Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pas de Deux: Yoga & Ballet

CC Image courtesy Shereen M on Flickr

The idea that yoga and ballet go together is not unique to this blog.  In fact, I've missed the did-it-before-it-was-cool curve because ballet yoga workouts, with programs like Yollet (clever name, right?), Figure 4 at Pure Yoga and the Yoga Booty Ballet Complete Work Out System (yes this is frealz), are everywhere you look.  I am sure there is a New York Times article to back me up on how this is the hottest thing ever, titled something punny like Yoga-Ballet is on Pointe or Meet You at the Barre.*  And yes, I will be subjecting myself to these bizarre experiments in exercise miscegenation in the near future to entertain you, my dear blog readers.

But really, how well do yoga and ballet go together?

How Yoga Helped to Prepare Me For Ballet:
Obviously, doing yoga helps you gain strength, flexibility and balance in general, which is important to ballet and many other physical activities in life.  This is why everyone should do yoga!  But more specifically, there are many poses in yoga that mirror motions you do in ballet.  Passé (where you point a foot at your balancing leg's knee) is ballet tree pose!  Grand battements to the side are kind of like hand to big toe pose, pliés are like garland pose and so on and so forth.  Not only did yoga give me an a good start in being able to make and feel the shapes of ballet, it definitely helped with my alignment.  When the teacher gave me corrections about tucking my pelvis, squaring my hips and drawing my shoulder blades down and back, I could only think about how we are always getting these adjustments in yoga class!

How Ballet is Really Different from Yoga:
The weirdest thing about ballet for me, as a person who does a ton of yoga, is that it is performance based and therefore taught towards that goal.  Yoga is very inwardly focused, and it's okay not do a pose fully if you're not feeling it.  In classical ballet, there are very exact standards to follow and you always have to consider how you look to an imaginary audience.  That's why there are so many mirrors in dance studios!  While in yoga studios, you get to close your eyes or look at pretty candles, avoiding an obsession with how your butt looks in leggings. (There are yoga studios with mirrors, but I am of the "mirrors are evil in yoga practice" persuasion.)  In the same vein, it took me some time to get used to moving to music (external) instead of my own breath (internal).

There are also some physical things that just feel very, very strange in ballet.  For example, pointing the foot constantly.  In yoga, you almost always flex the foot to protect the knee.  To be fair, I saw myself  in those judgey ballet mirrors flexing my foot several times instead of pointing and it is not nice looking.  And, turn out.  Turning out your feet is just...not something feet do very often unless you do ballet!  It's pretty, but again, counter to the natural alignment that yoga focuses on.

Finally, How I Got in Trouble in Yoga Class Because of Ballet:
My yoga teacher on the night after ballet class overheard me speaking to another yoga teacher, who is also a dancer, about how I just took ballet.  In ballet class, I had been so focused on getting my arms to do those graceful, ballerina shapes with my fingers nicely grouped that I accidentally carried it over to my yoga class.  My instructor kept saying, "Joyce, this is not ballet!"  In yoga, the arms should be dynamically straight and strong, shooting out lines of energy through spread, engaged fingers.  Oops!   Anyway at the end of class, he sternly lectured that I am allowed to do ballet but NOT allowed to bring over ballet habits to my yoga practice.

On that note, if you are still with me after that WALL OF TEXT, I present you with a video of a dance collaboration between a yoga instructor and a ballerina.  It's not Yoga Booty Ballet, but it is pretty beautiful.

 *I found the article.  Lining Up to the Barre.  It's about ballet workouts in general but still, I totally called it.

1 comment:

  1. I just went to yoga! And I can't imagine having mirrors in front of me to show me everything I'm doing wrong. That would be terrible.

    I was wondering--do ballet and yoga teachers talk about alignment, and the body in similar ways? Or are they totally different languages with different grammars?