In my previous post I wrote about how yoga changed my life, helping me to rehabilitate a chronic back injury and also improving my bellydance technique. This certainly didn’t happen overnight, or all at once. Over the course of a number of years I gradually incorporated yoga into my practice and by trial and error I encountered many beneficial poses that not only helped my flexibility but also improved my strength and general wellbeing.
The most beneficial yoga poses which I believe helped to rehabilitate my lower back but also provide more stability in my belly dance technique target the hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back and core.
All images are sourced from http://www.yogajournal.com – a fantastic resource for technique and information about building your own practice. Links to each pose from the website are in the numbered headings.
1. LOW LUNGE
This pose is a fantastic beginner’s pose, to increase the stretch in the hip flexor you can scoot your knee back. The front knee must be over the ankle at all times. Any variation of lunge is a great way to safely stretch the hip flexor.
For the beginner, this pose can be executed without arms, and with assistance of a blanket or bolster under the buttocks if the hips are too tight. The King Pigeon pose is not only a fantastic hip flexor stretch but also does wonders for the glutes and outer hip. I found this pose to help my slow hipwork, particularly figure eights and omnis.
This is a great pose to stretch out both the hamstrings and lower back, and is perfect for after class as a cooldown especially if you have been drilling lots of hip or lower back intensive movement. To really stretch the lower back you can bend the knees as much as you need and rest the belly on the thighs.
One of my favourite post-class poses, this is a great lower back and hamstring stretch to improve flexibility. The wider apart your legs are, the easier it is to reach the floor, so you can increase difficulty by shuffling the feet closer together for a stronger stretch. You can lift the head from the floor and vary your arm positions to stretch the hips and side abdominals as well.
A great pose that lengthens the hamstrings, side abdominals and calves, which also strengthens the knees and core, while opening the chest and alleviates stress on the lower back.
This pose is your new best friend. You’ll stretch your hamstring but with the twist and side bend you’ll experience a deep stretch down your side abdominals and right into your hip joint. As dancers we use these muscles a lot but there’s not always an accessible stretch to relieve and lengthen these areas we overuse. It also has the added benefit of stretching the upper body and generally relieving stress.
7. BOAT POSE
To be strong dancers and to avoid injury, core strength is a must. To target different abdominal groups you can gradually lower but not touch the floor then engage the core to raise back into boat pose. A strong core protects the spine and improves posture and carriage. If you engage in floorwork for your dance, core strength is a must to execute the dance safely and gracefully.
This pose can be modified by bringing the lower knee to the floor to begin conditioning the side abdominals and upper body. The side plank with the extended arm not only opens the side body but helps to engage the side abdominals and improve balance.
9. CAMEL POSE
If you engage in floorwork, backbends or laybacks in your dancing, the camel pose is a great strengthener for your back and thighs. It also has the benefit of stretching the entire front of the body.
After you’ve done a hard session of dancing and yoga-ing, cool down with this seated twist – you’ll gently release your spine and end your practice with a smile!
It was so hard to choose just 10 poses, but these are the ones which really helped me personally in my journey as a dancer and yoga student. Do you have any favourite poses I haven’t featured?