Yoga has many benefits for dancers, helping them to cross-train their bodies in order to build more strength for dancing, in addition to working on their flexibility from a breath perspective. Going to the gym and practising Pilates are perhaps more common ways of cross-training the dancing body, however yoga is certainly on its way up.
In addition to cross-training, yoga helps to increase body awareness, teaching you to build each yoga pose from the ground, creating a strong foundation, and stacking the joints for greater stability and power. In ballet, focusing on position and alignment is one of the most important things, and yoga helps to take this it one step further. By moving slowly and deliberately in yoga, it provides more time and opportunity to notice and correct habits that might create issues over a dancer’s life.
Yoga also helps dancers to increase their strength; balancing poses have direct application to work in the centre, and the numerous backbends and back strengthening poses in yoga also help develop arabesques. Standing poses in yoga develop the same muscles that are used for developpés, battements, and jumps, while other poses build strength in areas that are often overlooked, and additionally underused in the studio.
However, it may be that the use of breath in yoga is the most beneficial aspect of practising it for a dancer. Often dancers will be told to breathe when they are dancing in the centre or when they are rehearsing. Lack of breathing creates tension both in the body and mind, and yoga encourages the act of breathing and moving together. Yoga can help dancers to link breathing and movements together which will help harness the energy of breath and use it to their advantage.
Whether it is to build strength or improve flexibility and balance, yoga has a lot to offer dancers.