Thinkstock

What Your Yoga Teacher Wishes You Knew

Yoga has become a popular form of cross-training for ballet dancers, thanks to its stretching, strengthening and stress-relieving benefits. But it also poses challenges: How do you adapt your flexibility and turnout and shed your competitive nature to get the most out of class? Jennifer Goodman, a Chicago-based yoga instructor, freelance dancer and former Joffrey Ballet member, shares her tips for what you should and shouldn't be doing when you roll out your mat.


Don't push your flexibility to the max.

It might feel nice to sink into a pose, but it won't do you any good. When you dial back your extensions, says Goodman, you start to gain strength to support your flexibility. And pushing too far could lead to injury. "Especially if you're in a heated yoga class, you can overstretch," she says, citing a fellow dancer who pulled her hamstring but didn't realize it until afterwards.

Hyperextended? Microbending your knees isn't cheating. 

Finding your longest line is often encouraged in ballet, but locking back into the knee joint can cause strain in poses like triangle and uttanasana (standing forward fold). Bend the knee slightly, and think about engaging your thigh as well as pulling up out of the joint.

Say “yes" to turning in.

Matthew Henry via Burst

Much of yoga—think downward dog, warrior III—uses parallel alignment. "It's a great balance to work on other muscles that we don't work in ballet," says Goodman. Avoid the temptation to open your hip when you lift a leg in downward dog split. "Yes, your leg is going to be a lot lower." But as you become more comfortable turning in, Goodman says, contemporary rep will feel more natural.

Modifying doesn't mean you're lazy. 

"If you're starting to shake, feel fatigued or feel any little pull, drop back," she says. Maybe you skip some of the chaturanga dandasanas (moving from high to low plank), or you lie down with your legs up a wall instead of doing a handstand.

Let the belly move. 

"As you inhale, you let the belly puff out, and dancers think, No, I can't do that." This motion gives you a larger capacity to breathe, can increase your stamina and makes your movements less rigid. Train yourself to breathe continually during yoga, and you'll notice a difference in your dancing.

Leave ballet at the door.

JD Mason via Unsplash

"Yoga is a nurturing environment and all about accepting where you're at," says Goodman. Set aside your competitive streak or any thoughts about not being good enough or thin enough. Besides the physical practice, many teachers incorporate a message into each class, like letting go of self-judgment. These positive kernels can help foster a healthier perspective about ballet.

How often should you take yoga?


For dancers who already have a demanding schedule, Goodman doesn't recommend more than three challenging classes—such as hot yoga, power yoga or advanced vinyasa flow—per week. If you crave more, you can mix in less strenuous classes, like restorative or yin yoga, which encourage gentle stretching and relaxing.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

How Can I Stay Motivated While Training at Home?

Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."

Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.

Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
THE GINGERB3ARDMEN, Courtesy Complexions Contemporary Ballet

How Jillian Davis Created Her Own Path to Complexions and Learned to Believe in Herself

It's impossible to miss Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Jillian Davis onstage. Tall and glamorous, her commanding stage presence, luxurious movement quality and intuitive musicality have made her one of the company's standout stars. But her road to Complexions was anything but linear. The 6'2" dancer worked tirelessly over several years to find her place in the dance world, ultimately reinventing herself and creating her own path to success. At a time when many early career dancers may be facing uncertainty, her story shows the power of resiliency.

Davis grew up on a dairy farm in Kutzstown, Pennsylvania, where she studied dance at a local studio and in the Philadelphia area, and took private lessons at home. She also started growing, shooting up seven inches over one summer. At 13, she and her family decided to take her daily training up a notch, commuting 100 miles each way to the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio, where she studied under Risa Kaplowitz and Susan Jaffe. By then she was already 5'7", and she soon realized—especially as she started learning how to partner—that her height might be an issue if she wanted to dance ballet professionally.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/21/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks