6 Yoga Poses for Dancers

Andrea Palesh
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DISCLAIMER: Don’t be fooled by the title of this piece if you’re not a dancer. It’s less about dance, and more about understanding your ego. When beginning my yoga practice, I stepped onto the mat beaming with naive confidence. “Yoga is all about being flexible and stretching. I’m a limber and agile dancer, I got this. No problem.” *Wheels screech* Quite the contrary. I quickly realized that yoga is so much more than stretching and fancy poses. It’s control, it’s patience, it’s focus, it’s balance.

The following poses are ones I found, as a dancer, to be humbling, informative, and character building. Yoga is a practice and the discovery will always continue, so for now I’ll leave you with these poses that are bound to uncover new self-discoveries:

1. Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar)

This series is a great way to work on linking breath to movement, something essential in dance, but often forgotten. The series of asanas is also great for spinal articulation – with flexion and extension of the spine all over the place. And let’s not forget about the upper body strength gained in all those downward facing dogs and planks.
sun salutation photo


2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

I used to HATE chair pose. Probably because I had weak quads and tight shoulders. So basically, I hated how weak it made me feel. But there’s a certain power and liberation from doing something humbling. Don’t let your weaknesses hold you back from working on a particular asana – because, in the context of this particular pose, you will work on strength and openness.
chair pose


3. Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Going into this pose without an engaged core and inner thighs will have you feeling a bit…drunk. Come to think of it, when first attempting this pose, I immediately fell over. Revolved triangle really makes you work on engaging those inner thighs and feeling your feet ground into the floor. Not only that, but revolved triangle also teaches you how to focus the body and work on finding proper spinal alignment.
triangle pose


4. Half-Pigeon (Arda Kapotasana)

Classically trained dancers are all about turnout, turnout, turnout. And boy, there’s no better pose to help with opening the hips than half-pigeon. You may even notice that every time you go into pigeon, your mind goes into extreme relaxation. Because of this, it’s a great pose for post workout/performance/class when your mind and body are on extreme highs.


5. Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

Going upside down can be terrifying – especially for those of us who chose dance over gymnastics. If you find yourself observing in awe and jealously of all the other yogis in class just chilling in their headstand – don’t get discouraged. Step up to the challenge. There’s nothing a little practice, a wall, or a good teacher can’t help you with. One day, it will just click. Your hips will float over your shoulders and the legs will gracefully extended to the sky with ease (and probably with pointed toes if you’re a dancer). Because of the challenges a headstand practice poses, successfully executing it will be extra rewarding. Plus you’ll reap the benefits of inversions: relieve lower body tension, build upper body strength, and a rush of blood to the head for a non-caffeine pick-me-up.


6. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

I’m a firm believer that child’s pose is an extremely important asana for anyone who is very physically active. You have to listen to your body and know it’s ok to slow down, take a breath, understand your limits, and sit still. As a dancer, I like to think of child’s pose as important as getting into a beginning ballet class once in a while. 😉
child's pose
Strongly identifying as a dancer made me think I knew everything I needed to learn about myself, but yoga quickly shot that silly thought down. With yoga, I continue to learn more about myself than I ever knew possible. It showed me that I’m more than a dancer, more than my self-imposed limitations, more than my ego.
To discover areas of weakness made me realize that to be a balanced person requires equal parts strength and vulnerability. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses. Allow them to humble you, and step up to the challenge.

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Andrea Palesh

Andrea Palesh is a freelance dancer and writer living in New York City. She turned to yoga as a means to become a stronger dancer, not knowing the profound effects her yoga practice would have on her entire life. A mover by nature, she embraces change, challenges routine, and rarely turns down an opportunity to bust a move on the dance floor. If she’s not dancing, you can probably find her doing one of the following things: crafting, traveling, or eating popcorn.


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