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Is Yoga or Pilates better for Dancers? Your Guide!

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By Danielle Pierce-Master, MA Dance / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip. Dance (Performing Arts)

Pilates and Yoga are both wonderful mind-body practices that help to develop strength, flexibility, and balance. For a dancer looking to cross-train, Pilates and Yoga both offer opportunities to develop their minds and bodies in ways that complement their dance training.

Yoga can be more beneficial than Pilates to dancers as the practice involves practicing nonjudgment and gaining mental strength and clarity. But both Yoga and Pilates will help a dancer to balance their body, improve their alignment, strength, flexibility and help prevent injury.

Although Yoga allows you to develop mental skills, as a certified Pilates Instructor and an avid Yoga practitioner, I believe dancers should include both Pilates and Yoga in their cross-training regimens. Read on for more about both practices and how they can benefit your dancer!

What is Pilates?

“Pilates” refers to a method of body conditioning developed by Joe Pilates. It is a method of body conditioning that focuses on the deep, intrinsic muscles of the core. Pilates can be done with no equipment at all, or with small props like therabands, the foam roller, and the magic circle. These tools can help replicate the exercises that are performed on the more expensive pilates equipment such as The Cadillac, Reformer, Wunda Chair, and Barrels which are the major pieces of equipment used in practicing Pilates. 

What are the benefits of Pilates for Dancers??

The benefits of Pilates for dancers include:

  • improved alignment
  • core strength
  • balance
  • flexibility.

You can read about each of the above benefits in more detail in my article Why ALL Dancers Should Do Pilates – The 5 Key Benefits!.

What is Yoga?

Yoga refers to a practice that dates back thousands of years; the movement component, Asana, is one of eight “limbs” of Yoga.

The benefits of Yoga for dancers include:

  • learning to control your breath
  • flexibibity
  • strength
  • mental skills
  • Developing non judgmental thoughts
  • improved alignment.

You can read more about the benefits of Yoga for dancers in my article The 4 Main Benefits of Yoga for Dancers – Quick Read.

How to Choose

Both of these practices offer many benefits for dancers; which one is a better fit for a dancer depends on their individual needs and goals.

New York City based dancer, dance educator, and Instructor of Yoga and Functional Awareness, Allegra Romita explains “There are many limbs of Yoga, and many different styles of dance; they all have different goals, and different styles of Yoga can serve different people,” Romita said.

Local availability and personal preference are two key factors in helping you decide which is best for you.

As I have previously said about Pilates, it is ideal, if possible, to practice with a well-trained instructor who can help you be on the lookout for any potentially dangerous habits and to help you truly understand the movements.

Conversations with a Yoga or a Pilates teacher can help you to maximize your experience as they can help you to reach your goals. Yoga is most commonly offered in group settings but many instructors offer one on one sessions if that is in your budget.

1. Consistency is the Key

In all forms of cross-training, one of the most important factors is “Will you do it consistently?”

Cross-training or exercises that you don’t want to do or avoid doing will not help you. A teacher whose voice gets on your nerves might not be someone you will be truly receptive to learning from.

2. Try Both to find your Match

Trying a variety of Yoga instructors and a variety of Pilates classes will help you find the right fit. A class that you look forward to attending that helps you feel connected to your body is the right one for you! What that looks like is different for every dancer.

3. You are allowed to do both at the same time!

At the time in my life when I was teaching dance all day and performing most weekends, a private pilates session and a group yoga class were both a part of my weekly schedule, in addition to dance classes and rehearsals. Having both helped balance out my body from the demands of my dancing. As life changes and my body’s needs are different, the amount of each practice that is in my life ebbs and flows.

If you can only choose one, I would choose…

If I have to declare one practice “better” for dancers, I would say that the mental skills component of Yoga is a key benefit that makes it more important in a dancer’s training. While the movements are different, the physical benefits of one or the other are not strikingly different.

Both Yoga and Pilates will help a dancer to balance their body, improve their alignment, strength, flexibility and help prevent injury. The way Yoga trains the mind and encourages non-judgment and a shedding of things that don’t serve us is discreetly different from Pilates and is incredibly important in the preservation of a dancer’s mental health.

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