Sometimes Yoga Helps Ballet Out

Post by Liliya Rudakova,  14 August 2014 ,  Interview
The three words to describe our today´s special guest are music, love and inspiration.

Anna Koblova, ballet dancer at The Bolshoi Theatre Moscow
Photo by Sonya Golovkova

Anna Koblova, ballet dancer at The Bolshoi Theatre Moscow, contemporary dancer, actress, mother of a 3-year-old daughter, will tell us how she started practicing yoga and what has changed ever since.

Was there anything in particular that brought you to yoga? Life circumstances? Friend brought you to a class? Curiosity? 

I am a ballet dancer and ballet is inhumanly demanding. It is a truly hard work, you have to either give it all you have, or forget about it. Yoga on the contrary is incredibly fulfilling, it ´feeds´ your body, heals it, lets it rest. At some point I realized that my body was craving for this type of nutrition. As it always happens the demand met the supply. I got to know some great yoga teachers at the time and decided to treat my body to this new experience. It was very grateful for the treat. And it still is.

Anna Koblova, ballet dancer at The Bolshoi Theatre Moscow
Photo by Sonya Golovkova

When did it all happen?

In 2004. I had already taken up contemporary dance back then, it was not only ballet. My teacher, choreographer Natalia Shirokova, was extensively using yoga elements at her contemporary dance classes. This is how I had my first insight into it and felt its benefits. It was shortly after that I realized how incredibly useful it was for me, as a professional dancer — and not only energetically, but also techniquewise. For example, I found a number of bends to be really challenging for my physique. By practicing yoga, I managed to remove the “blocks”, I had never known were there, shift certain movement patterns and break a lot of “body  stereotypes”. As a result I managed to get those back-bending moves right.

Practicing yoga I am developing the skills and abilities, that are extremely important for contemporary dancing, but are absolutely not in demand when it comes to classics. E.g. there are a lot of inversions in yoga, which are indispensable to contemporary dance, but have nothing to do with, say, ballet. Another exemplary fact: contemporary dancing requires strong hands and it´s next to impossible to build up that strength by attending ballet classes only. Fitness has always been out of the question for me, since I am not able to enjoy the things that are purely mechanical. Yoga is different, it´s not about building up strength or muscles for the sake of strength and muscles. Yoga is a journey, during which you learn to listen and understand your body. Yoga asanas tune your body, its ´sound´, like gammas in music… Asanas are not as dry as gammas though! 

How often do you practice?

I have been practicing once a week for 10 years now. It´s not much, but it´s enough, since I have daily classes and rehearsals at the theatre. This one time a week is vital however, it works as some sort of a purifier and a tuner for my body.

Not a single lengthy break in 10 years?

There was a break, for a year, after I gave birth to my daughter. I was disastrously out of time. I wish I knew about online classes or a yoga app, similar to Yogomotive back then, I would´ve made use of it for sure! I would not have neglected my body as severely then and it would´ve been way easier for me to get back to normal. 

Anna Koblova, ballet dancer, with her daughter
Photo by Natalia Shirokova

What is yoga for you?

Many things on different levels...
  • Yoga opens up your potential and helps you believe in yourself. At first you look at others with admiration, you are amazed by what their bodies are up to, but time passes and here you are — twisting and turning, almost levitating too. I had no idea of how far my body could go and take me, yoga helped me discover my secret super-powers.
  • Yoga is there, when you are on the verge of getting sick. Gentle yoga heals, it never drains you off of energy. I have never felt such an effect from any other physical activities. 
  • Your backbone as well as your neck become more flexible with yoga. This allows you to broaden your horizons both literally and figuratively. I believe I see a wider picture of the world now, which makes me feel less anxious about life in general. I am not so annoyed by trifling, unimportant everyday matters any more, I have started to treat life-obstacles differently too. I try to look at them as a chain of important events on the way to something great and rewarding. Challenges are very often our blessings. This way of looking at life makes everything so much more pleasurable! Apart from everything else, the experience of overcoming hardships gives way to creative energy. We are only human and always hope to get something for nothing, luckily it does happen sometimes too. In these rare cases, I love the feeling of gratefulness that dawns on me, as well as the desire to share those good karma points with someone else too.
  • Yoga gives you a constant awareness of your body and your movements. ´Yoga moves´ while taking a shower and massaging your back, anyone? Yes!
  • Beautiful body. I like it. I am happy to accept that! We can’t be authentically happy, when we cannot identify ourselves with our bodies. People, who practice yoga tend to look young and beautiful. Let me quote my teacher Igor Dolbyshev here: "yogis and yoginis do not grow old and do not die, they simply move on to a different state, when they understand that the time has come". Beautiful and fit body is not just an attractive shell, it is an instrument. When it’s tuned, it produces beautiful music. 
  • I love the energy created during dancing or practicing yoga. It is very sensual, but it’s not only about sexuality, it’s way deeper than that.
  • I love challenging physical activity. My teachers Dmitry Serebrovsky and Igor Dolbyshev are very demanding, I enjoy it.
  • Yoga is a source of spontaneousness and immediate gratifying emotions. That is you take and give something, not comparing yourself to someone else next to you, not planning something in advance. It’s like back in the days, when we were kids. You just go and do things, without thinking that they need to be done and how you are going to get them done.
Anna Koblova, ballet dancer at The Bolshoi Theatre Moscow
 Photo: Volodya Lupovskoi

Do you stick to a certain diet?

I did not really like the idea of vegetarianism and veganism in the very beginning. It seemed like something unnaturally imposed on me and that it was also a way to show off. But gradually I started to feel the connection between the food that I eat and the way my body feels and reacts. If I do not eat meat, it becomes lighter and more flexible, muscles become more elastic. Now I hardly eat any meat, but for me it is not a conscious decision, it´s my body´s need. I am not a person of drastic measures, I lead the life that feels right and makes me happy. 

And even though the interview is already pretty extensive, we can´t skip our ´finishing up a phrase´ game. We start a sentence, Anna improvises :)

I love yoga, because it develops my personality
If there were no limitations in my life, I would´ve found it harder to live
As far back, as I remember myself I have always been very independent. 
When I was growing up, I was very happy, since I could spend a lot of time outside, close to nature.
By the way, I love comfy dancing clothes.
My authority in yoga is Igor Dolbyshev.
I don´t understand why people still can´t see that we are all one?
The mere thought of traveling makes me smile.
I have been reproached, or rather I always scold myself for talking too much.
Just a few years ago, I did not have a child and I was a totally different person.
Everyone gets, what they actually want.
We live in the world, where one can find the divine nature in everything!
I have never had a chance… incorrect, we always have a chance!

Anna Koblova, ballet dancer at The Bolshoi Theatre Moscow
Photo by Sonya Golovkova

The interview was originally conducted in Russian and translated by Liliya.
Overview photo by Damir Yusupov.

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