As a dancer for my entire life and a yoga practitioner for the past 9 years I can speak directly to the benefits of a consistent yoga practice for dancers. Having a dedicated yoga practice has allowed me to continue dancing when I once thought I would have to stop completely due to an injury. And practicing yoga has improved my dancing and my life in innumerable ways.
1. Yoga builds strength and flexibility.
As a dancer, flexibility is often a primary focus. However, the reality over time is that working solely on your flexibility without counterbalancing that with strength can, and most likely will, lead to injuries. To increase your flexibility in a sustainable and safe manner, you must know how to engage your muscles first and then stretch. Yoga, taught correctly, will give you the skills you need to stretch with strength. At the end of the day, for the health and well-being of your body and your dancing, you need to be as strong as you are flexible, and as flexible as you are strong.
2. It is a great way to “put your body back together” and/or keep your body in good alignment.
A number of styles of yoga, including the one that I teach, focus on proper or optimal alignment for the body. Because of this, practicing yoga can increase your body awareness and help you to find the healthiest and most sustainable ways to move and heal your body. Yoga is a great way to balance out any asymmetries in the body that arise from dance or from any other aspect of your life.
3. Yoga promotes and enhances your mind-body connection.
Having the space to work with your body as it is, rather than as you wish it would be, is a wonderful gift. A yoga class creates the space for this to happen. Learning to listen to your body and what it wants is very important to both the mental and physical health of any dancer. A yoga practice asks you to become more involved in your mind-body connection so that you can listen and respond to what is best for you on any given day; to back off when you need to or to push further when you can. The heightened awareness that you develop through yoga helps you to be both healthier and happier.
4. Yoga is a great way to build community.
Yoga classes are a fantastic way to meet new and wonderful people. I have always found that yogis are extremely friendly. Especially if you attend a yoga class regularly, you will begin to see the same people over and over and will inevitably become friendly with them. Yoga classes build a supportive and positive community, that helps to uplift everyone involved.