After finishing my first yoga teacher training, I was lucky enough to land my first teaching position at a local dance school. Yoga and dance are natural partners. In fact, vinyasa flow seems like a sort of dance, as the practitioner moves smoothly through a variety of asanas in time to the rhythm of their breath. A whole class full of practitioners doing their cued sequences looks a bit like a chorus line. Dancers who practice yoga experience many benefits to their minds, bodies and spirits.
Flexibility with strength is key to dancers of any type, from Indian folk dancing to classical ballet to hip hop. Yoga practice is all about opening up areas of our body that are stiff and working towards each person’s maximum expression of any given pose. It is a gentle way to move towards a more flexible body without pain or added stress on joints or ligaments. Yoga builds muscle and strength, both of the core and of the extremities, but it is a smooth and lean increase without the bulk and heft associated with more anaerobic forms of exercise.
Injury is every dancer’s occupational hazard, and being able to recover completely from the inevitable strain or stress is very important. Asana practice can help dancers rehabilitate their bodies after an injury, and offers an environment where workouts are safe and stress-free. Additionally, when yoga asanas are done correctly and carefully this will align your body so injuries will not occur. Gradually this alignment integrates with your body as your core areas strengthen so you will eventually carry this alignment out of class with you and into your daily life, making injuries less likely all around.
Breath control (pranayama) is important to a dancer, and yoga teaches a degree of breath awareness that cannot be found anywhere else. The energy, or prana, is tied to every action in yoga; indeed it is what makes asana flows so much more than just a series of exercises and stretches. Asanas follow the flow of breath, and deep yogic breath from the diaphragm is the same breathing needed during dance, so once you can connect you breath with your asana you will be able to do the same with your dance.
Dance is a competitive and stressful world. Professional rejection and criticism can feel like personal attacks when you don’t have a strong connection to your inner voice. Yogic exercise can help dancers cultivate that connection to the inner being and give one a new appreciation for the wonder that is within. As a Yoga teacher it is gratifying to provide a safe haven that is much needed.
If you are finishing up with your yoga teacher training and desire to work with a group of athletes who want a physical challenge, your local dancing center may be the best opportunity for you. Your students will rise to the challenge without complaints.
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