How to Take Care of Your Body as a Dancer
If moving your body is a huge part of your life (and it should be!), then you absolutely need some kind of self-care routine to keep your body at top shape. Especially if you take part in an activity that can quickly take its toll on the body. Ballet, and all kinds of dance for that matter, is one of those activities.
So many dance careers end before they can begin because of injury, or simply being too burned out to take it further. But if you make self-care a priority, you can help avoid burnout and keep doing your best! Read on to see my top five favorite forms of self-care for dancers.
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Why Self-Care for Dancers is So Incredibly Important
Whenever we work out and feel like giving up, we’re often told to keep going no matter what. This is good advice for someone who is trying to accomplish a goal in the short-run, but terrible advice for the long run. Stopping and taking breaks is absolutely vital to maintain your body’s health.
It’s all too common for dancer’s careers to stop before they start, and I think that a main reason for this is because we aren’t taught proper self-care in the beginning. Sometimes a dancer can suffer from a freak accident and never be able to dance again, but most career-stopping injuries take a long time to form.
I have so many dance friends who wanted to be professional more than anything, and ripped and wrenched their bodies to be the perfect dance specimen. But when the time came to audition for a company, their bodies had betrayed them with numerous injuries that were almost irreversible.
Self-care for dancers, for the body and mind, is so so so important. It helps prevent injuries, strengthen the body, and also strengthen the mind to withstand all the mental strain of suffering through pain and the endless battle of not being good enough.
I picked these five things because they’ve helped me a lot over my 13 year dance career (I dance recreationally, not professionally). There’s some tips that I see a lot, and others deserve more credit in my opinion. I highly recommend you give a couple of these things a try if you’re struggling with dance. Because, believe me, it’s a lot to handle!
Take an Epsom Salt Bath with Essential Oils
This is a daily ritual for professional dancers! Depending on what a professional physical therapist recommends, most pros have a daily hot or iced epsom salt bath. Usually an iced epsom salt bath is for the feet to help reduce inflammation. I’d never do a full-body ice bath!
After a particularly rough class, I love to draw a nice hot bath and sprinkle a cup’s worth of epsom salts with some rejuvenating essential oils. It works wonders with getting rid of soreness the next day! The heat from the water helps to relax tense muscles, while the epsom salts and essential oils do the rest.
My favorite kind of epsom salt bath looks like this:
- 1 cup epsom salts
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil.
My favorite place to get essential oils is Rocky Mountain Oils. They have the highest quality essential oils that don’t cost an arm and a leg, plus other natural products! I have an in-depth Rocky Mountain Oils review if you want to learn more.
I picked these essential oils because of their relaxing and invigorating qualities. Rosemary is great for sore muscles because it reduces joint inflammation and improves circulation. This will speed up the recovery of your muscles.
I chose lavender for its obvious reasons of relaxation and anti-inflammatory properties, and eucalyptus will invigorate you enough to wake up and relax. As for the epsom salts, their such a hot commodity in the fitness world because it’s a detoxing agent full of magnesium. It takes out all of the toxins responsible for muscle inflammation while giving you a good dose or relaxing magnesium.
As the water’s running, I simply add everything in and wait. I mix everything around with my foot before getting in and heaving a huge sigh of relief. Stay in the tub for at least 20 minutes before slowly getting out and drying off.
People always marvel at the physical side of ballet, and all that it takes to be considered a strong dancer. But there isn’t enough talk about the mental side. It’s definitely getting better with the help of social media, but still needs some work.
I was skeptical of meditation for the longest time, but I gave it a try when my anxiety was at its worst. Lo and behold, it actually helped!
Ballet is a constant battle of proving that you’re the best over and over again, while dealing competition coming at all angles. Taking a few moments to just be can be a huge weight lifted off of a dancer’s mind. If you’ve never tried meditation before, you can check out my beginner’s guide to meditation to see how you can start your own practice.
My personal favorite kinds of meditation include binaural beats meditation and guided meditations. I pick either one depending on how I’m feeling that day. I do binaural beats meditation when I’m overwhelmed and need to shut out the world. Or if I need something to distract myself, I’ll pick a guided meditation from YouTube.
It’s super easy to find a guided meditation! Just search based on what you want to accomplish. Like “meditation for anxiety” or “meditation for breathing.” It may take some trial and error, but you’ll find some guided meditations that help you relax and focus in no time.
Do Some Light Stretching
Another way to help with tired or sore muscles is to do some light stretching in between classes. Self-care for dancers definitely includes dance work outside of class! Performing some extra stretches or some form of exercise outside of class can make a world of a difference for how your improve your technique.
These are the the daily ballet stretches I do, whether I have class or not. I especially love to do theses stretches on a rest day, or after a hike with my husband. They always make me feel more relaxed and limber. And any tension I had practically disappears!
If you’re coming back from an injury, or simply want to get more flexible, stretching outside of class is a must. Just don’t make it into a chore! Turn it into “me time” by turning on your favorite music, or your favorite T.V. show.
Try Strength Training for Dancers
Along that same vein of stretching outside of class, strength training outside of class is great for the overall health of your muscles. And when I say strength training, I don’t mean grunting alongside other body builders in a gym.
Bodyweight exercises and simple movements are all you need for good strength training! I don’t even have a gym membership. All kinds of dance have us using very obscure muscles to do movements that shouldn’t come natural to the human body. So we need to care for and strengthen those muscles!
Just start with basic and quick ab workouts every day or every other day. You always need substantial core strength for dance! Otherwise, how I pick out what to work on is what my teacher recommends. For me, my hips are never in alignment, so I like to focus on stabilization and hip strengthening exercises.
If you have to idea where to start, or want to focus on all of the the things, check out the YouTube video below from my favorite dance channel below.
Take a Step Back
If your body does simply need to rest and recharge, do it! Don’t let yourself feel like a failure if you have to pass on an extra workout. There are times where you’ll need to be gentle with yourself as a dancer, despite your current agenda.
Self-care for dancers sometimes involves doing nothing. It’s so easy to overexert yourself with the stress of dance and life and become numb. I let myself get to that point several years ago, and it took well over a year to feel okay again.
So be gentle with yourself, and make time to do nothing when you can. Instead of doing your workout, opt for an epsom salt bath with relaxing music. Make yourself the utmost priority. Don’t worry about housework, or even showering. You’re putting your hair up in a bun the next day anyway.
Don’t allow thoughts of practices and worries about the future performance consume your thoughts. Do something you love that’s not dance, and you’ll be able to handle things so much better. I’ve always found that I dance better after a nice break, so give yourself a break when you need it!
Final Thoughts on Self-Care for Dancers
Dance isn’t all glittery tutus and pretty pointe shoes. Glitter gets absolutely everywhere, and pointe shoes hurt a lot anyway. Take time to tune into how you’re feeling despite everyone’s expectations, and work accordingly.
There will be times when you won’t have the mental or physical stamina for dance, and that’s okay. You can use these self-care tools to heal your body and your mind so you can keep going no matter what. Self-care for dancers is incredibly important to keep a thriving career.
Whether you dance professionally or just for fun like me, or if you don’t dance at all, you need self-care in your life. There’s nothing selfish about it, because you need to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others. I hope I gave you some inspiration or motivation to start your own self-care routine!
Are you a dancer that practices self-care? Let me know in the comments below!
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