Infusing Mindfulness into Your Dance Classes: 5 Ideas
As a dance teacher, you know how much a dancer’s mental wellbeing can impact their learning and performance. Students and teachers alike face a number of internal stressors, from fighting perfectionism to trying to quiet harsh inner critics. If you’re looking to create a more positive environment for your dance classes, mindfulness strategies can work wonders.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in your body and mind by paying attention to your surroundings, thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness encourages you to notice where you are and how you’re feeling, without judgment.
For your students, mindfulness can help them focus, relieve anxiety, and develop more compassion for themselves and others in the studio. By emphasizing bodily awareness and noticing sensations, mindfulness can also give students valuable insight into how they move and how they can improve.
Incorporating mindfulness into how you run your dance studio can bring powerful benefits and enrich your students’ experiences. Best of all, it’s easy to do. Start with these ideas, which we’ll dive into down below:
- Educate students on mindfulness and meditation.
- Try some initial mindfulness exercises.
- Create a distraction-free space.
- Choose a mindfulness mantra.
- Make mindfulness a recurring part of class.
Dance is all about community, and we should all strive to make our communities better. Instilling mindfulness in your classes will make your dance community a more positive space for everyone.
1. Educate students on mindfulness and meditation.
The first step to cultivating mindfulness in your studio is for you and your other teachers to learn about it. Then, collect or create educational resources about mindfulness for your students, like infographics or short presentations. Make the resources available by using dance studio software that allows dancers to easily access an online portal from home.
When you’re ready to introduce mindfulness to your classes, start with an open discussion. Get your students thinking about the topic by asking questions like the following:
- What helps you focus?
- Does overthinking ever hurt your practice?
- When do you find yourself zoning out in class? (During warmups?)
- Is there anything in the studio that you find distracting?
Have you ever done a guided meditation before?
The answers to these questions are a great place to start, and they’ll give you valuable insight into your dancers’ needs. Talk through each of their responses, then start coming up with mindful solutions together. For example, if a lot of dancers say they struggle with overthinking, explain how mindfulness can help them get out of their heads and into their bodies.
Don’t forget that mindfulness isn’t just for students. Educating your dance teachers about mindfulness can actually help with employee retention and satisfaction. When you work to foster a culture of compassion and awareness in your studio, everyone benefits!
2. Try some initial mindfulness exercises.
Now that everyone in your studio understands what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial, how do you start practicing it? Pick out a few easy exercises to incorporate into your classes—these can be as short as one minute or as long as ten. Let’s go over some options for basic exercises:
Set an intention. At the beginning of class, or as dancers finish warmups, lead your students in a short breathing exercise. This can be as easy as taking three deep breaths together. Then, ask everyone to set an intention for what they want to get out of today’s class. They don’t even have to share—simply having a goal in their mind will help them focus.
Feel and notice sensations. Dancers can do this exercise at any point during class or practice. All they need to do is close their eyes and pay extra attention to bodily sensations. Especially when learning a new routine or position, ask students to really pay attention to how the movement feels in their bodies. This helps with both focus and learning.
Acknowledge thoughts and let them go. Use this exercise when you notice a student is having a hard time with self-doubt or anxiety. Remind them to acknowledge negative thoughts, but then let them go without judgment. If they still struggle, tell them to come back to their breathing. Focusing on breathwork can increase self-esteem and decrease anxiety. Sometimes all students need is a gentle reminder.
Lie or sit still for one minute. You can easily add this short exercise to the end of all your classes. Students can choose to sit comfortably or lie down on the ground. Ask for silence and for everyone to close their eyes for just one minute. This time is for them to take a pause however they want. But, you may suggest they return to their intention from the beginning of class or focus on breathing.
You know your students best, so use whichever of these techniques will be most beneficial for them. Ask your dancers if they find certain exercises helpful or not. And, always emphasize that you value their opinions and want to create an environment they’ll thrive in.
3. Create a distraction-free space.
Remember when you asked your students if any aspects of the studio were distracting for them? Now’s the time to fix that!
To cultivate an environment where mindfulness is easy, you need to create a distraction-free space in your studio. Think about the ways you can reduce unnecessary noises and interruptions. Student and teacher feedback should be the first place you go to decide how to change up your space, but these general tips will also help:
- Remove any clutter.
- Ask for phones to be silenced during class.
- Adjust the lighting to warmer tones.
- Make sure that the area where students leave their belongings is separate from the dance space and not intrusive.
For an added benefit, try diffusing essential oils in your studio. Essential oils stimulate your limbic system, which can produce hormones that regulate breathing and emotions. Peppermint oil especially can help with focus and awareness—perfect for cultivating an atmosphere of mindfulness in the studio!
4. Choose a mindfulness mantra.
Another great way to add mindfulness into your classes is to develop a mindfulness mantra to use with your students. A mantra is a short statement you can use during practice to gently nudge students back into mindfulness if they’re becoming distracted. This can be especially helpful during warm-up exercises or any other time your dancers tend to lose focus.
Try out these mantras and see how your students respond, or use these ideas as a jumping-off point to develop your own:
- Remember your breath.
- Listen to your body.
- Pay attention to the sensations.
- It’s okay to make mistakes.
- Let go of judgment.
- Be here.
Once your students are familiar with the idea, you can take it one step further by asking them to come up with their own mantras. Suggest they choose an “I am” statement that embodies how they want to be mindful in class. Then, you can add them to a running list of student mantras that they can access through a portal like DanceStudio-Pro’s student management system. Together you’ll create a set of mantras that will help students stay present in class.
5. Make mindfulness a recurring part of class.
We’ve already covered a few ways you can add mindfulness into your classes, but now’s the time to build them into your sessions as a regular part of class. If your students love the mantras, maybe they can try out a new one each month. If they respond well to intention-setting, make a point to start every class that way. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques to find the ones that best resonate with your dancers.
Along with applying mindfulness techniques in class, you can continue the learning process by regularly giving short presentations on similar topics. For example, you might give a presentation on the benefits of meditation or box breathing. Continue to have open discussions with your students, too. These are great opportunities for them to reflect on past challenges, proud moments, and how mindfulness helps them.
Building a foundation of mindfulness can benefit students in all aspects of their lives. It’s not just for dance class! Soar, a podcast recommended by NXUnite, talks about how professionals can benefit from bringing mindfulness into the workplace. By teaching these skills to your students now, you’re setting them up for success in the future.
With these ideas, infusing mindfulness into your dance classes will create a more supportive atmosphere in the studio and build community. When you combine this inclusive environment with education about how to be more present and aware, your dancers are sure to thrive!