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Make Your Downtime Work for You: 5 Ways to Rest and Recharge Between Classes

Emily Giacalone, modeled by Nicole Kennedy of Marymount Manhattan College

We get it: Dance is exhausting, and sometimes all you want to do during a quick break is, well, nothing. Bill Evans, director of the Evans Somatic Dance Institute, recommends the following options, which are both relaxing and recuperative for the stresses dance puts on your body. From energizing restorative poses to deep breathing, here are five ways to make your downtime work for you.


Constructive Rest

Emily Giacalone, modeled by Nicole Kennedy of Marymount Manhattan College

Try it: Lie down with your knees bent and feet a little wider than shoulder width. Let the knees fall toward each other until they touch.

Why it's good: It gives your deep lateral rotators a break from constantly turning out. "The whole language of ballet is based on external hip rotation," says Evans, "so lying in constructive rest and internally rotating the hips gives a good balance."

Deep Belly Breathing

Try it: Lie in constructive rest, and take a few minutes to focus on the inpouring and outpouring of your breath. Let your belly expand as you inhale and hollow as you exhale. Imagine all the cells in your body are growing and shrinking. "Breath happens in each cell," says Evans. "It's not just the respiratory diaphragm and the lungs."

Why it's good: Many ballet dancers are used to breathing in a shallow way, says Evans, because they're constantly holding their abs in. Focusing on deep breathing grounds the body and the mind, and also encourages greater mobility.

Psoas Stretch

Emily Giacalone, modeled by Nicole Kennedy of Marymount Manhattan College

Try it: Find a raised platform (like a sturdy desk, bench or therapy table) and lie on it with your sitz bones lined up with the edge. To stretch your right psoas, lift your right leg straight up toward the ceiling. At the same time, hug your left knee into your chest toward your right shoulder. Slowly lower your right leg until it hangs off the platform and you feel a stretch in the front of that hip. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Why it's good: Actions like battement and développé devant and à la seconde constantly recruit your psoas muscle, a hip flexor, to lift your leg. "It gets such a tremendous workout, so you want to give it an opportunity to lengthen."

Lying Twist for the TFL

Try it: To stretch your right tensor fasciae latae, or TFL, lie on your back and hook your left ankle over your right thigh. Drop both knees diagonally to your left. Arc your right arm up along the floor and turn your head toward it, creating a spiral from your arm all the way through your head, spine and down to your knees. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Why it's good: If you're dancing contemporary repertoire, your TFL probably needs some love. It helps stabilize the pelvis and lifts the leg to the side. Evans says that dancers often use the TFL, instead of the psoas, to achieve more extreme extensions.

Legs Up a Wall

Emily Giacalone, modeled by Nicole Kennedy of Marymount Manhattan College

Try it: Lie on your back with your sitz bones against a wall and your legs straight up against it, so your body forms a right angle. Do not arch the spine or tuck under.

Why it's good: This inversion helps promote circulation in tired legs, and it also provides relief from positions like arabesque. "In ballet, we're so often extending the hip joint. There's so much work in the back space, so it's a nice recuperation from the stresses that we put ourselves through."

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