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Tag: dancers health

Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga can seem deceptivley easy, particularly to well limbered dancers, used to the break neck speed ethics of the studio, dismissing it as being too easy and even perhaps boring. Yoga is so much more than working the body, and the benefits are life changing. Read on to find out why every dancer should include yoga into their work out regimes.

 

  • Breathing Control

Ever been doing an exercise at the barre or centre and found yourself completely out of breath? Do you hear “don’t forget to breath” all the time from your teacher? You are probably unaware that you hold your breath during some movements, particularly the more difficult ones where concentration is needed. Yoga, specifically Ashtanga or Hatha yoga teaches you to focus on your breath and move with it. It’s a particular branch of yoga thats philosophy is to connect breath and movement, flowing through each pose. When you become aware of your breathing and tune into it, you become aware of when you’re holding it. Holding the breath creates tension in the body, and dancers want to look relaxed, making movements appear effortless. The use of the breath also adds a wonderful quality to your dancing, during port de bras for example, the breath should initiate the movement. Another good example would be pirouettes, breathing in whilst turning helps with the feeling of lift. By applying this technique to your dancing, it can really set you apart from other dancers, by literally breathing life into your performance.

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  • Stretching & Mobility

When dancers aren’t dancing, they’re probably stretching. However doing the same old stretching routine day in day out is not only boring, but your body switches off too, it needs new ways to be stimulated in order to progress. Yoga is a great exercise to add to your workout, because there are many different poses to choose from that target stretching out certain areas of the body. So you can tailor your workout depending on where you want to stretch in particular, making it different every time, keeping it fresh and engaging. Not only that, but due to the flowing aspect of continually changing poses, you’ll be training the body to have greater range of motion. It’s no good having great hamstring flexibility if you can’t access its full potential during movement.

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  • Reserve Judgement

Dancers constantly judge themselves. They analyse and criticise not only every minute detail of their performance, but their bodies too, after hour upon hour of observing themselves in the mirror. Dancers are hard on themselves, sometimes too hard. It can lead to a downward spiral of anger, self loathing, and low confidence. They will tear themselves apart and say things to themselves that they wouldn’t dream of saying to another dancer. Yoga harbours no judgement.You learn to be so present in the moment when doing yoga, that your brain has no room to think of anything else. Your taught to silence your ego, to hush that little voice inside your head that tells you you should be better. The more you practice, the more you are able to apply this train of thought to other aspects of your life, including dance.

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  • Listen To Your Body

One thing dancers are particularly bad at is listening to their bodies. They will push themselves to the absolute extreme, no pain no gain right?! They will keep working on something, despite feeling a little niggle here or there, until that niggle becomes a serious injury taking months to heal, instead of a couple of weeks rest it would have taken to soothe the original niggle. Why?! Because it’s so easy to fall behind in your training when  you take even just one week off, and they are scared. Scared of being left behind, scared of not being at peak performace for that audition, scared of their fellow dancers gaining an advantage. You have to look at the bigger picture. 2 weeks of rest, then coming back and working hard to regain what has been lost, compared to months of not dancing, followed by slow and repetitive rehab, then getting back to class and feeling years behind, is a small price to pay. Sadly some injuries are career ending. Yoga helps you to really be in tune with your body, to know what it wants, what it needs and what it doesn’t. Yoga unites mind and body. Some days during practice, an area can feel unusually tight, and you may not be able to deepen a pose as much as you usually can. Because your taught not to judge your body, you learn to accept. To trust in your inner voice that that is not what your body needs right now, to just let it be. To understand that pushing your body beyond its current capabilities is harmful, some even say its a form of abuse. We have to treasure our bodies, its the only one we have.

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  • General Wellbeing

In our current society, there are so many distractions in life, social media, commuting, manic work schedules. Our brains are constantly overloaded with information. Now couple that with the demands of a dancer, trying to remember countless routines and at some point, your poor brain will start to shut down. Ever have those days where the steps just aren’t staying in?! The brain is an amazing organ, but it can only cope with so much before it starts to let us know that its not coping with the work load we force upon it. Yoga helps to cleanse the mind. Due to the focus on breathing and being in the present moment, everything else is pushed aside, giving your brain a well earned rest. Just like restarting your computer or resetting your phone, your brain is refreshed and re-energised, more able to absorb information, commit it to memory and recall it quicker. This enables dancers to concentrate on performance and execution, exactly whats needed at auditions, not worrying about keeping up. Yoga promotes positivity, calmness, wellbeing and mindfulness. Studies found that an hour class, once a week, significantly reduced anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. We wrote about the importance of mental health in dancers featuring advice from ex professional dancer and psychotherapist Terry Hide, you can read here Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It? So by doing yoga, you reap the benefits  in all areas of your life.

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The world we live in today is fast paced, chaotic and, at times harsh, non more so than the world of dance. You’re judged in an instant, before you’ve even been able to showcase what you can do and why you’re different. Its tough on the mind and its tough on the body. Yoga is unique in the fact that it works on both simultaneously. It strengthens and stretches the body, and brings clarity and wellbeing to the mind. There are no negative reasons why you shouldn’t be doing yoga. So before your ego tricks you into believing that yoga isn’t enough of a work out for you, I urge you to try it just once. You will reap the benefits.

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Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

We are historically inept at discussing our mental health in every day life, and even more so for dancers in the arts industry. We are here to highlight these uncomfortable conversations in the hope they become that little bit less uncomfortable.

Discussing mental health will always be a taboo. In recent times, we have seen a rise in celebrities talking about their own mental health battles, along with the subject being more present in the media. Specific organisations are campaigning to thrust it to the forefront of people’s awareness, in the hope of breaking down the wall of silence that surrounds the stigma.

Statistics inform us that 1 in 4 people are plagued with mental health issues right now. Just using that statistic alone means that within your group of friends, at least one of them will be suffering behind closed doors. Now look at a dance class, how many dancers take part, and apply the same statistic, alarming isn’t it. But what’s even more alarming is that there are virtually no studies specifically on mental health in dancers. Why? Entertainment Assist are an Australian organisation conducted a study on dancers and found their statistics to be even more dire than the general consensus – 1 in 3 dancers were suffering. An alarming figure considering no one is addressing it.

Exercise – specifically dance, has long been proven to help improve mental health and cognitive functions. This coupled with the display of euphoria projected by dancers during performances , could be the reason we are still inadequately addressing mental health and well-being of those in this chosen field. Do we assume that they aren’t affected? That they can’t possibly be affected because they are doing what they love and look how happy they are! There lies the problem. We assume. Assume that because they ‘look’ happy whilst they perform that they are the same whilst at home. How wrong could we be. There are so many reasons why dancers suffer, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, obsessive tendencies are just a few to mention, let alone the huge come down after the high of performing, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

We are honoured to be alliances with Terry Hide MA MBACP, ex professional dancer with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) turned psychotherapist. He uses his first hand knowledge of the industry coupled with his expertise in the psychology field to specifically help dancers that are suffering behind the scenes and highlight their plight so that we can be better at identifying the signs, addressing the issues and ultimately support those that need it the most. He gave us some advice for dancers and their nearest and dearest or recognising symptoms and taking the first steps towards getting help.

Some Symptoms

You may find yourself wanting to be alone when you are normally gregarious. You may also be feeling tearful, tired or lethargic and irritable. Another common symptom is being short tempered with people you are close with. You may feel fearful of something but you don’t know what the something is. You may may have lost your appetite or obsessively control your eating (the start of anorexia/bulimia). You could also become controlling in other aspects of your life. These are only a few of the symptoms that you may experience. As mentioned above, each one of us is unique and therefore the symptoms will manifest themselves in different ways. In addition to the above symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration. Hormonal issues around menarche, puberty, adolescence and for females, the menstrual cycle.

Most importantly, symptoms are a manifestation of underlying issues and your body’s warning that you need to deal with them. Unfortunately, the worldwide medical profession, on the whole, only treat the symptoms, usually by medication, rather than dealing holistically with a patient to find out what is creating the symptoms.

Being a ‘rock’ in isolation and being ‘strong’ is sometimes detrimental to oneself as it saps energy from our own self-healing system. The British resolve of the ‘stiff upper lip’ doesn’t work at all, it only exacerbates the problem by keeping it inside of us, which is toxic to our mental and physical health. For you to ask for help when you recognise the symptoms, is in itself the first step to healing. For some who are normally resistant to showing signs of ‘weakness’, asking for help is the bravest step.

If you identify any of these symptoms in yourself or someone close to you, as Terry said, the first and bravest step is recognising there is a problem. Problems don’t go away on their own, and if your mind is not working at its optimum best, how do expect dance, your craft, to be? If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable confiding in your nearest and dearest, reach out to one of the many organisations, fully trained, many having had their own first hand experience with mental health issues, who are ready to support you.

MIND are a mental health charity set up to help those in need or just be an unbiased eat to listen. You can visit their website www.mind.org.uk , call their helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 . Terry Hyde also has a website for his services specific to those in dance www.counsellingfordancers.com or through Facebook: @counsellingfordancers

Twitter: @counselingdance

Instagram: @counselingfordancers . Alternatively you can contact us here at Dance Niche, and we would be more than happy to pass on any questions or worries you have to Terry.

Please remember, you are not on your own. Many people before you have had their own mental health issues and made it through the other side, and many people after you will suffer. It is much more common than anyone cares to make out, but it’s only when we talk about it and face it head on, that any progress can be made. Don’t suffer in silence, someone is always ready to listen.

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