Ballet as my introduction to posture
My journey from ballet to yoga began when I was five and I had a ballet teacher with great posture. My childhood ballet teacher, Miss McLellan didn’t have an overly athletic figure, although she was fit and strong, but what she did have was immaculate posture. In the twelve years I trained with her I did not see her slouch once. I remember seeing her walk around and simply her beautiful straight spine gave her an air and grace that is unique to ballerinas.
My ballet teacher taught me about maintain correct posture using cues like: tuck your ribs in, hold your stomach in, grow and hold your tail under. These prompts on how to hold your body for good posture are ways that encourage our muscles hug into our spines. It makes you compact and strong. Nothing is wobbling out there. It is kind of like drawing in your core, as you learn in pilates class.
Ballet and yoga
Skip forward thirty something years and I came back to doing what I love and that is being in a room with people working our bodies into poses together. As a child it was ballet. As an adult it is yoga.
A lot of ballet dancers become yogis. Ballet dancers are usually flexible and this is seen as a benefit as a yogi, but yoga is for everyone. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga.
Some people think that ballerinas are drawn to yoga after they stop ballet because ballet can be so harsh on the body that it causes injuries that can be healed and soothed with yoga. I think that the reason is because practising ballet requires you to focus your mental energy on where your body is in space. Yoga does the same thing.
I found yoga in my thirties and it was the space, the time, the focus on the simple practise of moving my body through certain poses with a concentration that let me escape my mind. I loved the discipline of letting go of the outside world and working on the physical work of bringing my body into set poses repeatedly. It didn’t matter how I felt physically before the class I would always feel better afterwards.
Just loving it
My Mum tells the story of when I was a child and she would pick me up from ballet class after school. I would get to the car and I would be sweating, I would be noticeably exhausted. She would look at me and say, how was class? She said I never once said, that I was tired or hot or that the barre work was too repetitive. I would always reply, that it was great. I would feel exhilarated. I loved it. There was nothing I loved more.
It did become difficult in the middle of my teenage years when I grew centimetres in height in a short period of time. I felt gangley and I found I had to work harder to be as graceful as I had been when I was younger. But I loved the classes. I loved improvisation. I loved solos, I loved group performances at eisteddfods and concerts.
I had blisters and sore feet. Yep, the sore feet is definitely a pain that I can recall vividly. Imagine trying to get your wooden toed pointe shoes on again when your feet are already blistered. Mine didn’t bleed the skin just rubbed straight off. A blister never lasted long enough to heal. Jumping all your weight on your toes when they are blistered with only a stocking and a small foam toe pad to cushion the impact is Very sore. But it does look beautiful.
Missing the love of my life
It was many years between when I attended almost daily ballet classes and a regular yoga practice. I learned a second language and travelled and lived abroad. I kept fit in gym classes and my own version of exercise and I had lots of fun and I got married and started a family but this disciplined body work that I had in ballet class and found again in yoga was missing. I feel sad that I let this main love of my life lay idle for so long. I feel happy that I have returned to what I love.
This is a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.