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The Pros of Resting (and How to Rest like a Pro)

All around the world, dancers are taking a break right about now… 
In the northern hemisphere you get to enjoy a lovely summer break, 
while down here we get a short winter holiday – but nonetheless a 
time out from the studio! As you get ready to wind down some, 
here are some ideas to switch off, guilt-free and make the most of 
this recovery time toward what lies beyond! :-)


How do you feel coming up to a break from dance?

Ecstatic?   Relieved?   Slightly Uneasy?   Petrified?

Holidays are great! But for many dancers, whether you spend your time off at the coast or in the cafés or on the couch, you are often accompanied by some niggling worries in the back of your mind…

I’m getting out of shape…
I shouldn’t be eating this…
I need to DO something!
I can’t sit still…
I can’t relax too much – I have to stay on top of things!

There is this fear that if you really allow yourself to rest, you’ll “let yourself go,” lose your precious form and ruin your progress.

But seasoned artists know how much they need rest and manage to let themselves really relax – and ENJOY it thoroughly – without guilt or fear of losing their form. And you can too…

The problem is, you’re not truly convinced that resting is really the best thing for you right now

Sure, you want a break! Sure, you’re hanging out for a break …on the surface!

But underneath, that niggling guilt, that niggling fear is actually DOUBT… Doubt that you couldn’t be spending this time much more productively if you kept on dancing and working.

If there’s one thing that will get in the way of really resting, relaxing and unwinding, it’s the annoying voice of doubt nagging in your ear all day!

You’ll recognize it’s voice when it questions whether you should get on the treadmill instead of on the phone to your grandma, or have the salad when you’re hunkering for the steak.

Doubt will ruin your time-off like bed-bugs from a hostel bed! It will be the itch that spoils your enjoyment of the summer at the beach… the cold you catch right on the verge of your holiday… the dampener on all that is meant to be well and good about this time.

It’s time for your doubts and fears to be laid to rest (pun proudly intended!)

For many of you, you just live with the doubt and try to ignore it (or give in if the guilt-trip is strong enough). But there’s a bug-spray for doubt called knowledge that works wonders in wiping it out.

You need to know how important and beneficial rest time is for your body, soul & spirit in order to give yourself permission to fully embrace it and enjoy it!

You need to know how recovery time can actually help you on the other side of this break rather than hinder you, if you want to learn to let yourself let go!

So, in case no-one has told you before (and if they have, for a refreshing reminder!), here are the PROS of rest and recovery time for dancers:

You are not doing ALL you can to succeed if you are not making room for rest

Rest is the way your body restores itself. Without rest, your body will decay and get weaker, not stronger. The human body is a fragile thing really and certainly has its limits. It is designed to function in a rhythm of work and rest.

Strenuous dancing requires rigorous rest. This is why dancers need good sleep, nourishment and time-out – to allow the body to recover and repair and replenish itself. Seasoned dancers know that NOT prioritizing these things is foolish for your progress and success.

So, take the pressure off, do good to your body, look after it – r.e.s.t!

But it’s not only about the body – your soul needs rest too!

How many of you end the term/semester/season mentally and emotionally worn out?

  • You’ve been discouraged about things you haven’t lived up to…
  • You’ve been jaded by something someone said about you…
  • You’ve lost your motivation to work towards your goals…
  • You’ve become irritable around certain people…

Breaks are a time to release old mindsets, hang-ups and habits, let go of limits and losses and get a fresh perspective on life.

When you are at rest, your mind can start to unravel some of the thinking that got tangled up in the stress of it all and bring back some order. Your heart has space to calm down  and re-centre itself.

So, grab a journal or a paintbrush or a guitar and allow yourself to mentally and emotionally unwind and be revived. It will fuel your hope and reignite your passion for the new season to come.

A change is as good as a holiday

Not only do you need rest physically and mentally, you also need it socially and environmentally. A change of scenery – getting out of the studio and having time to be sociable – is an important part of recovery.

It seems silly to say, but having fun is truly restorative. Doing things you enjoy, with people you love, in places that you like being makes connections in your brain that no day in the ballet studio could!!!

Hanging out with friends and family you may not usually have so much time for can give you a totally different spin on your life and remind you of things you take for granted or just plain forget about when your world revolves around dancing.

Even spending time with your dance-friends in different contexts than usual can enhance your relationships and teach you new things about each other.

Where do you love going when you have time off dancing? Who do spend time with? How does this motivate and inspire you?

Rest can also be “active”

For those of you sitting there jiggling your knee up and down relentlessly and biting your nails because you just HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! I have some consolation for you: rest can also be active. Not all of it. But some of it 😉

It is restful to do activities that re-create you (that’s where the word recreation comes from)… Now, you don’t want to get too strenuous here, but some things that are wonderfully restorative for dancers are things like Yoga, gentle swimming and going for a stroll in the park.

What are some rest activities you can do to relax and re-create?

Rest reminds you there is more to YOU than just dancing

Finally, we get to the real deep-down benefit of resting. Resting from dance, gives you a chance to remember who you really are (Psst! You are not only a dancer!).

This is one of the biggest reasons dancers get edgy when they are not dancing. The question stirs in the back of your mind, “Who am I when I am not dancing?!” and this is a great question to find answers to while you are having a holiday. You don’t need to be afraid of this question, just be curious… take some time to get to know yourself and find out.

What are your other interests? What do you enjoy doing for fun? What other passions are lying dormant inside? Experiment! Get back into an old hobby you haven’t done for years, or start a new one! It’s time to broaden the platform of your identity beyond just dancing.

This will make you even more resilient and versatile as a dancer.

Well, I hope this post has given you a new spin on resting and the important place it has in a dancers’ life. I also hope it gives you permission  to allow yourself to rest guilt and fear free!

I’d love to hear how you go letting yourself rest and what things you discover about yourself as you do. Leave a comment below!

🙂 Philippa

P.S: I’m also busy working on a little project to help you relax and find your focus… if you want to be among the first to hear about it, go on and sign up below to join the email list! 😉 Looking forward to revealing it soon!

photo credit: Ben Andreas Harding cc

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