Is there anything more beautiful than watching a dancer leap, turn and float across the stage to just the right music? The art of dance is both strong and graceful and so are the bodies of the dancers. Their lean and toned limbs are envied by all. So what’s the secret to their covetable physiques? Among the many items in a dancer’s toolbox is yoga. No matter what your pre-conceived notions about yoga are, put them aside and consider this: dancers do yoga for two reasons: to strengthen and to lengthen! The yoga moves shown below will help you develop real strength, real length and, as a bonus, improve your balance. Read on and try these eight moves to get a lean dancer’s body.
Three Principles To Consider
Before you take on this dancer’s body challenge, keep in mind that yoga is a mind-body practice. With each movement you make and each pose you hold, it is important that you actively focus on what you are trying to achieve at that moment. Here are three principles that a dancer would keep in mind:
Elongate: Dancers practice concentrated movements that function as deep sculpting tools to create long, lean muscles. These practices emphasize that when you contract a muscle, you will then almost always lengthen it. The lengthening is just as important as the contraction. For example, Horse Pose will strengthen your legs and open your hips, but when you rise up, make sure to lengthen through your legs, lift from the crown of your head for a tall spine and reach your arms as far as you can.
Related: 5 Minutes To Leaner Legs
Isometrics: Isometric exercise involves supporting weight without moving your muscles. This time your muscles spend under tension makes them stronger and develops muscle fibers that are key for endurance and balance. So rather than the large movements you would make in a typical strength training session (think squats or lunges), you hold the poses (think warrior or chair) and give the muscles an isometric challenge.
Core Control: Everything you do will revolve around engaging your core and keeping you abs pulled in. This not only provides your with proper alignment, but it encourages good posture and keeps your back strong. No matter which position you are in, draw your naval to your spine and slightly tuck your tailbone. A tight transverse abdominus will be the key to all!
This pose strengthens legs and opens inner thighs.
1) From a standing position, step feet apart slightly wider than shoulder-distance, toes pointing outward.
2) As you inhale, reach arms overhead wide pressing palms together.
3) As you exhale, bend knees 90 degrees and pull hands to chest sliding your shoulder blades downward.
4) Keep knees pointed over feet and tailbone tucked under body. Hold 30 seconds and breathe. Stand and lengthen, then draw back down and hold for another 30 seconds.
This pose opens your hips and strengthens your legs.
1) From a standing position, step the ball of your left foot to the back of the mat. Keep your feet slightly wider than one another like standing on railroad tracks.
2) Reach both arms straight overhead and bend the right knee to 90 degrees.
3) Relax your shoulders as you continue reaching up and lengthen the back leg. Hold 30 seconds and switch sides
This pose improves balance and strengthens the core and ankle joint.
1) Stand tall with feet together and arms by side.
2) Shift your weight onto your left foot and pull your right heel toward your right glute.
3) Reach around with your right hand and grab hold of your right foot or ankle. Draw your knees together.
4) Take a deep breath in and as you exhale simultaneously press right foot back and up while reaching left arm forward and up.
5) Hold 30 seconds and breathe, extending the stretch with each exhale. Swtich sides.
This pose strengthens your legs, opens your hips and helps with balance.
1) Engage abs and lengthen spine as you reach your arms toward the front of the room and begin lifting your left leg behind you.
2) Continue reaching arms forward and left leg back until your body is parallel to the floor and eyes are gazing at the front of your mat. Keep abs tight!
3) Relax neck and shoulders and breathe gently in and out. Hold 30 seconds and switch legs.
This pose strengthens your core and shoulders and improves balance.
1) Begin in a full plank with hands under shoulders and feet and thighs touching.
2) Squeeze abdominals tightly and open right arm straight into the air turning body to the side so right foot rests on left foot.
3) Squeeze through waistline and lift right leg up in line with hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Remember to keep lengthening and reaching through your fingers and toes.
4) Return to plank and switch sides.
5) Modify by placing your bottom knee on the floor if needed.
This pose strengthens core and stretches hamstrings.
1) Start lying on back with arms next to side and legs pointed straight into the air above hips. Press low back into the mat so abs are tight.
2) Lower right leg a few inches from the mat. As you raise right leg up, begin lowering left leg the same way. Continue switching right and left for desired number of reps.
3) For added resistance and stretch, flex your torso up off the ground and grab each ankle as they stretch upward.
This pose strengthens core, improves balance and lengthens hamstrings and back.
1) Begin in a kneeling plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your knees on the floor, and your body in a straight line from your head to your knees.
2) Raise your right hand off the floor at the same time as your left foot. Squeeze abs tight and try to maintain perfect stillness in your body. Return your hand and foot to the floor and repeat with your opposite hand and foot.
This pose strengthens the core and lengthens hamstrings.
1) From a seated position, draw naval to spine bracing abdominals and, with hands on floor behind you, bring your legs up off the floor with knees bent in front of the chest.
2) Keeping abdominals tight, slowly lift hands off floor and reach them forward and up while simultaneously lengthening legs upward. Your body will look like a “V” shape. Lengthen spine as you hold. (If your hamstrings are too tight, bend knees slightly.)
3) Keep abdominals tight and breathe. Stay for 30-60 seconds or as long as you can. Release legs to ground, lengthen and reach toward your toes or then repeat a second time holding for another 30-60 seconds.