Yoga provides mental and physical therapy

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Watching a ballet dancer float through air with graceful movements and intense precision is jaw-dropping.

What many people don’t see is that behind the flawless performance is the brutal life of a dancer. Achy bodies, pulled muscles and emotional distress are all part of a serious dancer’s lifestyle. The miraculous art of yoga helps remedy these issues.

“Breathe in and out, clearing your mind. Be in the moment, and only focus on yourself, your body, your breath.” 

These are the words yoga instructor Michelle Stobart said during one of her classes. But don’t be fooled into believing that yoga is simply breathing and stretching.

“Yoga is incredibly difficult. People don’t always realize how good of a workout it is,” Lauren Slivosky, a dance major, said.

By strength and flexibility, yoga is a workout that is not only mentally, but physically therapeutic. For a dancer, it is especially useful.

“(Dancers) certainly have the flexibility aspect. Then there is a way in which too much flexibility means there is a lack of strength. Yoga helps bring that strength, and it assists in a way that when you’re a dancer giving a performance, your focus has to be on the work you are doing in that moment,” Michelle Stobart, yoga instructor and founder of Inhale Yoga, said.

Injuries are  common among serious or professional dancers. Straining muscles and working one’s body to the extent that many dancers do creates beautiful, yet painful results.

“Before a (dance) class starts, some dancers take time to warm themselves up. Normally those dancers are the ones who practice yoga…If you do not warm up, dancers are prone to injuries more often than dancers who study movement studies like yoga,” said Steven Evans, senior dance major.

Besides being a tremendous workout and a physical therapy session, yoga is also mentally invigorating. Practicing yoga brings  attention to the body and its ability and strength.

“When practicing daily, it makes you want to eat healthier and helps you emotionally with your patience,” Slivosky said.

People who practice yoga generally have reduced amounts of stress and are more energized.

“I think it relieves stress because when you are doing the practice you have to be so present.  There is an attention and focus on your body.  That kind of focus and concentration brings the mind into a state of withdraw from all the distraction,” Stobart said.

Yoga transcends exercise and is a lifestyle for many. The full effect of yoga is not achieved by simply taking a class, but it is gained by making it a part of everyday life.

“It can be as simple as sitting Indian style on the floor and counting your breaths.  That itself is yoga, because you are using mindfulness to focus on your whole body,” Evans said.

Although yoga is beneficial for serious dancers, it is also highly recommended for anyone. Everyone has some form of stress, and it does not take a naturally flexible dancer to benefit from the practice. Many yoga instructors will offer varying levels of class, encouraging students to gradually work up to harder poses. 

“Really the only skill you need to come to yoga is a willingness to be there. We have people who come here with all different body types. (For) yoga, all you have to have is a willingness to be present in the body,” Stobart said.

Interested in yoga? Check out classes at Ping, or stop in Inhale Yoga on Court Street.

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