Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body – Martha Graham
I am dancer and a yogi and I believe every dancer should practice yoga. Don’t get me wrong I think dancers are taking full advantage of the postural side of yoga. I just that think they are missing out on the benefits that the spiritual aspects of the practice have to offer. I believe that practicing meditation and pranayama alongside asana practice could hugely benefit professional dancers.
This is why…
I am dancer, currently in the contemporary-commerical dance company Ashton Dance Collective. A small creative, all women, performance company, directed by Thomas Ashton. I am a professionally trained dancer and graduate from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. I have now been working/auditioning in the dance industry for the past two years.
Beginning ballet at the age of four I have lived and surrounded myself with the dance world for many years. It is an incredible community to be a part of. Growing up it gave me confidence, lots of friends and the occasionally trophy. Later on I found that it also made me a determined, disciplined, fast learning and hard working team player. I have met my wonderful best friends through dance, some incredible teachers and I have learnt a lot about life. I am so disciplined and have been screamed at so many times by dance teachers that if someone in the street told me to drop into splits I probably would.
Dance is powerful, it gives an individual the freedom to express themselves through their very own unique bodies. It is the most beautiful kind of artistry, something that comes directly from oneself and displayed through your self, through your own physical movement.
Being a dancer and performing can bring so much joy and happiness but when a dancer is out of work, injured or perhaps just out of money, the art of dance can be soul destroying.
This is where yoga can be massively beneficial to dancers.
Yoga encourages a non-competitive and accepting attitude toward the body and this more compassionate and accepting way of approaching physicality could be so helpful during times of injury or stress.
Taking the mirrors away from a dancer and turning that perspective inside can be hugely beneficial both artistically and emotionally. Yoga creates a deep internal awareness of the body. An enhanced bodily awareness can allow an individual to move more freely and clearly, potentially improving a dancer’s movement.
The focus would be shifted away from finding that perfect line of the leg or perfect end physical product. Towards working through movement to improve the whole self and create something which is continuous and has depth.
I practice and teach Quantum yoga, which encourages deep listening, strengthens the body’s inherent intelligence, stimulates intuition and awakens creativity. It takes an individual into a present state, creating an awareness of their inner voice of insight.
This interactivity between body/energy and mind/heart could be truly effective and transformative for dancers.
When a dancer becomes obsessed over physical perfection it can leave them looking like a machine with all expression lost in their performance. If a dancer has an inner awareness their movement would begin from a deeper place, giving an individual a unique and original way of dancing and creating movement that would be more expressive.
In yoga it is believed that by living consciously it would allow you to live happily and to love fully, which could increase dancers self-esteem. In the world of dance jealously and hatred can be seen but such negativity can be damaging to your senses, mind, intellect and soul.
Obviously the physical and postural aspect of yoga is hugely beneficial as well. Yoga stretches and strengthens various muscles in the body, improving balance, strength, stamina and flexibility, all crucial aspects of dance technique.
The three main psychic locks or bandhas that are used in yoga practice are so important in creating that deep internal awareness and strength. Strengthening the center point is so important for a dancer because it brings the anatomical alignment into neutral position. Therefore practicing yoga for the physical benefits could improve a dancers technique.
I have read a lot of articles about dancers and yoga and what I have found is that dancers have the strength and control physically, but they lack control over the mind.
The body is a dancer’s livelihood and an irreplaceable instrument and yoga is the perfect practice to train it physically. Yoga however also has the ability to push a performer into becoming more successful artistically and stronger emotionally. By using pranayama (breath exercises), asana and meditation together a dancer could reach their potential: “everybody who needs physical stamina, needs mental stamina” – Dodson.
Practicing pranayama before an audition or a performance could have great benefits. Connecting to the breath helps a dancer become more aware, grounded, and embodied. Becoming aware of the breath at the start of an audition, class or performance could benefit a dancer. By practicing pranayama alongside asana practice it could leave dancers’ feeling more vitalized, awake and aware of their body’s movement.
Meditation and relaxation components of yoga can increase participants overall energy level and sense of well-being, which could also massively help a dancer during long rehearsal periods.
Therefore, meditation would awaken a sensory awareness in the body that can help dancers to use their bodies further and prevent injury. However we are not just made up of flesh and bones. Quantum yoga has taught me that matter consists of spaces held together by energy, and it is that energy or prana which defines the bodies overall traits. “The thing that is more “real” in the sense that it informs the qualities and characteristics of a thing is the energy, not the object itself” – Lara Baumann. Hence it is the prana that imbues the body that has greater affect on the qualities of our movement. Which has since led me to bringing this idea in to my dance practice. Instead of only focusing on the muscular and anatomical sense of the body, which tends to get the body stuck in places for long periods of time, I focus on seeing the pranic flow and life force reaching to the deepest recesses of my body. Visualizing the nadis and prana allows me to create a very internal way of putting the body into different locations or shapes. It gives me a much more fluid approach to movement. Becoming more internally connected frees up my body, it becomes lighter in the space, and as a dancer I can shift with greater ease.
“Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” – Easwaran
I hope you enjoyed this post, it is slightly different to my usual less serious posts. However I am so passionate about bringing yoga into dancers’ awareness that I wanted to share my beliefs with you guys.
Give this post a like if you are a dancer who loves to practice yoga!