Dancing with your bandhas!
As a dancer, you’ll know that of all the things that are important with dancing; flexibility, strength, power, precision, grace…the most important thing is being able to activate your core muscles. This is your centre, from which everything else comes from. If you don’t have a good understanding and experience of working your core, there is no way you’ll be able to balance, or have the power and strength to move lightly and fluidly across the floor. If you’re dancing with a partner, again the key point of connection is always through your centre.
Yoga has many benefits for dancers, and engaging and understanding your core is probably the biggest one. Straight away in class, you will gain insight into just how important working your core is. In yoga you will often hear ‘activate your bandhas!’ Most of the time the teacher is telling you to pull up your mula bandha (pelvic floor muscles) and engage your uddiyana bandha (core stomach muscles). Without core activation, you’ll find yoga very difficult. Trying to balance and hold yourself up without your bandhas switched on? Near on impossible.
Just working your core muscles can be hard enough, but yoga then goes a step further, teaching you how to move whilst keeping your core engaged, then adding the most important aspect of all – breath. How many times on the dance floor have you been thinking so hard about the movement and staying on balance, that you forget to breathe?!
Without breath, you will soon run out of steam. Stamina for a dancer is imperative, and without learning how to breathe properly your dancing ability can suffer tremendously. I remember during one performance I had a cold and a blocked nose…every time I did a spin I would have to sniff! It made it impossible to breathe, and my dancing suffered as I tired quickly.
I know personally that my dancing has improved significantly through yoga, and one of the major improvements has been combining core and breath together. Vinyasa yoga is exactly that – combining each and every movement with a breath. Yoga teaches you to become highly aware of your breathing. To be able to breath deep into your belly but at the same time keeping your bandhas switched on. When you become aware of each and every breath, suddenly you become far more aware of every movement you make, down to the tiny details. And with that, balance improves. Precision. Power. Stamina and speed. Fluidity. Without core, dancing becomes unstable and risky, like walking with your eyes closed. Once your core is switched on and you’re aware of your breath, its like opening your eyes after being blindfolded. It makes the world of difference.