Six of the best yoga poses for dancers
Renowned for its ability to improve flexibility, build strength and perfect posture, yoga is a versatile (and simply fantastic!) addition to any dancer’s fitness routine, whether as an additional support during training or as a dedicated practice in its own right. Bringing body awareness, mental focus and joint stability to the dancer’s body, there really is no better reason to incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily repertoire.
Here are six yoga poses that are perfect for increased flexibility, strength, and post-training recovery.
The beloved pose of yogis everywhere, Tree Pose is ideal for improving your focus and balance, while strengthening the ankles, knees and legs.
Standing straight with your feet hip width apart, shift your weight onto your left foot, keeping the inner sole of the foot in contact with the floor. Turn your right leg outwards from the hip, bending your right knee and lifting the foot up, using your right hand to grab the right ankle. Place the sole of the right foot against the inner thigh of your left leg, ensuring the toes are pointing to the floor.
Bring your palms together in prayer and either keep them centred in front of your chest or raise them above your head.
Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Keep your hips straight and your weight directly over the left foot throughout the pose, being sure to tuck your tailbone under. Use the left leg to resist the right foot as you press into the thigh, bringing the right foot as high as is comfortable. Shoulder blades need to be kept back and down and the left leg strong.
One for all those dancers wanting to improve their cambré, the gentle back bend of Cobra Pose opens the chest, improving flexibility and strength in the spine and buttocks.
Lie face down on your stomach with your palms underneath your shoulders and the elbows bent. Keeping your legs together and the tops of the feet touching the floor, engage your thighs and lift your chest from the floor, extending the arms as you go. Be sure to keep the neck in line with the spine and your head squared over the shoulders as you lift your chest, stopping where you feel comfortable.
Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
Keep the elbows tucked in next to the body throughout the pose, keeping the hipbones pressing down into the floor. Pull the shoulder blades back and down and lift through the top of the sternum (try not to push the ribs forward!). Keep the core engaged and your tailbone tucked under the whole time.
Half Boat Pose
For a strong core and back, Half Boat Pose will become your new best friend, strengthening the stomach and improving balance.
Sitting on the floor, bend your knees towards your chest, keeping your feet flat to the floor. Place your palms face down next to your hips, with the fingertips pointing towards the feet. Engage the core, and keeping your spine neutral, slide the hands and torso backwards (no more than 45 degrees!). Lift your knees from the floor and raise the legs until your calves are parallel to the floor. With your shoulder blades back and chest lifted, raise the arms inline with the legs, palms facing down.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Keep the back straight and the shoulder blades back and down. Lift through the sternum and engage the core throughout.
Cobbler’s Pose is your go-to for increased flexibility through the hip, groin and glutes, improving mobility whilst lengthening the spine.
Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, bend your knees and bring them into towards your pelvis. Pressing the soles of your feet together, drop your knees out to the side. Interlace your fingers and grasp them around your toes and, keeping the outer soles of your feet in contact with the floor, lean forward from the chest, keeping your spine in a neutral position.
Use your arms to help hold the pose. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.
Only draw your feet in as close as is comfortable before dropping your knees out to the side. Press the thighs outwards towards the floor, being sure not to force the knees down – lead from the hip joint. When leaning forward be sure to lift through the sternum, keeping the shoulder blades back and down, and the sit bones in contact with the floor.
For precision and poise, Bridge Pose is a must, opening the chest, strengthening the legs and glutes and improving balance.
Lying face up with your knees bent, draw your feet in as close to the glutes as possible, being sure to keep your feet hip width apart. Pressing your feet into the floor, lift through the pelvis, raising the hips from the floor into a bridge position, keeping your arms next to the body. With your thighs parallel and your knees directly over your feet, roll the tops of the hips towards your navel and firm through the glutes.
From here, interlace your fingers behind your back and lift through the chest so you are resting on the tops of the shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Always protect your neck! Firm the shoulder blades against your back and try to press the top of the sternum towards the chin. Keep the core, back and buttocks engaged and the spine in a neutral position throughout.
Much like its namesake, Dancer’s Pose is the perfect must-practice pose that opens the hips, improves balance and flexibility and increases back strength.
Standing straight with feet hip width apart, shift your weight onto your left foot and bending the right knee, lift your right foot back towards your buttocks. Reach back with your right hand and clasp the inner sole of the right foot. Keeping your left leg strong, lift your right foot up and away from your torso, extending the thigh behind you until it is parallel with the floor. At the same time, lean forward from the hips, extending the left arm out and upwards, looking forward to keep your balance.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Keep the torso upright and the shoulder blades back and down throughout the pose. Protect your lower back by tucking the pelvis in toward the navel and engaging the core. Be sure to keep the hips balanced and in alignment and the spine neutral.
Source: Yoga Journal
Article by Sarah Fennell.