Tag Archives: relaxation

Strength Training For Dancers and Non-Dancers

 

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Dancers are known for their strength and grace, but they don’t come without hard work. In addition to daily dance classes and rehearsals, dancers build strength through alternate methods such as yoga and Pilates. Both of these practices give dancers the extra boost they need to be better, stronger dancers and move ahead in their careers.

 

Yoga teaches practitioners how to link breath and movement, which is a very powerful tool for dancers. Working with conscious breathing adds more power to certain moves such as turns and jumps. An in breath helps with expansive moves and buoyancy – helpful when it’s time to leap across stage, while an out breath adds power to bends or grounded moves. Yoga teaches us how to live more fully in our bodies, to inhabit each and every cell while building strength, balance and coordination.Yoga has another obvious benefit; a relaxed state of mind.What dancer couldn’t use a little of that? Let’s face it; dancing is a very stressful career.

Says dancer Jennifer Stahl: In yoga (especially vinyasa) I was finally able to find a feeling of fullness to my movement—something I had struggled to attain in modern class, but never quite “got.” Once I became used to finding length in every position during the slow flow through the poses, I could translate that sensation back to the studio, and became able to move bigger, with longer lines. Yoga taught me to really feel what was going on in my body, and to become aware of where I was placing it in space.

 



 

Core strength is a key element for dancers, especially during quick moves and turns. Joseph Pilates, a fitness pioneer in his time, developed the Pilates system, which uses specialized equipment and exercises to develop and strengthen what he called the “powerhouse”, the muscles of the abdominals, lower back and buttocks. Other benefits include improved posture, and fewer back problems. The Pilates method has long been an inside secret for many dancers, but is now recognized as important and necessary- Pacific Northwest Ballet has two Pilates studios available to its dancers. (Read more about Pilates at PNB here).

Says Alexandra Dickson, ex-PNB soloist and Pilates Conditioning Manager at PNB: “I didn’t realize the power I was getting from Pilates until I did it three times a week after my pregnancy,” recalled Dickson during a recent break from private and semi-private workouts with clients. “I got back to the ballet and we opened with ‘Swan Lake’ (a demanding performance). I couldn’t have a made it back without the Pilates work.”

 



 

However, yoga and Pilates aren’t just for dancers; anyone can benefit from either practice. Both are particularly helpful to prevent and correct back pain issues. The benefits include:

 

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• greater strength and flexibility

• improved balance and coordination

• improved state of mind

• increased breathing capacity

 

Pilates

• improved posture

• greater core strength

• improved overall strength, flexibility and coordination

 

Strength and grace don’t come naturally, but there are tried and true techniques available for anyone (dancer or not) who wants more of either.

 

 

Beat Stress: Five Steps to Use Yoga to Relax and Beat Stress

In today’s world of multi-tasking mania, we have all become super-stressed superheroes. However, in five to ten minutes, a simple regenerative yoga technique can help anyone completely relax and re-energize. Follow these five steps anytime for the perfect tonic to counteract fatigue, stress, or a generally hectic day.

Step 1: Unplug. Turn off all ringers and any device that beeps, blips or vibrates. Instead, choose quiet music if that helps you relax, or just plain quiet works, too.

Step 2: Find a quiet space. It is important that you can rest without being disturbed. Inform family members or coworkers that you will be unavailable for the next ten minutes. Close the door to give yourself privacy.

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Step 3: Assume the position. Find a three-foot wide section of blank wall space and lay a towel or yoga mat on the floor directly in front of it. Seat yourself, with your left side facing the wall, hip touching the wall, legs extended in front of you. Shift your weight back onto your elbows and simultaneously swing the legs straight up the wall. Press through the elbows and move your bottom up against the wall, then lay your upper body flat. At this point, your body will be in an “L” shape up against the wall. Let your arms rest gently on the floor, palms up.

Step 4: Slow it down. Close your eyes and breathe as slowly and deeply as you can. Listen to the sound of your breath as it flows in and out of the body, making it as smooth and even as you can.

Step 5: Let it all go. Set a timer if you need to, and then give yourself a mental vacation while you are resting. Set aside all thoughts, responsibilities and the dreaded to-do list. Place all the focus on breathing deeply, and imagining the breath is releasing any tense areas. Feel the body being held by the floor.

Following these five simple steps to perform this easy yoga pose, inverting with your legs up the wall, can yield powerful results. You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you give yourself the gift of truly relaxing.