Information & insights for graceful living.
How To Get Some Ballerina PoiseFebruary 13, 2017
“Poise is the finest point of balance it is possible to attain, both mentally and physically.”
In balletic terms, poise is a state of equilibrium between effort and ease. In our busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to feel physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed, and the very idea of achieving mental and physical balance may seem as unlikely as dancing on the tips of your toes. Yet ballet has a lot to teach about cultivating balance in both body and mind.
Here are some tips for maintaining a sense of poise no matter what you are facing.
SHOW UP. The most important step in any endeavor is simply showing up. Availing ourselves of opportunity not only gives us more options, but it also develops a quality of openness that goes a long way towards realizing our duties and desires. Avoidance, on the other hand, robs us of the opportunity to face ourselves and our circumstances squarely. A dancer’s life is conditioned around showing up no matter what. We get a lot of practice “facing the music” (literally!). It’s amazing what can happen, despite personal resistance, when you show up anyway! The internal reliability that develops with this habit builds self confidence that is worth its weight in gold.
GET PRESENT. The next element of poise relies upon being fully present to the experience at hand. In physical terms, this can mean taking a moment to feel sensations of tension, fatigue, energy, and effort. Emotionally, this may mean acknowledging anxiety, self-doubt, excitement, sadness, joy, or feelings of criticism or longing. Welcome the physical and emotional experience of a moment with as little judgment and internal commentary as possible. Just let it be what it is. Simply observing and letting go of the urge to change any part of an experience actually helps us conserve and direct our energy and movements more effectively. Quieting mental chatter and taking stock of your baseline physical and psychological state reduces excess drama and encourages a state of clarity that helps you spend yourself well and wisely.
HONOR YOUR CHOICES. The final element of poise requires moving with both consciousness and commitment. Unlike the automatic reactions that punctuate daily living, every ballet step is a series of small decisions– how far, how fast, and how much force to use are all conscious acts. Follow through is key… Don’t overthink it. Don’t judge it. Just do it. In ballet, the surest way to misstep or get injured is to second guess a decision midstream. Choices may not always go according to plan, but the information gleaned from the act of forming intention and following through hones the senses and builds natural courage, both of which shape future attempts (be they physical, emotional, or both) with greater refinement and confidence.
Ballet teaches where and how to use our personal energy through complex movements that develop more than just muscular dexterity. In fact, the ability to move gracefully relies as much (if not more!) on the mental approach as the physical one. Poise reflects a deep engagement with the present moment. Just as ballet requires repetition, so too, do our day-to-day lives offer tremendous opportunity for approaching the same activities with consistency, consciousness, and commitment. So the next time you are doing plies, remember that the elements of poise you practice in the ballet studio stay with you in the dance of life.
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