Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Kathi Martuza includes Bikram yoga as a part of her cross-training routine, especially when rehearsing for her next big ballet performance, according to “Pointe” magazine. “When you’re rehearsing, you’re repeating the same movements over and over, and the body gets a little lopsided,” Martuza told the magazine. “Bikram’s simple postures get me back in balance -- and I like the heat!” Although the two fitness regimens have distinct differences, the two are often combined as many ballet dancers look to yoga to supplement their exercise regimen. You can take a cue from professional dancers who stay fit for a living and combine Bikram yoga workouts and ballet exercises. The end result is a well-rounded fitness routine.
Ballet traces its roots to 15th century Italian Renaissance courts, but many of the most well-known classical ballets were created in the 19th century. During that time, Russian choreographers and composers created famous classical ballets such as “The Nutcracker,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” -- still performed today. Bikram yoga is a style of yoga originating in India, created in 1973 by a man named Bikram Choudhury. The style is based on 26 Hatha yoga postures. Today, Choudhury’s wife still carries on the Bikram yoga teacher-training course she started with her husband.
While ballet is a performing art form constantly aiming to prepare dancers for the stage, the objective of Bikram yoga is purely fitness and therapy. Bikram yoga teaches the connection between mind and body, while ballet teaches a graceful and challenging technique leading to artistic expression through performance. Simply put, the overall goal for ballet training is for dancers to perform in ballets such as George Balanchine’s “Serenade” or the classic “Swan Lake,” to name a few. For Bikram yoga students, the overall objective is discovering relaxation or finding a more balanced approach to life.
Bikram yoga’s 90-minute classes always include the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The classes are also performed in a heated room, perhaps the most controversial part of the technique. The room is intentionally heated to warm your muscles and to make you sweat, which is said to flush toxins from the body. Although ballet classes are roughly the same length and also feature fundamental poses and positions, the possible combinations of steps is almost endless. And even though ballet barre routines always include some rendition of the same exercises such as pliés, tendus, relevés and so on, no two classes are identical. Ballet also includes many styles and levels of classes such as pas de deux -- a partnering class -- and pointe class where ballerinas dance on their toes with the help of reinforced shoes.
Both techniques rely on flexibility, focus, balance and strength. Both Bikram yoga and ballet work muscle groups you might not work otherwise. And that means if you’re a first-timer, you may be sore in places you never imagined!
Though experts sometimes disagree on the risks associated with Bikram yoga’s heated-room technique sporting temperatures around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 60 percent humidity, some sing its praises. Now a loyal Bikram yoga student, Broadway dancer Kathryn Mowat Murphy had to leave her first Bikram yoga class because she felt she couldn’t breathe in the hot room, “Dance Magazine” reports. Now Murphy looks to Bikram yoga for its many benefits, according to the magazine. “I can’t explain why, but something about the heat helps me heal from the tweaks of dancing,” Murphy said. Doctors advise drinking water and fluids with electrolytes to combat any heat-related dress from the hot yoga classes. And because both Bikram yoga and ballet rely on flexibility, there are risks associated with over-stretching or forcing flexibility. Remember to always properly warm up your body for class and never force your extensions, turnout or poses.
Mikel Chavers has been writing and editing since 2006, specializing in health, business, government and technology topics. She got her start as a reporter at “The Business Journal” in Greensboro, N.C., and later covered state government for a national magazine. Chavers holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies/journalism.