Balance is a key function of our bodies that we often forget about, but it’s important to practice. Balance may bring to mind extreme activities like gliding across a gymnastics beam or walking a tightrope, but you may be surprised just how many everyday activities require us to utilize our core strength to balance.
Carrying groceries, walking the dog, moving furniture, standing in the shower. Whether you realize it or not, balance is heavily involved in making these actions possible. Our day-to-day activities, if performed without core engagement and balance, can pull on muscles, joints and ligaments in a destructive manner. These risks, however, are greatly reduced with good balance and a strong core. And dancer pose is an excellent exercise to help improve in these areas.
What does dancer pose do for the body?
Dancer pose strengthens the core, improves balance, works the standing leg and opens up the hips. It also provides a gentle shoulder stretch that can improve posture. If you spend most of the day sitting or standing in a slouched position, dancer pose is a beneficial pose for you. Balance work not only helps enhance the efficiency and safety of day-to-day activities, but also makes your workouts safer and more effective.
The common mistakes people make when doing dancer pose
Dancer pose requires you to spread out your toes and press firmly into all corners of your feet. Be mindful not to put too much weight on the front of the foot, arch, side or heel. This disrupts balance and makes it difficult to get past the setup to the actual pose.
People commonly pull the foot and knee out to the side too much, when in reality the bent leg needs to have the knee reaching down toward the ground to maintain the integrity of the hip stretch and the quad stretch. While your body tries to balance, it may be tempting to tilt the hips sideways. Try these tips:
- Keep a slight bend in the standing leg, this will enable you to square the hips to the floor before moving into the full pose.
- Tighten the core to keep your hips in line with one another. This ensures the quad is stretched, not the inner thigh.
- Dancer pose is not meant to stretch the inner thigh, so if you feel the stretch there, realign yourself. Try putting the foot down and resetting the pose from the beginning.
- Hyper-extending the shoulders can also throw you off balance. Be sure to engage your core; this helps to guide your body in a way that balances you, but doesn’t overextend your muscles.
How to modify dancer pose
If you struggle with balance, use a chair or the wall to practice the movement first. You still get a great stretch and can work up to balancing unassisted.
Some people have very tight hips, quadriceps and/or shoulders. If this is the case for you, start by placing your opposite hand on the wall and lean forward to stretch the quad. Try to get your heel as close to the glute as possible while keeping your hips in line.
How to perform dancer pose correctly
Time to work on that balance! When performed correctly, dancer pose should leave you feeling looser and more stable. Ready to give it a try? Follow these steps:
- Stand tall in mountain pose with your core tight. Shift the weight to your right foot and lean forward with a slight bend in the right knee.
- As you lean forward, grab the left foot with your left hand. Press your left foot into your hand. This is where you can use a chair or wall for balance.
- Without jutting your left knee out to the side, lift the leg as much as possible behind you while keeping balanced and pressing the foot into the hand. You should feel the stretch in your left hip and quad.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds before letting go of your foot and returning to mountain pose.
- Repeat on the other side, placing your left foot in the middle of the mat and leaning forward to grab the right foot with your right hand.
4 exercises that will help you perform dancer pose better
Improving balance and mobility takes time and effort. If performing dancer pose or the modified version seems too advanced, try these other exercises.
Get into a plank position. Lower the left knee to the ground and bring your right foot forward between your hands. Stay low and keep your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot. You will feel the stretch in your hips and your left quad. Switch sides after 10 seconds. From plank position, lower the right knee to the mat and step your left foot between the hands. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
Cat and cow
Get on all fours. Hands should be directly below the shoulders and knees directly under the hips. As you breathe in, arch the back and look up, pressing your tailbone to the ceiling. As you breathe out, press the spine and lower back to the ceiling to round the back and lower your neck. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times.
Stand tall and hold onto a wall or chair if needed for balance. Shift your weight onto the right foot and bring your left foot to your left glute. Don’t let the knee angle outward. Hold for ten seconds. Lower the left foot and raise the right foot to the right glute. Hold for ten seconds, feeling the stretch in the front of your right leg.
From mountain pose, clasp both hands behind your lower back. You should feel your shoulder blades squeeze and the front of your chest open. Be mindful not to arch your low back. Hold this chest stretch for ten seconds. Repeat a few times for an opening, posture-improving effect.