Dancers are complicated folks. I can say this because along with being a yoga teacher, I am also a choreographer and former dancer myself.
On one hand, there are many dancers who are working toward improving their flexibility in areas such as the hamstrings and the hips (two common places where flexibility is needed in many dance techniques).
On the other hand, there are also a lot of dancers who are hyper-mobile in their hips and legs, which can cause a wide array of painful injuries. If treated improperly, these injuries can cut a dancer’s career way too short.
Dancers can use yoga as a tool to improve their dance technique and also prevent career-ruining injuries.
This is where yoga poses for dancers comes in! Professional dancers and dance students alike can use yoga as a tool to improve their dance technique and also prevent career-ruining injuries.
Yoga poses for dancers can accomplish two main goals:
- Increase flexibility
- Strengthen to prevent injury
Providing your body with a balance of stretching and strengthening your muscles is key to injury prevention.
Use These 3 Yoga Poses for Dancers to Increase Flexibility:
These three poses target the hips, quads, and hamstrings to improve flexibility in the areas where dancers need it most.
1. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose will increase your hip flexibility, external rotation, and quad flexibility. Becoming more flexible in these areas will help you better execute dance movements such as leg extensions and full splits.
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a Low Lunge and then release the outer edge of your front leg onto the mat
- Either bring your shin parallel to the front of the mat for a deeper stretch or bring your front heel in closer toward your hips for a more gentle stretch
- Reach your back leg straight behind you
- Remain here for several deep breaths as you allow your hips to gently sink toward the mat
- For an added stretch in your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, you can hinge forward and rest your forearms or torso on the mat. Use props underneath your hips or torso as needed
- Repeat on the other side
2. King Arthur Pose
King Arthur is an extremely intense quad and hip stretch, and it feels so good! This one will help you achieve deeper backbends and higher extensions of your leg toward the back body in dance moves like an arabesque.
Let’s try it:
- Come to a wall and face your body away from it. You may want to place a folded blanket or thicker yoga mat next to the wall to provide extra cushioning for your knee to rest on
- Place the top of your foot on the wall behind you and then bend your knee and place that knee on the ground
- Bring your shin and the top of your foot flat on the wall
- Facing away from the wall, place your hands on the ground and step your opposite leg forward, planting that foot on the floor
- Bring your back shin against the wall and draw your front leg into a Low Lunge position
- Once settled, lift your torso upright as much as you can and place your hands on your front thigh. If this is too intense, you can remain folded forward with your hands on the floor
- Stay here for several deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side
3. Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose
Supta Padangusthasana, or Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose, is an excellent hamstring stretch to do after a dance class. This yoga pose stretches your hamstrings and glutes, and it will help you achieve higher extensions in the front and sides of your body (i.e. développé to the front or side or grand jeté in ballet).
Let’s try it:
- Lay on your back and raise one leg into the air while keeping the other leg flat on the floor
- Straighten both legs and flex your toes toward your face to keep the legs engaged
- Bring your peace sign fingers to your big toe (same hand to same foot). You can also choose to hold the entire foot in both hands or hold onto the calf or thigh instead or use a strap around the ball of your raised foot
- Hold this stretch for several deep breaths and then repeat on the other side
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Now, Here Are 3 Yoga Poses for Dancers to Strengthen:
The next three poses are for strengthening the muscles where dancers are often hyper-mobile and injury most often occurs. These poses specifically target the back, core, glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
1. Locust Pose
Salabhasana, or Locust Pose, is an excellent pose for strengthening the muscles in the back body. If you are one of those dancers who has extreme flexibility in your hamstrings, strengthening the glutes and hamstring muscles is key for preventing injury in this area.
Let’s try it:
- Come onto your stomach and rest your forehead on the mat
- Relax your arms down by your sides
- On an inhale, lift your head, arms, legs, and feet off the ground
- Energetically reach your hands back toward your feet and stretch your feet toward the back of the mat
- Hold for several deep breaths and release everything back down. Repeat three to four times
2. Boat Pose
Navasana, or Boat Pose, strengthens the abdominals and hip flexors. It’s a great pose to do if you are a dancer who has extreme flexibility in your hips and also in your spine. If your back muscles are weak or if you have scoliosis, strengthening the abdominals is an excellent way to help prevent injury.
Let’s try it:
- Sit on the ground and squeeze your inner knees and ankles together as you bend your knees and lift your feet
- Engage your core and lift your heart to prevent rounding your spine
- If your hip flexors feel cramped, or if your abdominals need to build a bit a more strength, stay here. If you’re ready to increase the challenge, straighten your legs and lift your arms overhead
- Hold this pose for several deep breaths and repeat
3. Half Moon Pose
Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon Pose, helps improve your balance, leg extension, and oblique strength. This is an excellent yoga pose for dancers if you need to work on keeping parallel legs (i.e. a tuck jump, kick forward in jazz/contemporary dance, and petite jumps in parallel first position).
Let’s try it:
- Start from a Low Lunge position with your right foot forward
- Lift your back left leg and straighten your front knee
- Work to stack your left hip on top of your right
- Plant your right hand on a block or the mat and reach the opposite arm up toward the ceiling
- Hold for several deep breaths and repeat on the opposite side
Incorporate These Yoga Poses for Dancers Into Your Dance Training
These yoga poses barely scratch the surface of the many ways that yoga can assist dancers in having a long, happy, and healthy dance career. Practicing these six yoga poses for dancers and incorporating yoga into your dance training is a great place to start!
Keep coming back to the mat to gain strength and flexibility in the parts of your body you need most for dancing. You’ll build strength, increase flexibility, and create more space in your body – all the perfect recipe to have you dancing at your best!
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