How Yoga Compliments Other Forms of Exercise and Dancing.

Originally written by Zara M on 27 March 2014

The Yoga4Tango class last weekend started off with an alignment exercise. We were asked to stand with our backs against a wall, feet flat on the ground and slightly apart, away from the wall. Then we aimed to lengthen and straighten the spine’s natural curve by pressing our backs up against the wall. We stretched our arms out to each side so that the shoulder blades rested flat against the wall too, and then we raised our arms up and down paying close attention to what our bodies naturally wanted to do. I think the idea was to consciously but naturally lengthen the body and straighten out the curves so that they were properly aligned and ready for the practice session. It was a nice warm-up and a great way to start the class, being an alternative way to stretching whilst lying on our backs on the ground. I also felt it gave me a peaceful moment to connect with myself, and bring my awareness to each part of my body before the class began.

I was a concerned that I’d find the class a struggle because I had gone out for a run that morning for the first time in many, many years. You look at people running, and some of them make it look easy as they spring along, whilst others look like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I knew I wouldn’t be sprinting down the street on my first go, but I didn’t expect the experience to be quite as painful as it was. Carrying the weight of your own body in a way you are not used to is more work than you think! I was convinced that because my body and muscles were not used to running, that they would seize up, and that later I would not be able to take part in the yoga class. How wrong I was though!

The yoga instructor had certainly not chosen a time to be lenient with us. He pushed us to our limits. The pace was fast and he challenged the class with non-stop transitions and posture holds. But I found it so exhilarating! Despite the physical challenge of the session, I felt that I had suddenly acquired a restful sense of stamina, and for some reason my body as a whole felt more open and flexible. I moved into each pose of the Sun Salute sequence mindfully, and I found myself breathing into each pose in a far deeper way than usual. I had to ask myself whether the cardio exercise I did earlier had prepared my body or mind in some way or other so that I was more ‘up for it’ in the yoga session. I felt like my body was alive. By the end of the session I had started to flag, especially in some of the poses that required the muscles in my legs to work harder, my legs were beginning to feel like jelly by this point I must admit.

I was convinced that I would suffer the following day, but to my surprise my body felt good and my muscles did not hurt. I guess a good combination of the cardio from running and the muscle lengthening from yoga worked well together. I’m not convinced that I want to take up running as a regular activity because I have heard about it being a high impact kind of exercise, but my yoga instructor explained that if you take the time to figure out your body alignment first then you lessen the negative impact of certain sports like running because you don’t put unnecessary pressure on certain parts of your body as your weight will be more evenly distributed. Yoga is such a wonderful activity for getting to know, and also looking after your body, so that you can protect it while doing other things to benefit your health. I am looking forward to the new Yoga4Tango intensive back to basics course, which is upcoming; we will be exploring how you can apply basic yoga techniques to help improve the way your body works in everyday life. I am expecting the classes to focus on things like posture and weight distribution.

I have also been paying closer attention to how the muscles in my body work while I am dancing Tango. I am finding that I feel much more stable now that I seem to have discovered a proper Tango posture, and one that feels natural. I’m not sure when that happened, but I am feeling that my posture has improved in everyday life too. I am not hunching my shoulders as much and my body looks and feels more open, which is benefitting my dancing. Perhaps it has something to do with a change in the weather? It’s not as cold, and people are looking forward to sunshine after having a glimpse of summer a few weeks back. My newfound posture may also have something to do with improved core muscles, holding my upper body upright feels more natural because my core muscles are used to being engaged now. It’s a wonderful feeling.

I hope that the next few weeks in Yoga4Tango will have a strong focus not only on how yoga can benefit our everyday lives, but also give a closer examination of how we can apply yoga techniques to dancing Tango.

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