What is the secret for executing effortless boleos!? If you are any thing like me you've probably taken dozens of workshops and practiced your boleos endlessly, with or without a partner. Hopefully you had plenty of space to yourself since these bad boys could become potentially hazardous on the social dance floor if executed poorly, especially if your limbs are long and ruthless like mine.
One of the biggest challenges in dynamic movements such as boleos is balance. Without it, every thing else falls apart. (read more about how to improve your overall balance in tango in my previous blog post). Often we lose our balance in boleos because the base leg is not rooted, the hips collapse to one side as the torso collapses to the other, and/or the pelvis dips forward and takes our torso back.
Another common challenge is timing, which is tricky because we need to allow enough time for torsion to take it's path through the body but get that free leg to whip fast enough so we can finish with a step in the new direction we are taking. This means our twist needs to be efficient and our pivot strong.
What you probably did not think about is that boleos also require some hamstring and glute strength, as well as flexibility through the hip flexor. Flexibility in our shoulder area is also useful as often this can get in the way of making space for the hips to come all the way around. Often we might be trying or even forcing boleos without realizing that our limitation has nothing to do with what we learned in tango class!
So below are several yoga poses to help you execute effortless boleos. To keep it relevant to tango, I've mostly outlined the benefits of each pose as it pertains to boleos, but know that each pose has several other benefits as well. For our purposes, I've focused the descriptions on poses that help with strengthening the base leg and hamstrings, stabilizing the hips, and increasing flexibility in the abdominals, spine, pecks, lats, groin and hip flexors.
1. Twisted Reverse Warrior (Parivrtta Viparita Virabhadrasana)
This pose is very similar to the position we take in back boleos. It helps us to find hip stability as we twist and stretches the abs which helps deepen our twist. It also opens up the pecks and lats which helps to create space in the embrace during torsion). The back leg also gets a good stretch in the psoas (hip flexor) which helps us with extending the free leg back in a boleo.
To try this pose step one leg back, keeping the feet hips width apart. Bend the front knee, stacking the knee above the ankle. Point the back heel towards the ceiling and press it back to activate the quad. Reach your arms towards the ceiling and then twist towards the front leg and extend your arms out. Take the back hand towards the back thigh and the front arm up towards the ceiling.
2. Eagle (Garudasana)
This pose is especially useful for front boleos as you have one leg wrapping around the other. It helps us to find stability on one leg by rooting the foot and strengthening the ankle. It also tilts the pelvis backwards in the same way we want to have the pelvis tilted in boleos, helping to make space for the wrapping leg. Draw the belly button in towards the spine and you also have a lift that engages the transverse abdominals. This subtle engagement is what helps us to create those opposing directions we look for in our tango posture of rooting the standing leg and growing taller through the top of the head.
To try this pose put the weight into one leg and cross the other leg over the thigh of the base leg. If it's available to you, you can also cross the front foot behind the calf of the standing leg. Then cross your arms just as you have the legs crossed and bring palms to touch. The bottom arm should be the same side as the leg thats on top.
The arms in this pose stretch the upper back muscles which is also useful for engaging our back for our tango embrace.
3. One Legged Revolved Mountain Pose (Eka Pada Parivrtta Tadasana)
I've referred to this pose in many of my posts about yoga for tango dancers because it's so incredibly beneficial! Just as we saw in eagle pose, this one tilts the pelvis back to help situate our sits bone over the heel, which is the alignment we look for in tango so that we don't lose our balance by taking the pelvis forward. Here we also want to draw the belly button in towards the spine to create a lift through the torso. And once again, as we twist we look to stabilize the hips, keeping them pointing forward. The bent front knee although not exactly li