8 Things Every Dancer Can Do To Improve Their Overall Well-Being
You’re a dancer, you’re doing all these things: you’re probably practicing every day doing private lessons, you’re exercising to be in shape and you’re trying new technique tips. So we spend all of this time focusing on the body, but we’re not really focusing on our mind. For example, we’ve all had times where we were just so tired that we could barely do one more step or listen to one more word from our teacher, partner and that’s because we need to take better care of ourselves and focus a little bit more on our mind and overall well-being.
If you want to know if you are burned out make sure you check our article “You’ve Lost Your Fire: 5 Signs of Burnout in Dancers”.
Here are 8 great things you can do to take care of yourself in order to be the best at what you do:
Mental components of dancer’s well-being
The mind is always on a quest for calm. That’s why it’s important to develop strategies to recover. The body needs stimuli to train different abilities (flexibility, strength, power, endurance), but for these to be developed in an optimal way, it is necessary to have moments of rest.
When talking about meditation, the concept is often connected to something religious. However, meditation is simple and ordinary and for everyone. It has to do with being aware of what is happening inside and outside yourself, to be in the here and now. It’s a state of complete awareness.
The mental aspect is not something you should neglect. Put on the brakes. It’s very important to take care of your body, mind, and spirit to fully enjoy the art of dance and experience its expressiveness. Take a few minutes daily before training to allow the energy to flow without having emotional or mental roadblocks. The practice of meditation will make you more aware in the moment of dancing.
At that moment you’re ready to give your best to the world.
Reading trains attention and reflection and that’s why you seek solutions and make decisions easier. Active reading develops the ability to “be in someone else’s shoes” and makes you more sensitive and empathic. This mental activity translates into health.
Books can be used in different ways to produce therapeutic effects. In a solitary way or in lecture groups where the readers comment and contribute with different points of view. Also, creativity is something that works with reading and if it is a permanent stimulus it helps your intellectual development.
Perhaps you identify with a character and feel a catharsis, or maybe the way in which a character solves a problem brings different points of view (some not even imagined) about a problem of your own.
Books make or break us. A well-known author that captures in writing the dance world, a dance educationist and psychotherapist is Ruud Vermeij. He was the first coach with a doctoral title in ballroom dancing. If you want to get a different perspective you can check out his book on Latin American dancing and the two of his articles “Aesthetic expression” and “Why do we smile?”.
Sensory deprivation tanks
The technique is also called a floating chamber, it was conceived half a century ago for experiments on sensory deprivation: a technique used both as a torture instrument and in a medical field.
Here’s what happens when you close yourself voluntarily in a water tank:
Nope, that’s not the answer. The water is dense enough (16 times the water sea density) that you can float without having to actually try and it’s kept at a body temperature of 34.8 ° C, allowing you to basically lose the feeling of where the body ends and the water begins.
Now, the mind, freed from all external distractions, can reach a state of pure sensorial relaxation. The brain releases huge amounts of endorphins and the body begins to regenerate. It’s said that 40 minutes spent in the tub is equivalent to 8 hours of deep sleep.
By eliminating all body tensions, you reach a psychophysical sensation of peace, comparable to what Tibetan monks achieve through deep meditation.
What’s more, this allows rapid recovery from injuries and multiple other benefits in the medical field (such as fibromyalgia therapy, chronic stress, phobias, and addictions).
Yoga is a discipline that harmonizes and balances what we are and the outside world. It means being able to see a connection between the interior and the exterior. It becomes part of a learning process where the dancer learns to relax, not being subjected to the stress of success or failure. There are no performances to do, but only a practice that helps to get to know yourself better either through movement or through conscientious use of the breath.
According to the popular opinion becoming rigid is part of aging and cannot be remedied. The body begins to tighten very soon and that is why it is necessary to work on its flexibility at an early age. Another practical aspect of yoga is that it helps the dancer to protect his body from injuries and trauma. Daily life requires a very limited number of movements and therefore the body does not move sufficiently. The dancers, of course, move a lot, they have a lot of energy, but they put their bodies in a tiring job that speeds up the wear of the joints and muscles and, depending on the degree of stiffness, can lead to arthritic diseases.
Physical components of a dancer’s well-being
Stretching for any physical activity is done for the purpose of elongating the tissues. Therefore, stretching should be done in a slow and gradual way because it may cause injuries otherwise.
There can be two types of stretching: light stretching which is about elongating the tendon-muscle unit; heavy stretching which is about elongating the connective tissue of muscle, tendons, muscle fibers and joint capsules.
The mobility of a joint may be restricted by bone structure, muscle tension, and retraction of the connective tissue of the muscle. Although it is true that the bone structure cannot be changed, there is an option to elongate the soft tissues, which is why stretching contributes directly and positively to a better physical arrangement of the dancer.
A dancer is considered an athlete. Long hours of training, stretching exercises and taking the body to the limit makes a dancer a high-performance athlete. Just like you budget your money for your rent, your mortgage and living expenses, making a plan of action for your personal wellness is very important. And massage therapy should be part of your plan.
The body needs help to make the tissues recover faster, to lower inflammation and discomfort caused by repetitive movements. A therapeutic massage benefits the dancers by maximizing their recovery and rest process to continue the routine.
Helps the body to accelerate the natural recovery process
Improves performance and relaxes muscle tension
Increases tissue elasticity
Relieves stiff joints
Helps the healing process of minor tissue damage
Massage can be an integral part of your training and work day. A weekly or biweekly therapy can significantly increase performance. You’re involved in vigorous physical activities so give some love to your body.
Dance is a form of artistic expression that uses the body as an instrument. The dancer is able to conform his body to the expressive needs of choreography.
But this appreciated adaptability can turn the dancer against himself it’s not done with skill and delicacy.
The functioning of the body at the biomechanical level is unique and individual, and we can not skip the biomechanical rules in order to achieve some unrealistic objectives.
Unlike other fields, the dancer performs a deep and meticulous work at the corporal level. However, the lack of knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics of the body, and on injuries mechanisms, makes the dancer prone to injuries.
The role of the physiotherapist specialized in dance is to make a detailed study of the harmful gestures that you are performing during the training, to give greater elasticity to the tissues and more flexibility to the musculoskeletal system. This way you are able to reach the maximum capacity, without getting injured. And in the case that an injury already exists you can avoid the relapse and improve your physical condition to achieve a better technique.
Another cool thing is cryotherapy. Three minutes maximum, at a temperature of less than 130 degrees – this is systemic cryotherapy. It’s suitable for many people, although perhaps one of its main uses is sports medicine. This is because it helps treat sports injuries of different nature such as micro-ruptures, tendonitis, tendinosis, muscular fatigue, and so on. In addition, cryotherapy improves the heart muscle function or blood circulation and it makes athletes optimize their effort both in training and in competitions. In the case of athletes, cryotherapy is also very useful after an intense exercise session, since, in addition to promoting muscle recovery, it alleviates, for example, stiffness.
You need to be able to perform, to recover and perform well? You need to eat wisely.
Nutrition is your gas, you need to have fuel to have your body engine run well. Between nutrition and injury, there is a great link. If you’re asking yourself, what do I eat before and after a dance class or a performance, how do I fuel my body to be at my maximum?
First off, it’s quality over quantity. As a dancer you need to be fueling your body every three hours, so eat five smaller meals throughout the day. Secondly, drink tons and tons of water to hydrate yourself. If you have a varied and balanced diet in general, you will not need vitamin and mineral supplements. The daily fruit and vegetable consumption (3-5 servings per day), together with a balanced diet, is generally able to cover the daily requirement of micronutrients.
Be a smart dancer and be a smart snacker.
Keep healthy snacks in your backpack so you would have something to turn to when you pass by a fast-food restaurant. If you have 3 classes a day you need to add that calories count into your day.
Eating well is a career extension as well. You want to be doing this as long as you can.
Are we human or are we dancers? You’re both a dancer and a human, no matter what the song says. Take a break….take a meditation hour, a yoga class, read a book or do some physical therapy. It’s all worth it in the end.
Dancing has been my passion since I was 13 and since then I've been doing things in that direction. Writing, creating and putting together the biggest community for dancers around the world!