The Yin Yang of Yoga and Dance-and why it’s one of the best combos!

 

It’s funny when students who take my yoga classes, see me for the first time teaching Zumba. They are genuinely surprised, if not a bit shocked…LOL. I get all kinds of remarks from “it’s like watching another person” or “one would never think from your yoga class…”  It’s true, dance and yoga are my Yin Yang.  They balance each other perfectly.  They not only provide all of the necessary benefits to help keep your body healthy and fit.  They also provide emotional and spiritual health and well-being.  They are two-sides of the same coin.

Dance (the Yang), ignites your high energy, enthusiastic side.  It is the “language of the soul”.  While Yoga (the Yin) inspires beautiful focused movement which flows with breath.  It is the “poetry of the body”.  There is a lot of synergy between both practices. Both require focus and controlled breathing for stamina.  Both develop strength in our bodies.  Both help develop rhythm and coordination.  Both help us to be present, and most incredibly dance and yoga unites us, as we move as one to the beat and in the flow.

Dance, as a cardio based exercise, helps our body burn calories, however more important than that, it makes our heart pump faster, which helps to strengthens it.  The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in our body and perhaps the most important.  Cardio from dance also creates “the dancer’s high”, it’s a process in which the body releases endorphins, known as the body’s natural anti-depressant.  The natural euphoria helps heal your mind, body and spirit.

Yoga, is typically associated with flexibility, however there are greater benefits.  One important benefit which is often overlooked is “breathing”.  The focus on breathing throughout the practice is very important. In yoga, attention to breathing is used to helps focus the mind, relax muscles groups and build stamina in order to hold difficult poses. Yoga also builds muscular strength, creates balance and develops coordination.  It is a gift to your “self”.

Spiritually both practices inspire me to no end.  Both dance and yoga allow me to be a “better version” of myself.  They help me connect to a wider world, and they help me heal when I am broken.  Both require hard work and discipline, and while I am teaching others, they remind me that I am first and foremost a student. Emotionally, both practices help keep my keel even.  It’s a blessing to navigate through life and its storms, feeling centered.

If you’re not doing one or both…..whatcha waitin’ for?

A Strong Core

 Most times when people think of a strong core, they think of the six-pack abs, otherwise known as the rectus abdominis muscle group. These illustrious group of muscles, denote strength in the fitness world and get all the praise for someone having a strong core.  However a strong core is much more than that, a strong core is a group of six muscle groups that comprise what we call the “powerhouse”.  It is comprised of the transverse abdominis, multifidus muscle, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis and the erector spinae.

  *Picture from mycoreprogression.com

A strong core is essential to everything you do physically.  My Pilates instructor would say “… a strong core is like the trunk of the tree, it supports all of the limbs.”  Both in yoga and dance a strong core is essential.  Great dancers have incredibly strong cores.  Remember all those buff guys in Magic Mike?  If you watch closely, all of their fly moves stem from the core. What about all of the intermediate yoga poses like crow, headstand, and forearm stand?  You must have a strong core to achieve those poses, it’s what helps you get into to the pose and stay there.

A strong core even helps with certain physical alignments.  Ten years ago from a daily two-hour commute to and from Boston, carrying my laptop on one shoulder, I got the worse sciatic pain.  It was the first time in my life I had to go to physical therapy. One of the things the therapist told me was that I had to strengthen my core. I was on a mission after that. I built in a fifteen/twenty minute core workout every day as part of my gym workout for the next five years at least.  Guess what?  It worked.  I have long since diversified my workout due to all the classes I teach, however I’ve never had sciatic pain again.

Core strengthening is the most important work you should do.  You should include a few core strengthening exercises no matter what your fitness regime is. There is a variety of core strengthening exercises to choose from. There are also many exercise machines designed to target the core area.  Variety is good when it comes to strengthening your core.  My favorite exercises are the ones where you have to use your own body weight like high planks, low planks, side planks, form arm planks etc. Both yoga, and dance inherently strengthen your core, however if you can build in extra core strengthening to your fitness workout schedule, do it!  You can never do too much core work.

  *Side Plank Variation