice!
Here are a two classes on YouTube that we think you may enjoy if you are a dancer or enjoy movement practices and arts.
The first one is by Meghan Currie, a yoga teacher who is known for her fluid, creative sequences, that can be quite appealing to dancers and those who enjoy fluid movement:
The second yoga for dancers class we are sharing with you in this article is with YouTube superstar Adriene for a class designed to help you find clarity and harmony in mind and heart:
Dancers who want to have a long, injury-free career, whether amateur or professional, can find tremendous benefit from introducing yoga into their routine.
Whether you choose to practice yoga before or after your practice, or as a daily routine that you do separately from your dancing, finding a few yoga postures or a yoga style that you enjoy can help you stay balanced in body and mind.
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