Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Do you struggle to find your balance in tango no matter how many tips and tricks you've heard? Does maintaining good posture feel like a huge effort? Do your feet, legs and back hurt from dancing?
What if I told you there was a way to fix ALL of that by focusing on one area of your body: the core.
Okay, the core is not just one thing, but it is a group of muscles that work together and is arguably the most important muscle group for providing spinal stability and generating all movement in the body, including what we might take for granted such as getting out of bed.
Most people think of the core as those chiseled washboard abs we associate with athletes and Abercrombie models. However, the rectus abdominis (that 6-pack) is just one part of this power house, which in reality consists of many muscles that are not even visible, including the transversus abdominis (the muscle that wraps around your belly like a corset), internal and external obliques, and diaphragm. Additionally the core includes the muscles of the back, the multifidus and erector spinae, as well as muscles of the hip including hip flexors, hip adductors, gluteus maximus, and gluteus medius, and the pelvic floor muscles.
Woah, okay that's a lot of muscles working together! So how exactly can the core help our dancing?
1. Improves Your Stability
Possibly one of the biggest battles the tango dancer has to face is stability. A strong core helps to stabilize your pelvis and this leads to better balance. If the muscles around the pelvis, particularly your glutes and outer hips are weak, your balance will be affected. Add high heels or a partner hanging on to you when THEY lose balance to that and you have quite a challenge. With a strong and engaged core you are much more likely to react to these balance challenges with efficiency and coordination.
Here are a few yoga postures that strengthen abdominals, glutes and hips:
1. Extended Crescent Lunge
3. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
You can also try this dynamic power sequence:
To learn more about stability for tango dancers read my blog article How to Improve Your Balance in Tango with Yoga.
2. Corrects Your Posture
Do you have a tendency to slouch in your every day posture? Then you've probably been told many times by various tango teachers to stand up straight. You give it a try and momentarily it seems to improve whatever you are working on. Fast forward to late Friday night, you've had a long work week and you're now a few tandas in at the milonga, and maybe a couple partners have been using you for THEIR stability, and suddenly maintaining that posture is no longer an easy feat. A strong core makes it easier to have good posture and when good posture becomes effortless you can free yourself to think about other things in your dance such as musicality and that fun new figure you learned last week.
To help you stand up straight, try these yoga postures that work the core.
1. Boat (Navasana)
2. Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
3. Forearm Plank
You can also try this dynamic power sequence:
3. Prevent Injury
I can't tell you how many students have come to me asking if I know why their back or feet are hurting and what they can do about it. In my early days of dancing tango before I practiced yoga or did any kind of body work for that matter, I had a hip injury that took me out from dancing for almost a year. That year I struggled with chronic pain which unsurprisingly lead to a bad mood and depression, especially because I couldn't do the thing that made me most happy: dance.
I went to many doctors, chiropractors, and body workers and eventually it was suggested to me that I strengthen my core to take the pressure off my hips and legs. I found an amazing teacher who blended pilates and yoga and in less than 3 months of going to see her twice a week my pain went away entirely.
When you have a weak core, your body will compensate, and unfortunately the work will fall on your outer muscles and joints. My hip injury is just one example but another common issue for dancers is the feet. A weak core can be particularly taxing on the feet and even lead to painful injuries like plantar fasciitus because the feet have to work that much harder to hold up your body, tiring out the tissue on the bottom of the foot.
But it's not just your hips and feet in danger. Lower back pain can also be attributed to a weak core. As I mentioned above, slouching forward is a sure sign that your core is weak. This puts strain on the lower back as it compensates for the work of the upper back, especially in spinal movement such as twisting which tango dancers do a lot of. Since lower back pain is an issue that many dancers are familiar with, I've dedicated an entire article to this topic. Learn more in my blog post Why Your Lower Back Hurts From Tango and How to Prevent It.
To sum up, strengthening your core can work wonders for your tango dance. All that effort you are putting into maintaining your posture when you dance could be put into exercising the core muscles before you arrive at the milonga so that posture becomes an effortless endeavor on the dance floor. Stability can be improved and injuries avoided, all leading to an experience that frees your body to play more with expressing the music, connecting with your partner and enjoying many of the subtle sensations tango dancing has to offer.
I hope this article offers some insight into how yoga can benefit your tango dancing. Would you like to practice together? Get started with this 3-class freebie pack. Each class is just 20 minutes and will get you well on your way towards improving your tango dancing: