Yoga For The Ballet Mind

I'm sure many of you have done yoga.  It's quickly becoming compulsory in summer intensives and college dance programs, and many professional dancers swear by it as a great supplement to their classes.  Yoga comes easily to ballet dancers, as the flexibility, discipline and core strength required is often already there.  But while I've heard so many dancers talk about the physical benefits of yoga (increased flexibility, strength, and balance), I don't often hear many talk about the mental benefits.

 

Ballet, while it is one of the most beautiful things you can do, is also one of the most stressful.  In my last post, I wrote about the toll that stress can take on a dancer physically and emotionally, and it can certainly make ballet a lot less fun.  I remember days when going to class seemed like such a chore, and when I really felt like I could never live up to my expectations or those of my teachers.  This kind of feeling is so common among dancers, and the fear of falling short, of failing in some way, is what causes a lot of anxiety for many of us.  But it wasn't until I started to practice yoga regularly that I realized how much it can help to calm your mind by encouraging you to focus on the rhythm of your breath, and, perhaps most importantly, to be proud of anything you do.  This is probably what I find most beneficial about yoga--not the physical workout I get, but how much it helps me to relax and accept myself the way I am, and how it balances out the critical way I look at myself when I dance.  It's incredibly important to try and achieve that balance, because it helps you achieve your artistic goals in a much healthier fashion than simply whipping yourself up into a hypercritical frenzy every time you step into the studio.

 

Yoga's not for everyone, and I'm not saying that it's a magic key that will instantly change your attitude about life and dancing.  But if nothing else, it will give you a place where you can get away from the mirrors and the eyes of your teachers, coaches and classmates, and just let yourself breathe and feel good.  To me, yoga class is a safety zone where I'm not competing with other people, or trying to please anyone except myself, and that, I think, is as important in the life of a ballet dancer as technique class.

Latest Posts


Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

The Radiant Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan: Why She's One to Watch at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Hollywood could make a movie about Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan's big break at Pacific Northwest Ballet.

It was November 2017, and the company was performing Crystal Pite's film-noir–inspired Plot Point, set to music by Bernard Hermann from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Ryan, then a first-year corps member, originally was understudying the role of another dancer. But when principal Noelani Pantastico was injured in a car accident, Ryan was tapped to take over her role.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Lauren Veyette corrects a student during class. Ariel Rose, Courtesy Veyette Virtual Ballet School.

COVID-19 Has Made It Easier to Train Outside Your Studio—but Should You?

Of all the unprecedented effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the dance world, perhaps the most unthinkable a year ago was the forced pivot to online training. With many studios mandated to close, we've outfitted our homes with barres and marley and harnessed technology to create more learning opportunities than ever before. And now, as some studios reopen for in-person classes (either fully or in hybrid form) and others remain online, it's easier to supplement your school's offerings by adding virtual master classes—or even going to another school for in-studio time. But while being able to take class from anyone, anywhere, offers great opportunities, there are pitfalls to jumping from teacher to teacher. It's important to balance out the pros and cons of creating your own "COVID curriculum."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Daniil Simkin gives advice during his master class series. Courtesy Dance Masterclass.

In This Master Class Series, Stars Like Daniil Simkin Share Their Technique and Artistry Secrets

Have you ever wondered what Daniil Simkin thinks about when he whips off a series of effortless pirouettes? Or how Polina Semionova initiates her "swan arms" when she dances Odette/Odile? Both dancers are now part of a new streaming platform called Dance-Masterclass, which offers targeted lessons from the ballet world's biggest stars to dancers of all levels. Launched in February, the platform presents 10 to 12-plus gorgeously filmed lessons from a new master teacher each month, with options allowing for private feedback.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks