Martha Graham once said “a dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.” Martha Graham is one of the most influential and most legendary dancers and choreographers. Performing and choreographing for over 70 years, I’m sure she has seen it all. The rise and fall of dancers careers, through hardships and life’s unfortunate curve balls. Her words could not be more accurate. A dancers’ career can be short lived. It can take a toll on the body, leading to many injuries and even ending careers before they start.
To pursue a dance career, you must eat, sleep and breathe it. It is a craft that takes a life time to perfect. The emotional release in choreography, watching the body take on the beauty of the technique, the adrenaline rush during a performance is addicting. And like anyone struggling with addiction, when you take away their vise, they go into withdraw. That is when Martha’s words become a sad reality. The pain of losing that part of yourself, is like mourning the loss of your closest companion. And while there is nothing that will ever replace this completely, there is something that fills the void for many dancers and that is yoga.
Yoga for dancers is a savior. The sequencing of poses allows for that creative expression. The moving from pose to pose, keeps the connection to the body. Yoga has a journey within the asanas, and there is always something new to try challenging the body and the mind. It is a safe environment to replenish a broken down body. The non judgmental mentality in a yoga studio, makes it easier to slowly rebuilding flexibility and strength. It is easy to be ashamed or discouraged when coming into a dance studio and seeing others move their bodies around like you once used to. All those years of training and then you find yourself back at square one. It is a huge blow to the heart. In a yoga studio, you witness all different body types and levels, the only competition in the room is with yourself. You can support others just starting and be inspired by those who have been on their yoga journey for quite some time.
Many dancers now cross train, doing yoga and Pilates to help the longevity of their careers. Dancers often over stretch and lack in strength. Yoga develops strength that can sometimes not be achieved in a dance class. Ballet in particular is done with leg externally rotated, while yoga counters this by working in parallel. And just like other professional athletes, it is an opportunity to relax and breath. Giving better mental clarity, concentration and calmness while rehearsing or on the stage.
We are so lucky to live during a time when new resources can be so easily accessed. To be able to have something to fill in the gap of something so important in someone’s life. I feel for the dancers who did not have yoga to get them through the loss of their love. It is a saving grace to coming into the studio, use your body, breath, forgetting all your problems and enjoying the unfolding of the practice. It will truly resurrect a once fallen dancer.