So You Think You Can’t Dance? Yoga Gives Dancers a Backbone

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | July 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments
topic: Fitness, Yoga

patricia-dance-pose-for-jill-blogLong before I was a yogini, I was a dancer — a really bad dancer. My mom enrolled me in ballet as soon as I could walk. I remember the pink tights and black leotards and the DREADED recitals. One Christmas, at age 4, crippled by stage fright, I flat-out refused to wear my Sugar Plum Fairy costume and instead watched my sister dance her way through both of our parts. She was a star, and I watched from my seat feeling queasy relief.

As the years progressed, I grew sedentary and favored reading books and watching TV over anything that resembled physical output. This resulted in me topping 100 pounds at my sixth grade “weigh in.” (I measured only 4 feet 9 inches.) It was then that I discovered my mom’s brand new Jane Fonda’s Workout and the Raquel Welch yoga videos that unleashed in me a preadolescent desire to know my body, to lose weight, and to turn the corner on my childhood. I would rush home from junior high school everyday to practice these weight loss videos. They became a compulsion and companion of sorts, galvanizing my developing brain and body and saturating it with sweat and endorphins.

Classes with my mentor Glenn completely changed my body and made me a better dancer.

Classes with my mentor Glenn completely changed my body and made me a better dancer.

Yoga and dance followed me into college, where I met the word “technique” in a head-on collision of struggle and insecurities. I left many a dance class in tears, unable to grasp the combinations and painfully reliving my toddlerhood. My yoga classes were a different story. I studied many threads of the practice including the demanding Iyengar, Sivananda, and my mentor Glenn Black’s techniques. These quelled my performance anxiety and gave me a literal and metaphorical backbone of support.

“I finally felt I was really dancing from my soul and not to please others.”

As much as I loved to dance, it was torture (not to mention often injurious), and I relied on my yoga practice to reset my mind and body so that I could continue to face my dancing demons. It wasn’t until I discovered “dance improvisation,” where I could make up my own stuff, that I finally felt I was really dancing from my soul and not to please others.

It’s no wonder that I chose to become a professional yoga teacher instead of a professional dancer. In my 20s, dancing gigs did not pay well, and I often ended up tweaked from the rehearsal and performance process. But the yoga students kept showing up! When I finally quit dancing at age 30, fed up with the tug-of-war, I was immediately offered a dancing job that involved travel and a decent paycheck! The divine joke here being that when I finally turned away from my calling, I was “called.” I took the job and looked forward to teaching yoga full time when the gig was up. And that is exactly what I did and have never looked back since!

My Yoga Tune Up® technique has been the best practice for me to maintain my body both for everyday health needs as well as the stresses of dancing. Because of Yoga Tune Up, I am a much better dancer today because I have healed so many of my imbalances that were actually an obstacle to landing jobs! My classes allow me to channel the spirit of an improvisational jam session while my students are getting to know the way their bodies work.

“Here was my chance to meet the dance that defeated me in childhood with my more mature yogic perspective.”

Look Mom, I'm Dancing!

Look Mom, I'm dancing!

Every other year, I dance in my friend Adam Dugas’ annual Christmas show, Chaos & Candy, in New York City’s hipster downtown performance scene. Two years ago, my childhood fears were put to rest when he and I did a “very free form” duet to the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Here was my chance to meet the dance that defeated me in childhood with my more mature yogic perspective.

Sugar = the sweetness I feel while practicing yoga or dancing

Plum = the sour of the challenge of technique and the discipline both practices require

Fairy = represents the transcendent joy of intermingling these life-sustaining arts, no matter what the lesson

Mom, it wasn’t Carnegie Hall, but it was personal triumph.

Join me next month at Kripalu to explore dozens of Core techniques that support the inner dancer in you!

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The feature photo of Patricia Moreno is from a photo shoot for Gaiam’s Dance: Core Cross Train DVD.

Comments

  1. That was lovely. Thanks for sharing, Jill.
    I had a sort of similar experience with dancing. I knew there was something right about it, but I wasn’t into the pain and injury part of it.
    When I discovered Nia, I was able to satisfy that spiritual/artistic need to dance while at the same time not only take care of my body but inspire it’s self-healing.
    Nia is part technique and part free dancing. A gorgeous combination of fun and exercise.
    When I discovered Yoga Tune Up late last year, it did for my yoga practice what Nia did for my dancing. I really appreciate the attention to detail and the holistic conditioning that you bring to yoga. And, of course, my students appreciate all you’ve taught me.
    I look forward to more and more. See you at Kripalu.

    Jason Alan Griffin | July 26th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Thanks Jason! It is a pleasure to watch you incorporate your love of movement and dance into your teaching. I look forward to studying Nia from you one of these days!
    See you at Kripalu!

    Jill Miller | July 27th, 2009 | Comment Permalink

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