Nutrition & Flexibility for Dancers Mind, Body, Spirit

Written by: Stacey Nemour

For everyone, but especially for dancers, being healthy and at your appropriate weight - a weight that supports functioning at the highest level - is a form of self-mastery. Some of us master money, relationships, career or some other special skill. Dancers want to master their strength and potential. Mastery turns out to be what we believe we are capable of. Our bodies reflect what we believe about ourselves. In life, we have the greatest gift of all: power of free choice and to be the person we want to be.

Photo: From Stacey's flexibility session with dancer Robbie Downey

For the Dancers' Body:

Food plays a role in feeling stable, clear and focused. There are foods that weaken the body and foods that heal. The same goes for our thoughts. Naturally positive thoughts heal and supply energy, negative ones pull the cells of the body down.

Foods to avoid are:

Artificial sweeteners
Processed foods
Hormone-filled meat
Refined sugar
White bread

Why? These foods can cause inflammation, which shows up as uneven, blotchy skin, redness, bloating, disease, and pain.

Foods to consume:

Anti-inflammatory foods such as...
Organic fruits
Wild salmon

Why? The good fats such as olive oil and coconut oil help to burn calories. This will naturally keep weight off and help you manage your energy and emotions.

Studies show a 5% drop in metabolism in people who routinely skip breakfast. It helps to treat food as medicine and eat foods that heal. It's best not to skip meals, eat a small meal every 2 to 3 hours because this feeds muscle and starves fat. By eating frequently, you reassure your body that you aren’t going to starve. Skipping breakfast, eating only a salad for lunch, and pigging out at dinner, frightens your body into storing fat, just in case your next meal never comes.

Research from Georgia State University shows that people who eat every 2 to 3 hours have less body fat and faster metabolisms than those who eat only 2 or 3 meals per day. This will also keep the blood sugar from dropping and you'll have the energy to perform and focus at peak levels during dance class.

The next step is connecting with a way of eating and dance training that fits your specific needs. Many notable doctors such as Dr. Oz and Dr. Perricone suggest eating anti-inflammatory diet, which contributes to healing from the inside out. They say weight gain, disease and aging occurs from inflammation.

There are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods out there. It is not about going on a diet, starving or cutting out all carbohydrates. There are good carbs that are needed for energy.

Stacey's Personal Experience with Clean Eating:

In the first few months of eating anti-inflammatory foods,  I found a great way to get in the habit of not eating sugar and bread. When eating out (our most vulnerable moments!) I wave the bread basket away and instead order some coffee, tea or soup to start. Just staying away from sugar, wheat flour, alcohol and processed foods will make a huge difference. At this point I only craved flavorful nutrient packed meals!

Once the type of carbohydrates that raise the glycemic and sugar level were out of my system, the most amazing thing happened. I no longer had cravings for them whatsoever. I never feel deprived in anyway or as if I am on a diet. It's like getting any addictive substance out of the body.

When you need a snack before or after dance practice, I recommend staying away from most of the protein bars that have junk and sugar. I'm a huge fan of Quest Protein bars because they are delicious, high protein gluten free, sugar free and low in carbohydrates.

In the dance world there can be real or imagined pressure to not just be thin but under-weight.

Besides, looking and feeling sickly, it can lead to bone and muscle loss which leaves one venerable to serious injury and the body completely shutting down. The mind and body check out and dance performance goes downhill.

For the Dancers' Mind:

Sleep plays an important role in sports performance, this is when your body recovers. A 2011 study tracked the Stanford University basketball team for several months. Players added an average of almost two hours of sleep a night. The results? Players increased their speed by 5% and their free throws were 9% more accurate. They had faster reflexes and felt happier.

Lack of sleep can alter your metabolism, says Sanjay Patel, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.  Lack of sleep can decrease the number of calories your body burns just resting.

Sometimes belly fat is caused by toxic build-up from stress and a poor diet which causes one's digestion to become sluggish or having IBS(irritable bowel syndrome), Candida, or a gluten intolerance.

For the Dancers' Flexibility:

Keeping the body flexible is an extremely important factor for dancers. You want to reach full range of motion, prevent injuries and to be pain free. No matter what age, anyone can increase their flexibility at any time. The issue I see consistently with dancers and other athletes, is lack of the right type of flexibility training routine, tailored to their exact needs. There is a specific sequence that helps the body open up faster. Each stretch should gently prepare the body for the next stretch.

Since dancers are usually pointing their toes, the body needs to be kept in balance, by flexing the foot while stretching. So that the Achilles, calves, hamstrings and back can be thoroughly stretched. This approach protects the knees and improves leg extension.

To help clear the mind and body, spend extra time focusing on the areas of the body that feel locked up or in pain. These areas may have stored emotional pain from old traumas. Bless and release the past while stretching areas that have any emotional charge. Stay in the now of the new, joyful reality you are creating. For areas that feel extra tight, come up out of the stretch and keep repeating without bouncing or forcing, and each time you should be able to sink deeper, by using deep breathing and on the exhale letting everything go.

Photo: From Stacey's Flexibility session with dancer Madeline

For the Dancers' Posture:

When you are dancing, it's important to have good posture so that the energy can flow fully and freely. In yoga, this method is referred to as your "back body." This will also create better balance, enhance sports performance and may help conserve energy.

You should be thinking about the neck and lower back relaxing while using the abdominal muscles to support the back. Think about keeping the chest lifted, the neck and lower back relaxed while using the abdominal muscles to support the back. This helps prevent injuries and exudes the body language of confidence.This helps prevent injuries and exudes the body language of confidence.

Another very powerful tool is to visualize yourself exactly as you wish to be. This technique is a powerful way to master moves in dance that you have always wanted to do. See yourself exactly the way you wish to be, imagine feeling light, free, and energetic. What we align with and visualize brings the power of the law of attraction to support us. See it, Feel it and Be it.

The most important part is to love and accept yourself, wherever you are in the process. Instead of sending hate to the parts of ourselves we find repulsive (which sets up more resistance and puts us in a low energy vibration field that does not support you), shift the channel to being on your own team and start sending love to the parts of yourself you'd like to transform.

About the Author:

Stacey Nemour is a black belt in Kung Fu, and a highly respected martial artist and flexibility expert for over 25 years. She has been featured in Inside Kung Fu, Masters of Kung Fu, SELF magazine and most recently Kung Fu Magazine. Stacey coached Ultimate Fighting Champion Vitor Belfort and the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Team for their triumphant championship fights on pay-per-view television. She also trained other world-class athletes including NBA player Jalen Rose and the Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer team. In addition to appearing on Fox Sports 11 News and guest starring in the popular television show “Power Rangers,” Stacey worked as a stunt coordinator and fight double for Cybil Shepherd on the TV show “Cybil." She has performed in select video games and is working with elite synchronized swimmers & rhythmic gymnast and dancers preparing them for competition. Her clients called her "The Miracle Worker" due to the astounding results each session brings.  She also currently contributes to the The Huffington Post and designed the stretching program and performed in the DVD to go with the StretchGym™. Stacey is also known for her seven very informative popular DVD's. Her top seller is "Secrets of Splits & Flexibility" all are available on disc or as a download and now as a phone app called "Flexibility Now."

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Stacey is available for private sessions, pro-athlete teams or Skype consultations. You can contact her at:



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