The concept of needing a break from dance may not even cross your mind if you aren’t dancing nonstop with weekly courses and weekend rehearsals. However, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve wanted to take healthy breaks from dancing but are unsure of where to begin.
Taking a day off when you’re already exhausted is hardly what is meant by “rest.” Depending on the type of rehabilitation we are going through, various physical processes take place in our bodies, and rest can last anywhere from a few minutes to several months.
There are several methods we might heal, from thoughtful meditation and a good night’s sleep to low-intensity cross-training. What, therefore, is the most effective dancer recovery technique, and why is resting so advantageous? We appreciate you asking!
The Difference Between Active and Passive Rest
Let’s define what we mean by “rest” before moving on to our tips and tactics.
Passive rest is frequently what comes to mind when we think about rest. Engaging in normal to lower-than-average levels of activity, which are normally gauged by your heart rate, is exactly what passive rest means. One of the best strategies to prevent long-term burnout and overuse is passive rest, but active rest has the greatest short- and long-term advantages.
There are many distinct types of active rest. You can actively rest between full-out dances you’re practising in the short term by remaining still, dynamically stretching, or noting the dance. You can continue rolling through your feet while performing movements at the ballet barre. These brief intervals of time may seem insignificant, but recent research indicates that active rest intervals, even for as little as 15 minutes, after high-intensity exercise improve endurance and stamina more than passive or no rest.
Don’t Skip the Cooldown!
Following a vigorous workout (or dance class! ), the body benefits greatly from cool-downs or mild movement. It’s common for yoga sessions to include cooldowns by saving the most energetic positions for the centre of the class, completing with more relaxing Yin poses, and ending with a tranquil Shavasana to lower your heart rate as your muscles comfortably cool and relax. Incorporating this peaceful final pose not only feels wonderful, but it also improves cardio health over time!
Make it a point to stretch lightly after your next dance lesson to create your own yoga-inspired cooldown. Add a brief period of attentive meditation to your cooldown to obtain the maximum benefit possible. As your heart rate returns to normal, this will help your muscles receive more blood and oxygen. This provides your body a chance to transition into a more automatic state of operation where it can more quickly mend minor muscle tears or overuse strains.
Even if the dancing class you attend doesn’t involve intense movements or an elevated heart rate, doing light exercises and stretching afterward can still speed up muscle recovery! After a dance lesson is one of the best times to stretch because you’re heated and ready for mobility. After class, stretching and foam rolling help your muscles recover from the lactic acid accumulation and lessen stiffness the following day.
What To Do on Rest Days:
As part of your active recovery, cross-training at a lower level on “rest days” is a fantastic strategy to prevent injuries. Even in dancing, you can “cross-train” if you so choose! Take a beginner jazz class if you’re a hip-hop dancer to improve your rhythms and clarity while having fun. If you’re a ballet dancer, you may enrol in a novice tap class on your off days to practise loosening up the lower body and improving ankle mobility.
Some of the most well-liked methods for dancers to exercise outside of the dance studio are pilates and yoga. Numerous muscle areas that are important for stabilisation and the controlled application of force in dance classes are strengthened by pilates. Yoga is fantastic for improving your range of motion, managing your breathing (deep belly breathing), and building the mind-body connection.
Meditate to Increase Mindfulness
The health of the central nervous system improves and emotions of mindfulness grow in people who meditate. By concentrating on your breath during meditation, you can give your brain a break. When confronted with stressful events or even a lack of sleep, this “return to the senses,” as it is frequently referred to, can assist your body discover the reset switch much more quickly! This will increase your capacity to locate times of relaxation and recuperation in the future as well.
Increase Body Awareness with Somatic Practices
Somatic practises stress the mind-body connection in a number of ways, frequently to foster a deeper awareness and the release of problematic patterns. Somatic implies relating to the body. These techniques are founded on the understanding that gentle movement can enhance quality of life, performance, and endurance just as much as vigorous exercise. Even though they aren’t strictly meditation, they use comparable strategies such as eliminating extraneous distractions, developing acceptance, and paying attention to your breathing.
In the somatic exercise known as the Alexander Technique, you practise sensing different regions of your body, taking note of factors like their warmth, how they feel on the floor, and how much energy or tension is flowing through them. In the Feldenkrais Method, soft, repetitive gestures are used to break up habitual movement patterns and give the body a chance to move through its complete range of motion without being subjected to the force or strain that could be present while completing exercises while standing up (like gravity!).
Try your own personal body scans in meditation before bed! A more restful and energising sleep may result from performing a body scan before bed. You may sleep more quickly as a result! You can gently stretch any areas of your body that need some TLC before bed to improve circulation if you notice them during your body scan.
One of our most vital physical processes is sleep, and scientists are discovering more and more every day how important it is for healthy muscle recovery.
The ability of our muscles to mend themselves as we sleep is obviously advantageous for dancers. The benefits of resting our muscles and allowing our brains to recharge are both present. Studies have revealed that the quantity and quality of sleep we obtain has an impact on our memory and recall abilities. Getting enough rest will make it easier for you to concentrate while studying choreography and while you’re attempting to remember it once the music starts playing.
Long-Term Rest and Recovery
The majority of the aforementioned cases are mostly momentary. In order to return to the studio feeling rejuvenated, long-term healing, especially after an injury, may need taking a few days or weeks off of dancing. There is no shame in giving your body time to heal, and many professional dancers will attest to taking extended periods off from the art form.
Active recovery is typically the best option, though, much like in short-term recovery, unless you have injuries that call for complete rest and a much-needed break for your body. Summertime might be a fantastic time to switch up your schedule and cross-train in different types of dance or sports because students have a break built into their timetables at that time.
Read more: Benefits of Hip Hop Dance