Why do so many professional dancers practice yoga? It’s an important question. Yoga can seem quite remote and mystical, but it is a verified form of exercise that many professional athletes rely upon. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Yoga?
All sports involve harmonising the mind and body. They strengthen neural pathways, toning the brain as much as they tone muscles. However, yoga is the ‘sport’ where this mind-body connection is most deeply explored. As such, it has a bit of a reputation as a hippie pastime. Its history in the ancient Indian pre-Vedic traditions is a significant part of this.
However, dancing is also a very ancient art – certainly much older than yoga! – and the two have a very close connection in terms of their agenda of achieving mental calm and complete physical command. Just like dance, yoga involves highly controlled exercises, which become progressively harder as skills are learned.
Why Should Dancers Practice Yoga?
There are two main answers to this question. The first involves a lot of deep science that explains how muscles are connected to brain neurons, and how perfect physical control comes from developing and optimising these important biological and chemical pathways. The other is simply to say that yoga is excellent for building core strength, flexibility, balance, and for developing some of the muscle groups that are easily forgotten in the average treadmill-gym regime.
The exercises are highly formulaic, and their practice and repetition is the same as lifting weights in terms of increasing resilience, toning, and conditioning. For dancers, yoga is particularly associated with developing core strength and increasing hamstring flexibility.
What Can I Expect From Yoga?
Yoga is a very personalised experience. For instance, if you’re one of the many who has had hip issues, you’re likely to find that pain has caused uneven muscle development. Yoga teachers will identify and target these points, gradually bringing the body back into line. As such, many people in a yoga class will be addressing some type of injury.
For others, it is all about the mind. Whether it is the calmness that underlies the grace of posture, the focus that is required to practice the figures, or the mental stability to perform in front of an audience, yoga trains the mind to behave. Performance anxiety is one of those elephants in the room for professional dancers. It can affect everything from the effectiveness of practice sessions to the ability to achieve full potential on the boards. Rather than accepting this as an inevitability, most successful professional dancers turn to yoga.
Where Do I Begin?
Find a good teacher. There are plenty of online videos, and many of these are excellent. However, when it comes to serious yoga, it can really help to find a master of the art who can give personalised guidance.
Excellent and high quality dance shoes will do a lot of the work, but they will only take you so far. For deep physical and mental conditioning, yoga is an excellent addition to a professional regime.
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