Long before I was a yogini, I was a dancer — a really bad dancer. My mom enrolled me in ballet as soon as I could walk. I remember the pink tights and black leotards and the DREADED recitals. One Christmas, at age 4, crippled by stage fright, I flat-out refused to wear my Sugar Plum Fairy costume and instead watched my sister dance her way through both of our parts. She was a star, and I watched from my seat feeling queasy relief.

As the years progressed, I grew sedentary and favored reading books and watching TV over anything that resembled physical output. This resulted in me topping 100 pounds at my sixth grade “weigh in.” (I measured only 4 feet 9 inches.) It was then that I discovered my mom’s brand new Jane Fonda’s Workout and the Raquel Welch yoga videos that unleashed in me a preadolescent desire to know my body, to lose weight, and to turn the corner on my childhood. I would rush home from junior high school everyday to practice these videos. They became a compulsion and companion of sorts, galvanizing my developing brain and body and saturating it with sweat and endorphins.

Yoga and dance followed me into college, where I met the word “technique” in a head-on collision of struggle and insecurities. I left many a dance class in tears, unable to grasp the combinations and painfully reliving my toddlerhood. My yoga classes were a different story. I studied many threads of the practice including the demanding Iyengar, Sivananda, and my mentor Glenn Black’s techniques. These quelled my performance anxiety and gave me a literal and metaphorical backbone of support.

“I finally felt I was really dancing from my soul and not to please others.”

As much as I loved to dance, it was torture (not to mention often injurious), and I relied on my yoga practice to reset my mind and body so that I could continue to face my dancing demons. It wasn’t until I discovered “dance improvisation,” where I could make up my own stuff, that I finally felt I was really dancing from my soul and not to please others.

It’s no wonder that I chose to become a professional yoga teacher instead of a professional dancer. In my 20s, dancing gigs did not pay well, and I often ended up tweaked from the rehearsal and performance process. But the yoga students kept showing up! When I finally quit dancing at age 30, fed up with the tug-of-war, I was immediately offered a dancing job that involved travel and a decent paycheck! The divine joke here being that when I finally turned away from my calling, I was “called.” I took the job and looked forward to teaching yoga full time when the gig was up. And that is exactly what I did and have never looked back since!

My Yoga Tune Up® technique has been the best practice for me to maintain my body both for everyday health needs as well as the stresses of dancing. Because of Yoga Tune Up®, I am a much better dancer today because I have healed so many of my imbalances that were actually an obstacle to landing jobs! My classes allow me to channel the spirit of an improvisational jam session while my students are getting to know the way their bodies work.

“Here was my chance to meet the dance that defeated me in childhood with my more mature yogic perspective.”

Look Mom, I’m dancing!

Every other year, I dance in my friend Adam Dugas’ annual Christmas show, Chaos & Candy, in New York City’s hipster downtown performance scene. Two years ago, my childhood fears were put to rest when he and I did a “very free form” duet to the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Here was my chance to meet the dance that defeated me in childhood with my more mature yogic perspective.

Sugar = the sweetness I feel while practicing yoga or dancing

Plum = the sour of the challenge of technique and the discipline both practices require

Fairy = represents the transcendent joy of intermingling these life-sustaining arts, no matter what the lesson

Mom, it wasn’t Carnegie Hall, but it was personal triumph.

Read about self massage for pain.

Read about Dynamic Stretching.

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Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Johanna Vicens

Bel article qui explique un parcours pas si évident alors que l’on pourrait penser le contraire. Vous avez su vous écouter et vivre une réelle transformation qui vous a permis de faire tout ce que vous avez créer. Histoire et parcours intéressant. Merci pour le partage.

Denise Brown

Thank you for sharing this story about your dance life. One of the reasons I am intrigued with the tune up work is the connections that can be made into various movement modalities, including dance training across a variety of genres. I feel fortunate that I did not have teachers that removed the pleasure of dancing from my life, however social media can certainly take the place of this at times.

Amber Green

I had a similar journey. I was a competitive figure skater up until the age of 18. By this time I had to put full time figure skating aside due to University. I ended up stopping all kinds of movement all at once and spent most of my time sitting and studying. My body ached, my posture was poor, and I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from the hustle and bustle of living such a busy, unconscious life. I sought relief through physical movement, through dance. Dance provided me with a way to release stress and built up emotion. I… Read more »

Morgan

This is a story that I feel many can relate to with their own sport. Its amazing how you have developed yoga tune up to help anyone and everyone. I admire that you didn’t stick to just one demographic and focused on them. Whether you are a dancer, a body builder, office worker etc.. There is some way for ytu to benefit your lifestyle.

Veronique Fortin

Thanks for sharing your story !
I see that we are many dancers doing YTU training; your work to so important to us !

missy Tillman

Beautiful story, thank you for sharing. As a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, who is in YTU this week, it’s wonderrful to hear the ways you has these modalities collide.

Jenny

Hi, I’m in the middle of my YTU training week with Dineen and I just read this post. Having competed in gymnastics through childhood and then turned to dance in my adult years, this resounded with me. I’ve been practicing yoga to balance myself as well and I’ve even added some strengthening exercises to stabilize myself and get rid of those annoying tweaks and minor injuries that were plaguing me. Your system is filling in the gaps for me and introducing me to this amazing work of Roll Model. I look forward to studying your techniques more!

Ashley Burger

Thank you for this post! I had no idea you had a dance background before creating this system. As a dancer I find these techniques just as helpful as the yogis next to me. I had a similar background with dance and the minute I started moving for myself doors started to open. My goal in this training is to move for myself and not be as goal oriented as I tend to be in a dance class to kick the highest or turn the most. Changing the mindset is overflowing positivity into all aspects of life.

Mairin McCracken

Like so many here, I had a similar experience with my dance and yoga practices forming a symbiotic relationship. I, too, felt pressure and tension when struggling to achieve certain techniques and combinations. Yoga changed my perspective on what I can achieve with my own body, and Yoga Tune Up has deepened that perspective by bringing about a new sense of ownership over my body. Any dance movement I do will be unique if for not other reason that because the body doing the movement is, itself, a one-of-a-kind model. As I am new to Yoga Tune Up, however, I… Read more »

Emily

My story is a little different in that I was a painfully shy little girl, UNLESS I was on stage! I absolutely loved dancing then and have been doing so for over 25 years. I am currently in the YTU Level 1 Training and am so grateful that the principles are so accessible to those who may not have extensive yoga training. I am looking forward to sharing the techniques with my dance clients.

Aranzasu

I love dancing too! Love! But over the past 3 yrs. I have dedicated myself to Yoga. Initially so that I would gain more flexibility, longevity, and strength. Now I just love it so much that I don’t feel well without it. Now that I know a little bit more about YTU, I’m feeling extra motivated to continue this practice and incorporate some dance too.

Caroline M

I’m an avid dancer and zumba teacher and I’ve already begun to incorporate as many standing YTU poses as I can think of into dance moves (stand-up bodysurfing, matador circles, raise the chalice, monk walks, squat arms up), warm ups (shoulder flossing without the floss, pranic bath mini-vini) and cool downs (propeller arms, standing bridge arms and bridge arms into prasarita, boomerang sidebend, the triangle poses, shoulder circles, epaulet arm circles, standing apanasana, uttanasana, blockhead,gomukhasana) to ensure I can keep dancing and me and my students feel awesome at the end of the class!

Kyoko Jasper

Amazing story! I always wondered what inspired you to become who you are now. I used to be a so-so dancer who performed in the Musical theater. My ego and insecurity used to eat me up. When I discovered Yoga, my path to healing began. And I can already feel that discovering YTU would be one of the best thing happened to me.

Susan

I just love YTU, It is good for movement period! I bet all the Zumba intructors out there along with the participants will benefit greatly

Renee Braunsdorf

I used to dance too. I wasn’t too good, but I enjoyed moving. I was attracted to vinyasa yoga because the flow reminded me of dance. YTU is such an intelligent way to get connected to your body in a healthy and healing. way. I enjoyed getting to understand your history and evolution as well. thanks, Jill

Lindsay

I think yoga tune up should be a requirement for all dancers, especially ballerinas. Their tendons and ligaments tend to get overstretched with time and it causes instability in their joints. Perhaps that is why I hear their careers are short lived. Most dancers have such a beautiful awarness of their body and kinesiology that ytu would be a familiar yet enlightening experience for them. Glad you dance for the joy of dancing 🙂

Bonnie Zammarieh

I hear you Julie, I’m that former gymnast.
Jill, I love that you were dancing from your soul and not to please others. I know that feeling when I take a yoga dance class up at Kripalu….bliss and freedom!

Julie Bennett

I often find many former dancers in yoga. Their overall flexibility is easy to spot and their strength looks very different from the former gymmasts you also find in yoga. As a former dancer, I feel like I am connecting with dance in yoga. There are many instructors who were former dancers who integrate even more flow and choregraphy into their sequencing. They sometimes have less obvious transitions from poses, yet the transitions often “feel” good because of how a dancer is used to moving their body.

Greta C

Wow ballet is great way to strengthen the flexor digitorum brevis with the constant dorsiflexion and plantarflexion of the foot and ankle!

scott

great article.

Sabena

I love this!

Liz

As a dancer taking yoga initally to ‘stretch,’ I also found a wonderful surprise in learning to practice and dance for yourself.