When I was dancing in college, my schedule was hectic; I was dancing for four hours in the morning, attending classes in the afternoon, and then returning to the studio during the evenings to rehearse for shows. I was working part-time, double-majoring, and doing all I could to keep my stress levels low.
My schedule doesn’t compare to those of professional dancers, who are often doing all they can to stay healthy, active, and alert during class while having part-time or full-time jobs on the side.
As dancers, we’re often taught how to take care of our bodies--how to nourish them and keep them optimized for performance. We know how to avoid injuries, and treat them when they inevitably happen. We know how to decompress our muscles and spines. But, how do we de decompress our minds, and keep them at their best for performance without letting the pressures of a hectic lifestyle interfere with our time in the studio or on stage?
I didn’t realize how much stress was taking a toll on my life, until I took my first meditation class. It was the first time I was told to be completely still; to spend time in my mind, focusing my energy on releasing different parts of my body. I had a difficult time quieting my thoughts, and getting myself to be in the moment. I my mind was racing for the first half of the class, reminding me of all of the things I wasn’t doing. But, the more I practiced, the more I saw incremental changes in myself. I had an easier time falling asleep, which meant that I was more ready in the morning. I started to give myself permission to focus on one thing at a time, rather than constantly multitasking.
In during class and rehearsal, I was more patient with myself; I was more present, and more in tune with my muscular structure. I began to reconnect with the intrinsic joy I felt while dancing, and I spent less time wrapped up in the frenetic energy of trying to execute everything perfectly. Ironically, that meant I performed even better. I suddenly felt like I was aware of every minute of the day, making conscious decisions of how to spend them.
Meditation may seem like a waste of time. It may feel like time spent being still, when you could be doing more productive things--that’s definitely how it felt to me, at first. But the truth is, mindfulness and meditation helped me make every moment of my day more productive. It helped me use my body more effectively, it reinvigorated my passion for performing, and taught me that sometimes, pausing is the best way to make sure that your body can keep playing.