Dance Posture: Finding Balance
This year I had my 15 year anniversary of my relationship with belly dance. What started as a curiosity and desire to learn to dance has now become an integral part of my life. It has given me so many opportunities to grow as a human being. I've learned more about the cultures it comes from, met so many amazing people from around the world, trained with dancers I highly respect and developed a healthier relationship with my body. With all of these amazing things I kept feeling frustrated with my progress. I expected and wanted more from my dancing.
I finally realized that my posture was not improving and I could not execute the wonderful technique I was learning. Many belly dance instructors do not come from a fitness background, so they are not able to give posture corrections beyond some of the standard suggestions (shoulders down the back, lifted chest, chin up, knees and toes facing front, etc). The thing is, my body, like most doesn't fit a standard. As a student I could only advance my technique so far before my posture issues impeded my progress. This was super frustrating. No amount of trying to keep my shoulders back and down was making a difference in the way my movement looked or felt.
Visual case in point - after almost 6 years of regular dance practice and classes this was my posture. I got a lot of comments from judges about lifting my chest and such, but I still didn't have a way of really understanding how to make that work.
Four years ago during a pretty tough time with my health, I started with a regular yoga practice. Within a few months I was becoming aware of the potential my body had for release and restructuring itself. This got me curious about fitness and it's relationship to my belly dance practice. I started attending other types of classes for dance, yoga, pilates, boot camp, TRX, and even handstands. At this time I had started teaching a dance fitness format, BellyFit. The cardio, core strengthening and flexibility gave my body another strong foundation layer for the techniques that I knew. I started being happier with the way my dance photos and video looked, because my posture was changing. I still didn't fully understand the mechanics of how or why it was helping and eventually I got to another plateau with my dancing. I decided I wanted more and I began my own study of anatomy, postures and exercises as they relate to muscle imbalances in the body.
I found out that I have a kyphotic lordotic posture. Looking at the image below the red areas are muscles that are tight and shortened, the ones in blue are long and often weak. Once I understood this I made changes to my physical training routine.
I have been making friends with my foam roller, trigger point ball, and exercises that strengthen my mid-upper back, hamstrings, lower obliques, and the front of my neck. With this work I've been seeing some changes in the way the front of my body opens up, rather than trying to shove my chest into a lifted position, the muscles are opening up and allowing for that space. As the muscles in my back get stronger my shoulder blades have more mobility and can settle in a neutral position without my wrenching them back.
I'm super curious to see where my body is at in another 6 months. In the last 6 months I've started to see some shifts again in the way I carry myself and the stability I'm gaining in my dancing.
The other huge benefit is that the chronic pain I lived with for years due to a severe upper back trauma is no longer a daily issue. Don't get me wrong, my body still likes to remind me that it can find new ways of being out of balance. However,I have more tools to help myself dance for as long as I am able in my lifetime.
I am now offering training programs to help dancers improve their posture, flexibility, strength and stamina, through online classes as well as sessions in the San Francisco Bay Area.
If you are interested in diving further into your fitness, health, and/or belly dance journey with someone who can relate, consider investing in some coaching sessions. I offer a 30 minute introductory session with tools to help you hone in on your goals.
I would also LOVE to hear your story, you can comment below and share your experiences.
Dance long and prosper!