Yoga Flow Your Way to Better Port de Bras
Some ballet dancers think yoga is boring, or just isn’t for them. Shelby Elsbree wants to convince you otherwise. “Yoga is an extraordinary physical and mental supplement to your dance training,” says the former Royal Danish Ballet and Boston Ballet dancer, and current yoga teacher to companies including New York City Ballet. She adds that it’s actually easier to do yoga incorrectly than trained dancers might assume. Read on to clean up your flow—and score more fluid, controlled port de bras, to boot.
Start on your mat in tabletop position, with a neutral spine and shoulders stacked directly over the wrists. Tuck your toes, keeping your gaze directly between your hands. Use your breath to help float the hips up and sink your heels down, forming an upside-down “V” shape with the body.
High Plank (on the inhale)
From downward-facing dog, breathe in and ripple your spine forward into a high plank with shoulders stacked right over your wrists. It’s okay to adjust your feet if needed. Imagine one long line of energy from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Your gaze should be directly down in front of you on the mat. Hold the plank for one to three breath cycles for an added core strengthener.
Chaturanga (on the exhale)
Stay in your plank shape, lower forward and down halfway so that your biceps are parallel to the mat. Your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and they are hugging in towards your rib cage.
Tap your knees down, untuck your toes and shift your hips forward. Find one long line from your knees to the crown of your head. Then lower halfway down.
Frame a yoga block or thick book with your hands in high plank. Come forward onto the balls of your feet and lower until your chest is hovering right over the block or book. Use that as your stopping point.
How It Helps Port de Bras:
“When I was a dancer, I just focused on the endurance of my lower body. But upper-body strength is connected to lower-body strength and vice versa,” she says. “Done correctly, chaturanga is a difficult impact-training exercise that helps you coordinate your arms with the rest of your body.”
- For more strength and power in the position, keep your elbows close to your torso instead of letting them splay out to the sides.
Upward-Facing Dog (on the inhale)
Untuck your toes and pull your thighs and chest forward, extending your arms and drawing your low belly up and in. Now you’re pressing the tops of your feet down into the mat as your knees and thighs are floating. Imagine drawing the back of your heart forward, and keep the chin softened towards your throat. Find length through the back of your neck, and gaze about 10 inches in front of your mat.
Return to Downward-Facing Dog (on the exhale)
Draw your belly in, hike your hips up to the sky, untuck your toes and soften the heels down toward the mat.