Yoga & Pilates for Dancers
Yoga and Pilates are both very beneficial to not just dancers, but every single human being! Pilates is a safe and effective method of rehabilitation and exercise that focuses on muscular balance. Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates gentle exercise, breath control and meditation.
Pilates is named after its German founder, Joseph Pilates, who made a study of practices such as yoga, martial arts, bodybuilding, gymnastics and boxing to improve his fitness. During his confinement in Britain during World War I, Pilates helped care for bed-ridden servicemen, a circumstance that inspired his trademark resistance exercises. Joseph Pilates ultimately made his home in New York in the mid-1920’s and his evolving method was taken up by some of the biggest names in dance, including the prestigious New York City Ballet.
Pilates is a series of about 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. It lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion and studies have shown that Pilates can help to improve alignment, flexibility, balance, body awareness, and muscular strength in dancers.
The Pilates method requires concentration in finding a center point to control your body through movement. Each exercise has a prescribed placement, rhythm and breathing pattern. The workout consists of a variety of exercise sequences that are performed in low repetitions, usually five to ten times, over a session of 45 to 90 minutes. Mat work and specialized equipment for resistance are used. Each exercise is performed with attention to proper breathing techniques and abdominal muscle control. To gain the maximum benefit, you should do Pilates at least three times per week.
The two basic forms of Pilates are: Mat-based Pilates and Equipment-based Pilates. Mat-based is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance. The main goal is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of your body to improve posture, balance and coordination. Equipment-based Pilates includes specific equipment that works against spring-loaded resistance, including the ‘reformer’, which is a movable carriage that you push and pull along its tracks. Some forms of Pilates include weights (such as dumbbells) and other types of small equipment that offer resistance to the muscles.
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back thousands of years. In modern times, the physical aspects of all forms of yoga have found huge popularity as a gentle form of exercise and stress management. There are many different varieties of yoga, but each one essentially relies on structured poses (asanas) practiced with breath awareness. Breath awareness is beneficial to every dancer as it teaches them how to breathe properly in the classroom and in rehearsals. The different varieties of yoga are Hatha, Bikram, Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga.
Researchers have discovered that the regular practice of yoga may produce health benefits, including normalization of blood pressure, improved digestive system, reduced back pain, improved posture and nervous system! This is because concentration on the postures and the breath acts as a form of meditation.
Each yoga posture, or asana, is held for a period of time and linked with breathing. Generally, a yoga session begins with gentle asanas and works up to more vigorous or challenging postures. A full yoga session should exercise every part of your body and should include pranayama (breath control practices), relaxation and meditation. The different postures include: lying, sitting, standing, inverted or upside-down postures.
When practiced regularly, yoga can become a powerful and sophisticated discipline for achieving physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
**The extra stress placed on the body through this training can cause temporary fatigue. You should aim to leave at least two weeks between the end of training and any scheduled performance periods.**
Here is an example of how Pilates effected an Australian ballet dancer’s core foundation and stability!
“Before Pilates I had no concept of how vital core stability was for a dancer when performing,” says Annabel Knight, formerly with Sydney Dance Company in Australia. “A strong core is the foundation to your movement.” Core strength isn’t just about the abs. Pilates teacher-trainer Penelope Hoess, describes the core as the area from the base of the pelvis to the lower ribcage, from front to back. Within this area is a set of deep abdominals, the multifidus (which connect the vertebrae) and a collection of pelvic floor muscles - essentially the ones that support the spine and upper and lower torso.
“Physiologically, our centre of gravity lies in our pelvis,” says Hoess, a council member of the Australian Pilates Method Association (who was also a dancer). “It’s a really important area to base your strength and range from. Pilates balances muscles around a joint and that increases the range of movement. Because of the systematic approach, you’re also gaining strength and flexibility to support that increased range.”
**After you click on these links and go to YouTube, you will see other videos that are similar to what I sent you.**
Be creative and go through different videos each week! This will help you TREMENDOUSLY in the weeks and months to come.
Your body will thank you, and so will your teachers!