If you are a tribal fusion or an ATS dancer you might have noticed that most of the dancers of these styles practice yoga as well. I was a dancer first, and through dance, I have discovered the wonders of yoga. Then again, through yoga, I have discovered a whole new side of my dance practice.
Yoga is an excellent addition to any type of dance. It gives you the strength and flexibility you need to execute all the steps. While you could certainly reach higher performance and endurance by doing a strength or a flexibility training, yoga offers some unique benefits.
Yoga is a discipline that targets both body and mind. It teaches you to turn inward and simply observe what’s happening inside, from the slightest movement to observing your own thoughts. Once you introduce it to your dance, you will evolve and become more focused.
1. Yoga improves your coordination and self-awareness
Although yoga and dance are two completely different disciplines, they have a lot in common. They both help you expand your boundaries and increase proprioception and coordination. Both yoga and dance will benefit largely if you take some time to study anatomy and movement biomechanics. Finally, yoga and dance alike give you the powerful feeling of achievement, pure joy, and happiness even while you’re fatigued after a tiring practice.
In addition to your technique, both of the disciplines require an open heart, passion, and emotion. They will teach you lessons which you can use in other aspects of your life.
Through yoga and dance, you learn to accept both compliment and critique. By practicing either yoga or dance, you realize it is most important to do your best at the moment even if it’s not at the level you know, or are otherwise capable of. You learn to overcome the obstacles, and to be patient, so you can improve incrementally.
One advantage of yoga over dance is that every yoga class finishes with a lying relaxation (yoga Nidra in Shavasana pose). This helps you relax, reduce stress, and reap the benefits from your physical practice.
2. Yoga helps with your body strength and stability
Some of the unique things yoga can add to your tribal fusion practice is a sense of the complete muscle awareness. This will, in turn, help you improve your posture, stability, strength, and flexibility. Your isolations will grow stronger, sharp, and precise. Your slow movements (e.g. sidewinder and snake arms) will seem more fluid and elegant. It will bring better stability and balance to your level changes and dancing on the balls of your feet.
All those amazing looking deep backbends, in my view, simply aren’t possible without yoga. Even if you are naturally flexible, it is very important to do deep backbends correctly, otherwise, you might severely hurt your back and spine. Yoga teaches you where exactly the backbend needs to originate and how to safely go as deep as it is possible for you at the moment.
Your dance moves are as precise as your muscles are trained. A regular yoga training will work for all your muscle groups and will teach you to be mindful of every movement, and everything that you feel in your body during that movement. Once you achieve the movement and muscle awareness, you will be able to understand which muscles and which parts of the muscles need to work so you can achieve the optimal hip lift, bodywave or taxeem.
Once you understand that, all your movements will improve and you will have a completely different approach to your dance practice.
3. Yoga corrects any muscular imbalances
Yoga will also unravel any postural or muscular imbalances that you might have. Moreover, it will help you correct them. In every type of dance one side is usually stronger (it is easier to do a turn to one side, one hip achieves sharper lift, ATS dance angle is always to the left corner so the right side is dominant, etc).
Depending on the type of yoga practice, through the physical aspect of yoga, you will gain functional strength and flexibility which you can later apply to any other type of movement, from everyday tasks to dance practice. Yoga will also improve your coordination, balance, energy, vitality, and respiration. All of that will help your stage performance be the best possible.
4. Above all, Yoga helps ease your mind
The most important part of yoga is its effect on your mind. It is calming, driving your stress out, and helping you have a better focus. Regular yoga practice will teach you how to slow your breath and discover your muscular tensions. Once you know them, you can consciously release that tension, so there will be less of those stressed looks on your face, or forced smiles on stage.
Yoga will also teach you discipline. It will help you overcome inertia and dysfunctional habits. And that is perhaps the most important benefit for your dance practice. Once you start practicing every day you will see amazing improvements.
Yoga will also teach you not to be too hard on yourself. Certainly, it encourages you to give your best the moment, but also to be content with your performance, as flawed as it may sometimes be.
Your goals and your personality will influence what yoga style choice. Dancers usually love vinyasa flow, as it is fluid and almost dance-like. Some, however, might prefer slower, alignment-based styles, or even yin or restorative yoga. Find a good yoga teacher that will resonate with you, make you feel safe and comfortable, and that will certainly help you advance in your practice.
While other types of workout might help you with your dance training, yoga is the only practice that helps both with dance training and stage performance. Once you learn how to slow down your breath and tune in, 5 minutes of meditation or breathing practice before the performance will help you clear your mind and relax. Hence, that will help you shine on the stage.
Once you start combining yoga with dance, you will note their similarities and differences. You will learn how they combine, become a better dancer, and more conscious.
Whether your yoga practice gives you strength and flexibility or simply encourages self-care and makes you aware of your deeper self, it is an excellent companion to your tribal fusion practice. Give it a try – find a teacher that suits you and discover a whole new level of your dance.
Nela Kalodjera (Nela Tribalica)