Yesterday Pointe had a photo shoot with a handful of super-talented dancers from Ballet Academy East. They were each fantastic: technically brilliant with strong, fit bodies and completely game for all of the crazy things we threw at them. (Be sure to check out the photos when our April/May issue comes out!).

I don’t want to give away the brilliant theme of the shoot—conceived by our always imaginative Style Editor Khara Hanlon—but suffice it to say I had the girls modeling a few different yoga poses. As they moved from warrior one to tree pose to upward dog, it got me thinking about how much yoga can do for dancers.

I started taking yoga classes as a way to improve my core strength. But over time I realized that for dancers the real benefits go way beyond improving your muscle tone. 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. The emphasis on intention and being present helped me find greater focus in the studio, and more importantly, onstage. Through yoga I discovered a feeling in my body and a connection to my mind, that for me, I don’t think I could have found anywhere else.

What have been your experiences taking yoga as a dancer?

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Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

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