In my own exploration of tango, I have found the practice of yoga to be a mindful form of “cross-training” that enhances and supports my dancing. A regular practice on the sticky mat might help fill in the gaps in your tango education when questions about posture, balance, and alignment come up. Below are three specific ways that yoga can make your dancing stronger. As always, these points are only suggestions. Always follow your own body's wisdom in choosing the form of conditioning that is right for you.
1. Better Balance – A large percentage of yoga instruction is intended to help you get grounded. The lunges and other standing poses that often serve as warm-ups emphasize deliberate foot placement, weight distribution, and connection to your core, all building blocks of strong balance in tango dancing as well. Yoga alignment cues throughout the class help line up your joints for safer and more fluid movement. With regular practice, you can carry this stability and fluidity off the mat and into your tango dancing.
2. Spinal Flexibility – The majority of us spend a large portion of each day sitting at a computer, but for tango, we need to move! Too much sitting can result in excess compression in and around the spine, and a feeling of stiffness once we finally dance at the end of the day. In a typical yoga class, nearly every pose will mobilize and lengthen the spine in some way, helping us reclaim our natural flexibility and preparing us for smoother and safer ochos, turns, and boleos. Followers typically find themselves in more extreme tango "twists," but the ability to rotate the spine easily and effortlessly is equally important for leaders, who often use this movement to signal directions throughout a dance.
3. Body Awareness – Like tango, yoga is about connection. When we dance tango, we connect leader and follower, dancer and music, couple and community. In a yoga class, we often begin by connecting breath with movement. This breath-movement relationship cues the mind to track what we are doing physically on a sensory level, resulting in greater conscious awareness of our actions. This body awareness not only helps us to know our own limits and prevent injury, but it also hones our improvisational skills. With a clearer awareness of our own body, we can size our tango steps more precisely, stretch just the right amount to create a comfortable embrace while still remaining free and grounded, and adjust to minute navigational shifts on an unpredictable dance floor.