The dancers body - it ain't pretty!
Usually you can spot a dancer a mile away. Especially if you are a dancer yourself! Dancers generally have a long, lean bodies, toned legs, and beautiful poise. They are usually graceful, elegant, and comfortable in their own skin. At first glance, dancers are lithe, flexible, strong and balanced. These are the physical perfections that many people would love to have. I teach barre classes, which are specifically geared to creating the perfect dancer’s body.
But when you get closer, the dancer will tell you its actually not oh-so-pretty. Look closer and you will see mangled feet, bunions and blisters. You will probably see bruises, and most dancers will talk to you about lower back pain and the need to keep moving constantly to ease stiffness and soreness. Ballet dancers are renowned for bad feet after years on pointe shoes. Latin and ballroom dancers will consistently complain of back pain from dancing in heels and extreme back bending and spinal rotation. Salsa dancers will show you their bruises. And contemporary, jazz & hip hop dancers will no doubt have sprained at least one joint in their dancing career.
If something like dance causes so much pain and injury, why you ask, do people keep doing it? It seems to be so counter-intuitive!
It’s the passion. It’s the love of dance that keeps dancers going back for more. In one way, I would call it a serious addiction! But how to manage these potential injuries and protect our bodies from sustaining serious long term chronic pain?
Yoga. It’s honestly the best form of therapy that can be used as both prevention and as a way to ease a stiff and sore body back into shape. Yoga teaches you serious core strength to protect against lower back pain. In bare feet, yoga can correct bad postural alignment. Its low-impact nature is kind on the joints. But most of all, it teaches you to really listen in to your body and understand exactly what it needs. Mostly dancers push through pain to continue their passion of dance. Half the time, dancers don’t even feel the pain until they stop dancing! Yoga allows you space to check in to see what the real issue is, and gives you the opportunity to move in a safe and secure way to best restore your body slowly back to health.
I myself experienced a lot of back pain whilst doing ballet, and still do. Now dancing in heels doing latin and ballroom, with extreme spinal rotation and backward bending, even with a strong use of core and spatial awareness, does not help! It is so important for me to continue to practice yoga alongside my dancing, to ensure I’m continuing to work my core and support my back in the correct alignment.
Yoga has really encouraged me to soften into my body, to not be so hard and forceful, but instead to listen in and really pay attention. I think this is the key to preventing long term injury and to allow me to dance for as long as I can!