Determined to make a breakthrough with my fitness, i signed up to an unlimited yoga and pilates deal with a studio down the road. This is my story.
Tues 8 Dec: Yoga Flow. Hey i'm not too bad at this. But how can one person produce so much sweat? Slid home. Remember to bring towel next time.
Weds 9 Dec: Woke up at 5:30am raring for yoga. What is wrong with me? Bounced down the road to Pilates class. Crawled back. Cannot move. So sore. Cannot. Push. Button. On. Microwave.
10am: Daughter gave me a hug and I fell over. Took 20 minutes to get up using only micro-movements.
8pm. Yoga flow class to help move lactic acid. Apparently i have never used my triceps before. Yoga flow helped (along with magnesium tablet). Remember to bring a towel next time.
Thurs 10 Dec: OH MY GOD WHAT DID I DO TO MY BODY YESTERDAY. I am a shell of a human being. Did Gentle Yoga class. On way home I discovered my house is on a hill. Considered contacting council to put in a conveyor belt like at the airport. I'm sure it's a high traffic area. Remember to bring a towel next time.
Fri 11 Dec: Hey i'm getting stronger. My posture is better. My abs are switched on. Time to ramp it up. Did yoga class with new teacher. He picked my technique to pieces. I bet he's one of those people who takes an hour to build a sandwich. Placing his bits of cucumber with expert precision. It's OK. i like those people. For goodness sake, bring a towel!
Sat 12 Dec: Today I got to see what someone with lower abs can do. Lower abs, you and I have to talk. Finally brought a towel. Didn't use it.
Fast forward a few days... Tues 15 Dec: I felt some big shifts today. A new range of stretch in my pelvis. And emotional shifts too. Loving the play of yoga. I'm still working out the detail but there are moments of surprise and grandeur. Most of all i'm loving the journey with myself.
Have you got a yoga story?
I remember attending a workshop with a US-based dancer who said that when we perform, we only achieve 80% of the greatness that we have off-stage. I reflected on this at the time and came to the conclusion that while I am often more relaxed when dancing in the studio, I am definitely more powerful, stronger, and more capable on stage - thanks to adrenaline and being in the zone. But this isn't the case for many dancers who feel more burdened than empowered by nervous energy when performing.
Undirected nervous energy can lead to feelings of flightiness and ungrounded movement - sometimes spilling into a loss of balance, physical disconnection or dis-embodiment (where the origin of movement comes from the periphery rather than the centre of our being) and 'throwing out' of energy, often manifested through unfinished movements and phrasing, and even sudden transitions. A great technique for making performance on stage your supapowa is to incorporate moments of grounding into your pre-dance or dance routine, where you deliberately connect with your para-sympathetic nervous system, breathe & exhale, melt, ooze, cultivate, be. Just be. And in that moment, you will know you have your supapowa at your disposal.
Standing on the earth outside is a great, immediate form of grounding but that's not always available to us before going on stage. But we can replicate that feeling through practice. Yoga is another way. Contemporary dance and contact improvisation have also helped me immensely. It helps not only with our stage presence, but our balance and quality of movement on stage. I also believe that stage fright is often caused by a loss of grounding because the dancer becomes very reliant on the audience's energy, which can stimulate feelings of vulnerability and cause us to shut off.
Make the stage a fertile ground for your supapowa and you will never look back.
How do you connect with your supapowa? What is your experience on stage? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Most of us dancers incorporate stretches into our daily routine, but do you stretch strategically? There are muscle groups that get tight from long periods of sitting that inhibit our fluidity and range of movement. Tight muscles can also lead us to use the wrong muscles to execute movements. Having worked as a remedial massage therapist in a team of physio and exercise physiotherapists, I came to see very common patterns. Here is my quick guide to important muscles to free up the spine (please consult your doctor before attempting new stretches if you have any issues or physical concerns):
1. Spine twist. This is a stretch that works best with generous time and breathing, to let all the smaller muscles along the spine (multifidis) and erector spinae, as well as the fascia cross-sling to let go. Spine twist video.
2. Illiopsoas (or psoas) is our deep hip flexor that connects our top half to our lower half and can get very short and tight from long period of sittings. It is a powerful muscle and if yours is very tight, on one or both sides, it can lead to feelings of tightness in the hamstrings and compression of the lower back. Psoas lunge.
3. Adductors (short and long) are the muscles of the inner thigh. They often work in concert with other muscles to create lower back tightness and knee problems. The "frog pose" and other stretches to lengthen the inner line of the leg can make a powerful difference to the fluidity of the spine. Adductor magnus stretch (Frog pose).
4. Gluteus group, piriformis, obturators (hip rotators) are the muscles of your derriere that can limit your hip movement and lead to tightness in the upper back, as well as sciatic pain (in the case of a tight piriformis). Pidgeon and half pidgeon are great yoga poses for these. Experiment with different angles to get different glut muscles, including the deeper ones. Piriformis release and stretches.
Do you know what makes you unique as a dancer? Usually it is much clearer to our trusted friends, dance colleagues and teachers, because we are too engrossed in the inevitable highs and lows of being a creative person. But do you have those people in your life telling you what makes you unique? Do you know your strengths, celebrate them, work with them in your performances? Do you take the time to tell other dancers what you love about their performances? This is the greatest gift you can give another dancer. By telling them what you love about their act, you help them to forge their sense of self and identity on stage. Once a dancer has this sense of self and identity, they can choose what to do with it in performance. They can be deliberate in expanding upon their strengths or throw a curve ball by doing something completely different. And being deliberate is key. So next time you see someone dance, or if you prefer to reflect on your own dance experience, here is a list of strengths to consider (just a few):
Usually as we evolve and strengthen certain attributes, others will naturally take the back seat. As we go along our dance journey, our attention can be drawn to different aspects. This is part of becoming more well-rounded dancers. But integral to this journey is to know what we have strong now. If you don't know, ask your dance friends for feedback.
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