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6 Yoga Poses for Dancers to Increase Flexibility and Prevent Injury

Christina D’Arrigo
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Dancers are complicated folks. I can say this because along with being a yoga teacher, I am also a choreographer and former dancer myself.
 
On one hand, there are many dancers who are working towards improving their flexibility in areas such as the hamstrings and the hips, which are two common places where flexibility is needed in many dance techniques.
 

Dancers can use yoga as a tool to improve their dance technique and also prevent career-ruining injuries.

 
On the other hand, there are also a lot of dancers who are hypermobile in their hip and leg muscles, which can cause a wide array of painful injuries. If treated improperly, these injuries can cut a dancer’s career way too short.
 
This is where yoga comes in! Professional dancers and dance students alike can use yoga as a tool to improve their dance technique and also prevent career-ruining injuries.
 
Yoga for dancers can accomplish two main goals: increase flexibility, and strengthen to prevent injury. Providing your body with a balance of stretching and strengthening your muscles is key to injury prevention.
 

Dancers! Practice these six yoga poses to strengthen and increase flexibility to prevent injury:

The first three poses target the hips, quads, and hamstrings for improving flexibility in the areas where dancers need it most.
 

1. Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose will increase your hip flexibility, external rotation, and quad flexibility. Becoming more flexible in these areas will help you better execute dance movements such as leg extensions and full splits.
 
pigeon-pose
How to practice Pigeon Pose:
Begin in a low lunge and then release the outer edge of the front leg onto the mat. The closer you bring your shin parallel to the front of the mat, the deeper the stretch. To make the stretch more gentle, bring your front heel in closer to your hips.
 
Your back leg should be straight behind you with your left hip pointed down and your toes pointed back. Once settled into this pose, remain here for several deep breaths as you allow your hips to gently sink towards the mat.
 
For an added stretch in your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, you can hinge forward and rest your forearms or torso on the mat. To make the pose more gentle and restorative, place a yoga block or folded yoga blanket beneath the right hip. Repeat on the other side.
 
 

King Arthur Pose

King Arthur is an extremely intense quad and hip stretch, and it hurts so good! This one will help you achieve deeper backbends and higher extensions of the leg towards the back body in dance moves like an arabesque.
 
king-arthur-pose-double
How to practice King Arthur Pose:
Come to a wall and face your body away from it. You may want to place a folded yoga blanket or thicker yoga mat next to the wall to provide extra cushioning for your knee to rest on.
 
Place the top of your foot on the wall behind you and then with a bent leg, place that knee on the ground. Your shin and the top of your foot should be flat on the wall. Facing away from the wall, place your hands on the ground and step the opposite leg forward, planting that foot on the floor. Your back shin is against the wall, and your front leg is in a low lunge position.
 
Once settled, lift your torso upright as much as you can and place your hands on your front thigh. If this is too intense, you can remain folded forward with your hands on the floor. Stay here for several deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
 
 

3. Supta Padangusthasana

Supta Padangusthasana, or Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, is an excellent hamstring stretch to do after a dance class. This yoga pose stretches your hamstrings and glutes, and it will help you achieve higher extensions in the front and sides of your body (i.e. développé to the front or side or grand jeté in ballet).
 
hand-foot-pose
How to practice Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose:
Lay on your back and raise one leg into the air while keeping the other leg flat on the floor. Both legs are straight and toes flexed towards your face to keep the legs engaged.
 
The final expression of this pose is bringing your peace sign finger to your big toe (same hand to same foot). You can also choose to hold the entire foot in both hands. If this expression is too deep for you, hold onto the calf or thigh instead (just be sure to avoid holding the knee joint).
 
You can also use a yoga strap by placing the strap on the ball of your raised foot and holding the strap evenly in both hands. Hold this stretch for several deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
 

 

Now you’re ready for the yoga poses that build strength:

The next three poses are for strengthening the muscles where dancers are often hyper-mobile and injury most often occurs. These poses specifically target the back, core, glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
 

4. Locust Pose

Salabasana, or Locust Pose, is an excellent pose for strengthening the muscles in the back body. If you are one of those dancers who has extreme flexibility in your hamstrings, strengthening the glutes and hamstring muscles is key for preventing injury in this area.
 
locust-pose
How to practice Locust Pose:
Come onto your stomach and rest your forehead on the mat. Relax the arms down by your side. On an inhale, lift your head, arms, legs and feet off the ground. Energetically reach your hands back towards your feet and stretch your feet towards the back of the mat.
 
You should feel the work coming from your back, hamstrings, and glutes. Hold for several deep breaths and release everything back down. Repeat 3-4 times.
 
 

5. Boat Pose

Navasana, or Boat Pose, strengthens the abdominals and hip flexors. It’s a great pose to do if you are a dancer who has extreme flexibility in your hips and also in your spine. If your back muscles are weak or if you have scoliosis, strengthening the abdominals is an excellent way to help prevent injury.
 
boat-pose
How to practice Boat Pose:
Sit on the ground and squeeze your inner knees and ankles together as you bend your knees and lift your feet. Engage the core and keep the heart lifted to prevent rounding into the spine.
 
If the hip flexors are feeling cramped, or if your abdominals need to build a bit a more strength, stay here. If you’re ready to increase the challenge, straighten into your legs and lift your arms overhead for the full expression. Hold this pose for several deep breaths and repeat.
 
 

6. Ardha Chandrasana

Ardha Chandrasana, or Balancing Crescent Moon Pose, helps improve your balance, leg extension, internal rotation, and oblique strength. This is an excellent pose if you need to work on keeping parallel legs (i.e. a tuck jump, kick forward in jazz/contemporary dance, and petite jumps in parallel first position) and tone your inner thighs as well.
 
half-moon-pose
How to practice Ardha Chandrasana:
Start from a low lunge position with your right foot forward. Lift your back left leg as you straighten your front right knee and work to stack your left hip on top of your right. Keep the lifted leg parallel and the foot flexed and lift it to about 90 degrees.
 
One hand is planted on the mat down onto the ground while the opposite arm is reaching up towards the ceiling. You can use a yoga block under the bottom hand to balance and help if you’re unable to reach the ground.
 
Once you are settled into your balancing pose, you can work towards looking up to the ceiling. Hold for several deep breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
 

Incorporate Yoga Into Your Dance Training

These poses barely scratch the surface of the many ways that yoga can assist dancers in having a long, happy, and healthy dance career. Practicing these six yoga poses and incorporating yoga into your dance training is a great place to start!
 
Keep coming back to the mat to gain strength and flexibility in the parts of your body you need most for dancing. You’ll build strength, increase flexibility, and create more space in the body – all the perfect recipe to have you dancing at your best!
 
When you’re ready for more, join Kelly Richardson for a full body work out with the Full Body Barre class bundle.
 
full-body-barre
 

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Christina D’Arrigo

Christina began her yoga journey in a Yoga For Dancers class back in 2008, and she is now an RYT 500 level yoga instructor in NYC. With almost a decade of yoga and over 25 years of dance experience, she knows a lot about the body and the way it moves. Christina runs the growing YouTube channel, ChriskaYoga, where she offers free yoga classes and tutorials.

chriskayoga.com

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