3 Dancer-Friendly Yoga Poses That Enhance Flexibility and Strength
Rachel Knuth (photo by Erin Baiano)
Yoga has long been a cross-training favorite for dancers, thanks to the mind-body practice's power to increase flexibility, strength, and focus. But with thousands of yoga poses out there, how can you know which postures are the best use of your between-rehearsals time? DS asked Jennifer Brilliant, a Brooklyn, NY–based yoga teacher and yoga therapist, and former dancer with Jennifer Muller/The Works, which poses will serve your dancer body best.
Photos by Erin Baiano. Modeled by Rachel Knuth.
Pose 1: Cobbler's Pose
"This pose is great for opening up the hips," Brilliant says. "It's also very calming."
Begin seated on the ground with the soles of your feet together. Lift up through your back, and allow your knees to open as wide as your hip flexibility will allow. Breathe deeply, and relax into the stretch.
Optional adjustment: If you have tight hips, place a supportive prop under your sitz bones. "A yoga block, folded towel, or book work fine," says Brilliant.
Pose 2: Downward-Facing Dog
According to Brilliant, "down dog is a great stretch for the shoulders, chest, spine, abs, and calves. It really does everything."
1. Start on all fours, pressing your hands down into the floor.
2. Curl your toes under and straighten your legs, coming up onto your hands and feet with arms and legs extended and gaze directed between your legs and behind you. Remember to keep your spine (including your neck) long and aligned, and your pelvis reaching toward the sky.
3. Come out of the pose by returning gently to your hands and knees.
Optional adjustment: If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees slightly while keeping the hips high, so your back muscles can stretch a little more.
Pose 3: Dancer's Pose
"Dancer's pose is excellent for stretching out the thighs and for opening the chest," Brilliant says.
1. Reach from the outside of the right leg to hold your right ankle in your right hand, flexing the foot and ankle with your knee pointing to the ground. Lift the abdominal muscles so as not to tip forward, and release the pelvic muscles as much as possible. (Don't tuck under!)
2. Reach forward with your chest as you slowly kick your foot up behind you. Make sure both legs stay parallel, like a set of railroad tracks. Lift up through the chest—and don't forget to breathe as you feel the stretch in your chest, abs, and legs.
3. To come out of the pose, return to position 1, lift the knee up in front of you, and release the working leg to the ground. Repeat steps 1–3 with the left leg and arm.
A version of this story appeared in the September 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Strike a Pose."
Gabriel Figueredo in a variation from Raymonda. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.
This week, over 1,000 young hopefuls gathered in New York City for the Youth America Grand Prix finals, giving them the chance to compete for scholarships and contracts to some of the world's top ballet schools and companies. Roughly 85 dancers made it to the final round at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater on Wednesday. Today, the 20th anniversary of YAGP came to a close at the competition's awards ceremony. Read on to find out who won!
After a string of ballet-company rejections, Jennifer Sydor (here in Laura Peterson's "Failure") found success in other areas of the dance world. (Stephen Delas Heras, courtesy Jennifer Sydor)
In her senior year at Butler University, Jennifer Sydor auditioned for more than a dozen regional ballet companies—and got a string of "no, thank you" responses. "I have an athletic build, and my movement quality isn't the typical ballet aesthetic," Sydor says. "But I'd been laser-focused on ballet. When I didn't get a ballet contract, I was heartbroken."
Her one job offer came from Kim Robards Dance, a small modern company based in Aurora, CO. After attending KRD's summer intensive, Sydor ended up accepting a yearlong position with the troupe. "I was relieved and happy to begin my career," she says. She's been working as a contemporary dancer ever since.
In the dance world, rejection is part of the package. That doesn't make it any more pleasant. But whether you didn't get the Nutcracker role of your dreams or you weren't picked for a job despite feeling like you aced the audition, you can emerge from even the most gut-wrenching "no" smarter and stronger.
Ballet West principal Beckanne Sisk as Kitri (Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)
Guess who's baaaaack?! Your resident Dance Spirit astrologers! And on the eve of the Youth America Grand Prix awards ceremony, we thought it was the perfect time to pair each zodiac sign with a variation commonly seen during the competition. After many painstaking hours spent researching, consulting the stars, and staring wistfully into the sky, we compiled our data and present you with the definitive list of each star sign as a YAGP variation! As we said last time, don't @ us if you're not happy with your pairing—the stars don't lie, baby!