HOW DO YOGA & TANGO WORK TOGETHER?
More and more, tango dancers – whether they tango socially or take it up a notch and go for professional practice – are looking into how yoga can help improve their dancing.
In many cases, yoga and dancing go hand in hand as beginner yoga poses are used for warm-up before tango classes and especially before working on technique. In other cases, yoga workshops are included with tango workshops.
That’s why in this article, I’m sharing how yoga and tango work together and why adding yoga to the exercise routine can help any tango dancer.
But first, what is tango...
In this article, I’m referring to Argentine tango, a social dance that has its roots in the slums of Buenos Aires. Traditional Argentine tango music is melodic and romantic. Its signature instrument is the bandoneon.
In Argentine Tango, there’s a leader and a follower. The follower often surrenders to the sound of the music and the leader by closing their eyes.
Keeping the posture in tango...
Here is where yoga and tango go well together. Tango requires both the leader and the follower to keep their posture. And balance. Since the follower (usually the lady) dances elements that may throw her off-axis, learning to keep the posture is crucial. And you cannot do that without balance.
While there are physical things that a follower can do – among them, engaging the core muscles to stabilize the spine – it is extremely important to stabilize their mind. I used to envy the followers who could close their eyes and go into the tango flow but I soon discovered the same bliss. Yes, especially at first, followers worry a lot about their technique and keeping the balance on top of that, plus going in the flow is really impossible. A quiet mind focused in the present moment is the key to keeping the balance. And to getting that most-wanted tango flow.
Let’s get back to my intro now. Yoga is often used to warm up before working on techniques and before dancing. Why would that be?
Yoga improves balance...
There are some standing yoga poses that improve balance. At the dance school, before each tango class, we incorporate Vrksasana (Tree Pose) as well as Natarajasana (Dancer Pose) in the warm-up. I also like to do Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III).
Neither of the three poses is easy to do and requires quite a bit of practice to do them well. And imagine throwing some high heels into the mix (because, yes, ladies dance on high heels) for a really “wobbly” experience.
The three pose works the entire body. While the tree pose focuses on holding the balance on one foot, the dancer pose is extremely important for working the core muscles. And the warrior pose may look like it only requires balance on the standing foot but it also engages your entire back body.
Yoga improves mobility...
As tango dancers we need mobility, else certain movements are blocked because of shortened muscles. The solution is to stretch and yoga comes in handy here, too.
The tree pose also helps with mobility but Prasaritha Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold) is a great addition to the warm-up routine. It is used to stretch the hamstring muscles, which take quite a bit of abuse during tango, as it is a walking dance.
Yoga improves coordination...
Ah, my favorite reason to get frustrated, especially when I started tango classes. If you don’t have body awareness, there’s no way to figure out how to do what your leader suggests, let alone be ready for what happens next.
Yoga forces you to be body-conscious. Spending time in each posture and allowing your body to understand what happens within, as well as feeling those muscles and joints working are essential in coordination training and that’s exactly what yoga does.
Yoga improves stamina...
Yoga poses improve static strength but there are also dynamic poses which improve overall stamina. And learning to breathe deeply through the nose during exercise is crucial for tango dancers!
Tips for beginner Argentine tango dancers...
While it is said that if you can walk, you can tango, you’ll soon notice that it’s not exactly the case. The elegant tango walk takes quit a bit to become second nature. And once you start to learn circular figures (ochos, giro) you’ll soon realize that balance may not be you forte. But don’t worry, you can improve your technique.
Here are some simple things to consider:
1. Incorporate the above yoga poses (for balance and mobility) in your warm up routine before tango classes and practicas.
2. Youtube is your friend: try to learn more yoga poses as you advance and do them at home
3. If time allows, join a yoga class at least once a week.
4. Go to tango classes, practicas, and milongas. You want to practice as much as you can so that your body learns the movements.
5. Focus on your posture by engaging your core muscles. It won’t come naturally at first, so when you remember, do it.
Cris Puscas / The author's tango story...
I was fascinated by two dancers when two schools had a presentation during a summer festival. I was supposed to be at a concert but ended up on the pedestrian street. I got hooked. I loved how they moved and I was enchanted by the music.
Together with my husband, we asked about classes and, less than a month after the presentation, we attended the open class and started the beginner course. And…beginner yoga poses? I was surprised to find out that the same beginner poses I was using at home myself were part of our warm up before classes. And so, my journey to discover more about tango started.
That was in September 2017. Since then, we keep going to classes, we go to practicas and milongas in our town, in nearby towns, and abroad. We both got tango shoes and started to attend workshops.
The more we dance, the more we want to dance and the better we want to become. It’s still frustrating and we still want to quit sometimes (but we don’t). But whenever I feel frustrated, I close my eyes and allow myself slip into the tango flow.