Top five breathing tips for dancers

For the past few weeks (since my last post on breathing), I’ve been focusing on improving my breathing during dance class. I’ve done some research and found a range of ways in which poor breathing can affect our dancing – some of it is pretty impressive (in a negative sense).

  • Poor breathing reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain, minimizing the effectiveness of our sense organs that detect balance and making us less stable.
  • Blockages in the nasal passageways can alter our aplomb as the body tilts forward to help open the airways.
  • (Adult) ballet dancers tend to hold their breath and tense their diaphragms, limiting breathing in their upper lungs. This shifts their centre of gravity to the upper chest making turns more difficult (I am so guilty of this!).
  • Improper breathing makes movements (especially in classical ballet) look rigid and less graceful.
  • Poor breathing also effects our energy levels and can decrease our ability to concentrate – yikes!


So, what can we do to improve our breathing, you ask? Here are a few tips I’ve been trying out for myself:

  1. Know thy self…and thy breath

The first step to better breathing is to understand your breathing pattern. From what I gather, each of us breaths differently – some have shallower “chest breaths” while others breathe deeply from our bellies. Spend a day paying attention to your breath, when do you breath most deeply/shallowly? Is your breath fluid, with uniformed inhales and exhales? Or do you hold your breath at certain times? Knowing how you breathe is the first step to figuring out how to improve it.

  1. Let go…

A big mistake I make when I dance, which happens to be common with many dancers, is sucking my stomach in. I’ve learned that not only does this limit your breath capacity (which means less oxygen to your muscles), it has also been shown to decreased hip flexibility and turn out! Make sure never to suck your stomach in, concentrating on tensing (stabilising) the core muscles instead. It also helps to imagine breathing “into your back” – imagine your breath is creating space between your shoulder blades as you inhale and try to engage the muscles just under your shoulder blades (Lattisimi Dorsi) to exhale.

  1. Slow it down and follow through

The goal should be to maintain a slow, steady and deep breath at all times. This means breathing fully in and, more importantly, exhaling fully, too. Many dancers (myself included) tend to forget to breathe out fully, again limiting the oxygen to the brain and making them look rigid. Slowing our breathing down can also keep us calm enough to execute complicated pas and combinations.

  1. Know when is best

Mme. R., my ballet teacher, has told us time and time again that you cannot separate the movement from the breathing that goes with it. There are very specific times in movements that demand an inhale and others that require an exhale. She taught us a simple trick to help know when to do what – breathe in when you’re going upwards and out when you’re going downwards. Simple, right? Now, if I could only remember to do it in class!

  1. Practice makes perfect

Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation – there are numerous ways to learn how to improve breathing but a good method that can be done (for free) at home is “diaphragmatic breathing”. I’ll leave the explanation on how to do this to an expert – please watch the video below (demonstration starts at 2:23).


I hope these tips help breathe new life into your dancing (pun intended).

Let me know if they help!


Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. The tips listed above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Seek the advice of a medical professional if you are worried about your breathing patterns.

Enjoy each step

Good evening, dear reader!

We’re halfway to the weekend so I think some mid-week inspiration is in order to get us through.

The quote below from Wayne Dyer will be on my mind during my ballet class this evening.

It’s so easy to forget to enjoy each moment when you’re concentrating on your turnout, port de bras, your alignment, the exercise you are doing, not falling on your face, etc.

But it is so important.

I wish you all happy dancing and lots of joy in every step that you take during dance class (even the incorrect ones)!

Inspiring dance quote from Wayne Dyer.

It’s Friday lets… get inspired

There is great power in our breath and people have known this from ancient times.

From the ancient texts of the Old Testament to the yogic discipline of Pranayama – throughout the ages, breathing has been described as a source of life, power and creation. The word inspiration, for example, has its root in the Latin word “spiritus” which means breath. In other words, the magical force that moves us to create was equated with the act of breathing.

The real power of breathing first became apparent to me during a special floor barre class I took with Mme. R. We had finished the challenging class and were “cooling down” with a series of breathing exercises that Mme. R. was demonstrating. We were breathing deeply and moving slowly to some relaxing music. I remember enjoying it and Mme. R. asked us to close our eyes to allow ourselves to fully relax.

When the exercise was over, I opened my eyes to find the other people in my class in various emotional states – a few of them had been moved to tears, some looked absolutely exhausted, others, like me, looked utterly blissful and calm. Mme. R. ended the class by telling us “I’ve done breathing work with many dancers before and it affects different people in different ways. Don’t worry if you’re feeling emotional, it’s normal”.

It’s not a surprise that breathing can have such an effect on our emotions – just paying attention to our breathing patterns on an average day can show how the two are inextricably linked. We breathe deeply when we feel safe and relaxed and our breath shallows when we’re scared and anxious.

The evening of the class, Mme. R. sent us a write up about breathing in ballet. Below are a few excerpts:

“In the beginning there was breath. Breath is life, movement… You have to teach breathing as part of movement.”

“The very first movement taught in dance class is how to breathe air in, to fill up the lungs, and then to exhale, allowing the body to fully stretch. Your arms have to look like they’re ‘breathing’; your legs have to look like they’re ‘breathing’. There’s a definite reason why you inhale when you do and why you exhale when you do…”

“Ballet is as much about posture as it is about movement. Though the movements are disciplined and require strength and stamina, the breath is critical to maintaining a relaxed and gentle appearance.”

“… performers of all kinds experience nervousness before stepping on stage – it’s part of a human’s natural flight-or-fight response. To counter this rush of adrenalin, the shortness of breath, the nerves and the unfocused mind, it is important use conscious breathing…close your eyes, ‘see’ your breath, and pay attention to yourself. Like any sort of meditation, you start becoming aware of your breath.”

Am I not lucky to have such a wonderful teacher?!


It’s Friday everyone…let’s start becoming more aware of our breathing and get “inspired” in the truest sense of the word!

Have a great weekend!

Taking a breath before the jump