This is one of my favorite dance conditioning sequences that I developed to challenge balance, core and coordination. Using a small pilates ball increases the level of difficulty to maintain the lines in the lower limb and spine. Breath control and ease of movement are all challenged here. This exercise prepares for choreography and provides musicality that gets you out of your head and back into your body.
In one exercise, the following will be developed and challenged:
1. Dynamic core stability
2. Ability to move in neutral spinal alignment
3. Strong leg lines
4. Controlled, graceful ports de bras
5. Diaphragmatic breath without compromising transverse abdominus engagement
6. Thoracic extension
7. Lumbopelvic stability
8. Pelvic floor activation and endurance (hello!)
And most importantly,
You are conditioning while you dance.
Dance gets you out of your head and back to your body so you can begin again.
You don’t have to be a dancer to try this out.
What dance skills do you think this will prepare you for?
It is often emphasized that balance is the key to good health, but really balance in the sense that all aspects in life have an equal part of your “energy pie” never happens. The the amount of energy that you give to each part changes in ratio with each day or season of life. For example, when I was a student, most of my waking hours were dedicated to being in class and studying. Socializing, housework, saving money, etc. took a very small portion of my energy. Is that bad? Not really. It’s realistic for that moment in time. Is it balanced? No. But was I healthy? Yes, as much as I could for that moment.
Similarly, in my phase of being a mother to two young children I am content if on top of keeping my kids happy and healthy that I can get in two days of exercise per week, sleep 4-5 hours a night , eat regularly, connect with my husband and keep my business afloat. Isn’t that nuts? Yes! It’s hard for me to swallow sometimes, but it’s as balanced as I can be for the time being. (Also note that housework didn’t even make the list).
So really, balance is elusive. Priorities shift and chaos ensues. The key to staying afloat of this chaos is the feeling and connection with being grounded.
Grounded? What the heck is that?
I would argue that most people do not even recognize that they are not grounded. Being grounded means having complete control of your breath, not being emotionally connected to the possibility of failing and having a consistent positive outlook on life. I’m touch and go with being grounded and currently I am working towards getting back there.
For me, I know I’m grounded when I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I get this feeling after a chiropractic adjustment or a yoga/pilates class. It’s very important for you to have the kinesthetic awareness of the ground beneath your feet. It means you feel stable. This stability is both figurative and literal.
I can empathize with my shallow breathing patients who feel like a “chicken running around with their head cut off”. Their minds are racing and they feel like a helium balloon floating away, disconnecting from the earth and their bodies.
Shallow breathers, return to belly breathing
Shallow breathing happens when your adrenaline is activated. Think of your adrenaline as your body’s internal espresso machine or “Red Bull”. Inherently, we have this mechanism to react to life-threatening dangers, but in the modern world we activate this hormone to meet deadlines, apease relationships and satisfy material needs. Ideally, adrenaline should be used transiently until the resolution of the stressor, however most people maintain adrenaline levels until it turns into complete disconnection with your body and eventual burn out.
Please acknowledge this: Constant shallow breathing leads to chronic tension in the neck, chest and shoulder muscles, dysfunctional ribs and anxiety. Like hyperventilating, your head is floating away like a helium balloon. Only you can keep yourself from flying away.
Pull that string
Bring yourself back to the ground by doing the following:
Belly breathing: As you inhale, your abdomen should be relaxed and your belly button should move away from your spine. Shoulder and neck muscles should be relaxed and stop gripping your jaw, eyebrows, fist, hips etc. There’s no reason for the tension!
Meditate: Visualize the connection of your feet to the ground. Imagine the helium ballon returning to the rest of your body. Use whatever imagery, (ex. creating roots from your feet into the soil) that makes sense.
Go outside. Be present. Walk barefoot and feel the breeze against your face. City people spend too much time in front of machines.
Get body work. See a chiropractor, massage therapist, osteopath, acupuncture or whomever you feel comfortable to help you release tension and reconnect with your body.
Move. Take a yoga or pilates class or move in any way that nurtures your soul. Stretch and strengthen.
PracticeGratitude. Be grateful for what your daily victories are instead of what the holes in your list are that need to be accomplished.
If there is one thing that I can take away as a lesson from the year 2010, it would be that nothing is certain. Every year I write a list of goals that I plan to achieve. Well this year I’m not doing that. I’ve learned that in life, things will unfold at the rate that they should and no matter how prepared you are, what you envision will not manifest if it is not the right time.
This may sound a bit pessimistic at first glance, but in fact it is not. For as far back as I can remember I’ve written lists and I’ve pretty much ticked off a lot on those lists with great efficiency. Some would say that my list is quite extensive, but my “A-type” personality disagrees. Nevertheless, I’ve evolved from a rigid list maker to one that throws her hands in the air and says, “Just let it be”.
Within the past five years, I’ve experienced many transitions in my personal, family, academic and career life. That’s just how I am. Life is not stagnant and I am grateful for that. During each transition, the degree of uncertainty can overwhelm myself and the lists fly out.
Well, no more lists for me! I vow to relinquish control so that life is much more enjoyable and meaningful.
I will be present, be grateful and take a leap of faith. (I guess I just made another list).