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Yoga is a popular cross-training exercise for dancers with great benefits. It not only helps stress relief but it strengthens and stretches your whole body! Weekly yoga practice is great for your body and you will see the difference in ballet class.
Ballet and Yoga Go Together
As you know strength is an essential aspect of dancing, but so is flexibility! Yoga is great because it works your body in both of these areas. It will help improve your mental health and physical health.
It just makes sense to combine yoga and ballet together for optimal results. Especially if you are starting ballet as an adult!
Benefits of Yoga for Dancers
If you haven’t started cross-training yet I highly suggest your start with either yoga or pilates. Both encourage strength, stability, and flexibility. Let’s go over the main benefits of yoga for ballet dancers.
Flexibility is often the main reason why ballet dancers choose to start yoga. Finding stretches for dancers is easy to do when practicing yoga because almost all poses include a strengthening and stretching release.
Since including yoga poses consistently I am getting so close to achieving my splits. I find that Yin yoga classes are best to take if you are looking to focus on flexibility.
Stability and balance
If you have ever tried to balance in retiré then you know that balance is crucial for dancers. Trying to balance while maintaining turnout is hard, which is why learning to balance in parallel with yoga can help so much.
Learning to balance one leg in parallel will improve your ankle stability and proprioception. This will start to reflect in your ballet classes over time.
I suggest once you learn a balancing yoga pose well, practice that same pose in a turnout position. You will start to fire up all your muscles and really get the feel for how to transfer that balance into center work.
Improve body awareness
I mentioned this above a little bit with the proprioception, but yoga can bring you very clear body awareness. If you struggle with knowing where your limbs are in space in ballet class, then yoga can really help you.
This is a very “mental” game. If you can slow down, close your eyes, and practice a yoga flow, then you will start to be able to tune into your body more. It can be hard to explain, but since practicing yoga I am very aware of what my body feels like when dancing.
I suggest practicing a hatha yoga class to help you gain body awareness. These classes are typically slower, so it will give you more time to tune into your body and learn where you need to make adjustments.
Cross-train in a healthy joint position
If you only practice in turnout, your joints are NOT going to be happy. This is something to keep in mind because as adults we do not have the young joints we used to have.
Yoga is great for this because many of the poses are practiced in parallel. This will help build stability around your joints with muscles you might not typically use a lot in ballet class.
Warm up or cool down
Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out the best way to warm up or cool down after dance class. Yoga is a great option for both because there are so many different variations of yoga.
To warm up, I suggest doing a short vinyasa yoga or even a dance yoga class. This will get your heart pumping and help limber you up.
To cool down, I would do some yin yoga or restorative yoga. Both are slower and will help stretch you out after class.
One of the main building blocks of yoga is its connection to the breath. Becoming aware of your breath and pairing it with movement is SO beneficial. Learning to breathe with your movement will help improve your coordination, cardiovascular system, and balance.
It enhances every movement and can bring your port de bras plus all other dance positions to life! Once you get the hang of breathing with movement in yoga then start to implement that into your ballet classes.
You will be surprised at how much it can help during a tricky combination.
Improve mental health
Yoga can be a huge mental health game changer. If you are a living, breathing human you are probably stressed. Yoga helps reduce the stress hormone in our body while adding all the good feeling hormones back in (think dopamine).
This helps reduce anxiety and depression. As an adult dancer, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all the things you want to improve that you can lose sight of why you started this journey in the first place.
If ballet is starting to stress you out, then I suggest you take a step back and reevaluate your goals and start including yoga into your weekly routine. This can help bring clarity on what you actually need to work on and beat the overwhelming feeling that you have.
If you are struggling with your mental health, I recommend you make sure to talk to a professional. They will give you the tools and medication if needed to start living a happier life.
Yoga for Ballet Dancers
Now that you know all the benefits of starting a yoga practice for ballet dancers, you might be wondering what exact poses to practice. Here are some of my favorite beginner poses that will help with flexibility and stability.
Pigeon pose is a hip opening position that can really help you get into those coveted splits. I suggest holding for 3 minutes on each side.
Low lunge with an option for a quad stretch
Low lunge is great for targeting your hip flexors and specifically your quadriceps. To make it extra spicy, pick up the back leg. ❤️🔥
Downward facing dog splits
This is a total body workout and will help improve hamstring flexibility and upper body strength.
Warrior 3 is one of my favorite yoga poses that helps improve balance. This pose brings body awareness and teaches you where to contract and lengthen. Try this pose in parallel and in turnout.
Legs up the wall
This yoga pose is a gentle inversion. It helps reduce feet/knee pain, improve circulation, and reduce stress. I suggest practicing this pose at the very end of your cool down or right before bed! It’s a great way to unwind and reconnect with your body.
Is Yoga and Ballet for You?
Yes, it is! Yoga is the perfect way to cross train as an adult ballet dancer and you will start to see improvement in class with consistent practice. See what the Ballet Hub, has to say about yoga for ballet dancers to learn more benefits.
Start by adding a couple of classes a week or use yoga for your warmup/cool down. The great thing about yoga is that you don’t have to do 60 minutes to see results. Even short classes that are only 10 minutes long will help improve your dancing.
Happy dancing, my yogi ballerinas! 🩰