Pilates and Yoga for Dancers
No matter what kind of dancer you are--modern to hip hop, ballet to tango-- you can derive huge benefits in your dancing from taking our Pilates and Yoga for Dancers classes. Not sure what the skinny is? Check out these ways that a regular Pilates and Yoga for Dancers practice can give your dancing a leg up, both in class and on the stage. (Class is suitable for students age 10 to adult - no dance experience required.)
Balancing Flexibility with Stability
There’s no such thing as a dancer that’s flexible in all areas. The methods used in Pilates and Yoga can open your tight areas while maximizing the length in muscles that are already flexible. Pilates and Yoga have stretches and exercises for every part of the body, so whether you have tight hips, an inflexible back, or hamstrings that refuse to give you higher extension, Pilates and Yoga will give you an outlet to safely and effectively increase your flexibility.
Every exercise and stretch is designed deliberately to focus on a few areas at a time and allow them to open as much as possible, while maintaining stability and gaining strength. The muscles are allowed to stretch and lengthen slowly without sudden movements that can cause tears and pulled muscles.
Increased Strength & Stability
Most dancers envision Pilates and Yoga as useful only for increasing flexibility or building core strength. But in reality, it is a unique balance of stretching, strengthening and stabilizing exercises that benefit everyone.
Dancers lacking upper body power can turn to Pilates and Yoga for a safe, lean way to gradually build strength in both the larger and smaller muscles. Also, Pilates and Yoga offer balance centric exercises which are wonderful for increasing the stability of the standing leg. This in turn leads to stronger, more sustained, and better controlled adagio work. You may even recognize some of the exercises in Pilates and Yoga from your most recent ballet class!
Did you know??? An estimated one in eight Americans currently practice Pilates and Yoga.
Healthy Joints & Alignment
Finding ways to cross-train safely can be difficult for the dancer, who must also place the health of their joints as the number one priority. Pilates and Yoga are a wonderful way to cross-train as its moderated pace and sustained positions minimize joint damage, especially in comparison to other cross-training activities such as running and aerobics.
Pilates and Yoga also promote consistent, proper alignment through the spine and the entire body, which is of critical importance to dancers. Those who find themselves uneven or “one sided” can safely and slowly correct their alignment in their practice, working towards a posture that that is both correct and natural.
Breath is something referenced frequently in dance (mostly in the context of either doing it or not doing it), but seldom is the proper way to breathe actually taught to dancers. Pilates and Yoga teaches the student to breathe correctly, by utilizing the diaphragm to breathe in and out without disturbing the alignment of the spine and ribs. This technique, when performed properly, increases core stability and strengthens the abdominal muscles—which may be all you need to fix those splayed ribs and crooked pirouettes. The breathing technique of Pilates and Yoga is also a quick way to focus and calm a distracted or anxious mind.
While every dancer does what they can to avoid injuries, when they do happen, it’s best to rehabilitate the vulnerable area slowly and safely before jumping back into the fray.
Pilates and Yoga is a wonderful way to transition from injury. Pilates in particular was originally designed as a cross training method for dancers and as a means to rehabilitate injuries. Most professional dance companies have an on site Pilates or Gyrotonic program for just this reason. The exercises can be easily modified to protect and strengthen weakened areas, as well as stabilize the muscles so as to protect them from future injury and vulnerability. Also, strengthening the smaller “stabilizing” muscles such as the rotator cuff and hip flexors can prevent dancers from long term joint damage that often doesn’t show itself until later years.
Hot Tip: R.I.P. (Rehearse In Peace)
Easily stressed out in rehearsal? Combine the breathing techniques of Pilates and Yoga with its principle of a clear and present mind to find peace and the strength to dance on, in even the most overwhelming situations.
Between classes, rehearsals, and performances, it’s all too easy to become overworked and overwhelmed. Pilates and Yoga is beneficial in its promotion not of building perfect technique, as is standard in the dance world, but on creating peace of mind and a stress free environment for the student. Working through the exercises at your own pace gives you the time you need to unwind from the stress of the stage or rehearsal, while still providing immense physical benefits.
Despite being a challenging physical activity, Pilates and Yoga can act as a rejuvenator between long rehearsals or provide mental calm before a big performance. It also teaches the student to find their own place of tranquility and inner peace—a place that can be accessed during even the most challenging physical exercises. This practice can come in real handy when turning those 32 fouettés or going into a monstrous lift.
All the knit cover ups in the world may help your muscles stay warm in between classes or rehearsals. However, the only real way to stay warm and maintain blood flow is to keep moving and working your muscles. Having a portable mental index of exercises from your latest Pilates and Yoga class can be incredibly useful when you need to stay warm without exhausting yourself.
Once you get into the swing of Pilates and Yoga, you’ll have the exercises and stretches that release certain areas ingrained in your mind and body. And since it requires no special equipment or facility to practice, you can keep those exercises or stretches in a mental index and use them whenever you need to keep certain muscles warm or loose.
Doubtful as the hard working dancer may be of its calm and happy practice, Pilates and Yoga and its methods can give any dancer essential tools to help their performance. Give it a shot!
If there is a specific area of focus you’d like your dancer to learn (or for yourself), book a private lesson with Ms Laura.
At HM Dance Co & Performing Arts ~ this class is taught by:
Ms Laura Crittendon, MA, DMT, LMT
(HM Dance Co's resident Dance Movement Therapist & Master Teacher)
Classes offered at HM Dance Co & Performing Arts
in convenient downtown Corona. All ages 10 to adult are welcome. Please inquire with Laura for details.
Classes (and private lessons) upon request