About the Body

Tango: What the Dr. Orders

I love it when the Dr. orders tango. I know she is not the only one but here is a video from Dr. Christiane Northrup about how to keep your memory healthy and how you’re not losing your mind after 40!

I was first turned on to this leading pioneer in women’s health in the US while living in Boston more than 20 years ago. I met her briefly in NYC at a large conference on health as she was the reason I went! She was one of the first medical doctors to openly talk about the connection between the mind and body and your health. The author of many books, Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom was first published in 1994 and I remember gifting it to as many of my girlfriends as possible.

Of course, in this video, she talks about nutrition but the number one thing she recommends for people as they age is partner dancing and she, I know, loves to tango!

“76% reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s comes from doing partner dancing”!

and if you want to jump ahead in the video – go directly to 8:31 to hear Dr. Northrup talk about it!

ENJOY! And DANCE MORE and with a partner even better!!!

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The X Exercise

One of my favorite exercises of all times is the X Exercise. Not an official name but this is what I have always called it. I learned it during my modern dance days and always incorporated it into my contemporary classes. Once I started tango all I thought about was how I could get everyone on the floor to learn this! Well, I tried it at ASU a few times and after too many oohs and aaahs and ughs about being on a dirty floor I bailed on it. But some of the students really loved it!


How to do the X Exercise?

As the video instructs – you want to start with your body on the floor in an X position and allow the weight of your body to fall into the floor. You want to imagine that you would leave an imprint of your body on the floor if you were able to levitate!
As you let your body relax into this X bring your awareness to your fingertips or your toes and begin to draw that extremity across your body to the other corner extremity. In other words, right fingertips drawing across the body towards the left fingertips, and as your upper body peels off the floor in this beautiful spiral you want the lower half to come along for the ride. Breathing is also a good thing.
Aways return to your X shape after every turn.

Why do I love this one?
Because it helps to integrate your body. If your ribs are sticking out you can’t roll properly, if you are too tight in your hips you will crash on the floor, if you hold your breath you can’t roll, or you find your X shifting in the room!… just to name a few! The big clue is to allow your body to relax into the X position on the floor and as you bring your awareness to your fingertips or toes that will be moving across the body that they really really actively reach to meet their destination corner.

And why is this important?
I find our bodies so disconnected. Teachers tell students to move a shoulder, move a leg, embrace, relax, don’t use your arm, don’t push with your hand…. etc. No wonder we are all in pieces. Our tango seems to have become bodies moving in parts and not as a whole. So in all my classes I am on a quest to bring more integration into our bodies and into our dance.

Any questions? Let me know if you get on the floor – and yes, best to wear pants and not a skirt!

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Body as Autobiography – Back in Europe

I have been back in Europe for about 3 weeks now. This has included a trip to Berlin to assist Graciela Gonzalez with her classes.

Grande Place Mons

Grande Place Mons

This time around I am staying in a sleepy town outside of Brussels called Mons. This will be my base for the next several months.

The visit with Graciela was again, one of great reminders:  1) how much force, effort does one really need to dance tango? and 2) the embrace and how do we embrace? bringing us back to the essence of tango.

It is so funny to me how much language gets in the way of the body. I have said this all through my teaching career and probably during my modern dance career too. How we each interpret information, as that information makes its’ way through our autobiography into the body, completely fascinates me. How someone says something, when someone says anything, we are interpreting all of it through a filter, our own autobiographical filters.

In Boston, before arriving to Europe, I had the joy of taking class again with some of my modern dancer friends with our teacher. Mons(Mind you, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in that studio, so it was a lot of things and most of all, wonderfully familiar.) As I spoke to him (dear teacher Marcus Schulkind) briefly after class about an aspect of the body and the leg’s movement backwards, he said something to the effect of “just take their leg and move it backwards, the physical movement will get them to understand.” YES!

There is a dance form in Bali where the passing on of the tradition is done through manipulation of the dancer’s body. The transmitter of the dance actually manipulates the dancer’s arms and legs for her to remember the “choreography”. This makes me also reflect on the origins of tango, there were no schools, it was just manipulation of bodies to transmit the information corporally.

After my weekend with Graciela, which is never only about me translating her classes but it is Graciela and Daniela in Berlinalways an intense revisit of the material of tango in my own body. And because I know that the body is also a “telling tool”, it reveals to me where I have been and where I am. That tension? That stuck place? That block? They are all revealing where I am in my current journey and it’s also affecting my dance. And so I learn, again!

I am excited to report that I will be teaching around! Next stop Portugal!
Please check my calendar for where I will be next and remember that the times on the calendar are stuck in USA Arizona time.

 

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About Your Core and Tango

As you can imagine, I have a lot to say on this topic of the core almost as much as I have to say about your feet! I have to thank Anne from TangoSpace for her blog on The Tango Dancers Guide to Core Muscles for inspiring About your and Core and Tango!

It is true, as Anne says, that depending on who is speaking about the core there might be different definitions of what the core is or what a teacher might be referring to (I like that she includes the pelvic floor).

Anatomy of the abdominal wall

http://fit-screen.com/mlb-and-the-obliques/

1) Let’s Define the Core

For the sake of this post I will use the Restorative Exercise definition of THE CORE as everything the arms and legs are attached to. So this would include musculature in the pelvis, the back, the ribs, and the shoulders, too. That’s quite a lot of territory to cover! Therefore, the understanding of the core goes way beyond just those 4 abdominals muscles that are usually referred to from deep to superficial as:

  • TRANSVERSE
  • INTERNAL OBLIQUES
  • EXTERNAL OBLIQUES
  • RECTUS ABDOMINUS

2) More to your Core

Because the trunk is void of solid bony structure(s), which allows for mobility between the pelvis and the ribs, the core musculature attaches in layers to something called the aponeuroses which also connect to raphe. You have 3 beautiful raphe in your body – the linea alba, and the 2 linea semilunares. So in picturing the most gorgeous six pack you can, you will see a major line down the middle of that 6 pack and 2 on the sides – these are raphe. I bring up the raphe because these collagen structures provide strong attachment points for the abdominals. The linea alba, for example, is the raphe that runs vertically down the midline of the body, roughly from the sternum to the pelvis. It connects not only to these bony structures but to all the other abdominal musculature there as well. The whole abdominal structure is a woven basket of layers of muscles, tissues, connecting to the aponeurosis and raphe. In order to work or generate force, a muscle needs something strong to attach its ends to, in terms of your abdominals, this will include your raphe.

6 pack abdominals

http://theseanpritchard.blogspot.com/2016/01/shape-your-6-pack-with-these-varying.html

In the case of the abdomen it is the lineae that can have a bone-like function, providing a strong point of attachment and offering resistance to a working muscle— essential for producing force.
Bowman, Katy (2015-12-29). Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation (Kindle Locations 227-229). Propriometrics Press. Kindle Edition.

And why do I have this lovely woven basket of muscles in my midsection? Oversimplified, to support the contents of it – the spine and the organs (lungs, kidneys, heart, sex organs) and to allow for mobility (to squat, to reach, to climb, to turn, to bend, to rotate, to roll).

 3) So how is alignment going to affect abdominal strength?

You knew it had to come back to alignment right? The length of those raphe will affect your potential strength. If they have been lax all day they will not be effective because they are not being used or being called upon to be used.
You have heard me say in previous blogs that what you do with your ribs and your pelvis will influence your alignment. And the direction of your rib cage relative to the pelvis also dictates how tense/ taught those raphe are.

4) And those high heeled shoes

Maybe the blog should have started here! How are those shoes affecting your core musculature?

A heeled shoe forces a change in the geometry of your ankle joint, which in turn forces a change at the knees, which forces a change at the hips and to the tilt of your pelvis, which forces a change in the position of your ribcage, all of which alters the length and force-production capability of your core muscles.
Bowman, Katy (2015-12-29). Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation (Kindle Locations 767-769). Propriometrics Press. Kindle Edition.

So no wonder we have so much trouble in tango with our cores! We spend the bulk of our day sitting or slouching at a desk, maybe wearing heeled shoes the bulk of the day and then we go to our tango classes and expect our cores to work for us. How can we possibly manage?

5) Solutions

Well, I’m again not here to tell you to throw away your favorite CIFs or to get your buns to the gym but you can remember to notice your alignment throughout the day and make sure to do some Restorative Exercise calf stretches. We are big fans in Restorative Exercise to take alignment breaks throughout our day.

Take stock of how you stand and how you sit during your day. How often do your arms or legs do something other than what they have been doing the majority of your life? Ie: arms in front of you, sitting at a computer, then at the gym in front of you in the same position riding a bike. The arms in one position means that they are limited in their range of motion – which too affects your core musculature – (extend your arm over you head as if to reach for something on a high shelf – do you feel your ribs move and your mid section? hello abdominals!)

In conclusion, check out your pelvis and your ribs’ relationship and your feet throughout your day. And if you are trying to hold your stomach in hoping you are getting an abdominal workout, you are actually doing more damage to your internal organs and your spine, so remember to keep breathing. And as always, 

Call or SKYPE Me to discover how to integrate your body
 

And try this class with Katy Bowman
https://vimeo.com/194905510/134effd84a


*T
hanks again Katy for all the great books and info.

 

 

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Alignment, Posture, and Tango

Alignment and Posture and your Tango

What is the difference between these 2 words? When I hear alignment I think of my car: when it is aligned it functions properly. Posture makes me think of someone “posturing” a presentation to the world that may or may not be alignment.

We talk about our tango posture – how we configure our body to be able to dance tango.

But what about alignment – can we be aligned and dance tango?

Thanks for the picture https://www.funnyjunk.com/Posture/funny-pictures/5597251/5

I bring these ideas up, yes, because of my Restorative Exercise Certification and current obsession but also because I have dancers who come to me in a lot of pain thinking that is the end of their tango careers or that they need new shoes (which maybe they do) or that they will only dance with certain followers/ leaders (which might be good, too) but with some suggestions regarding alignment versus posture they’ve been able to change their dancing for the better.

So how can we define alignment?

The online dictionary offers us this: arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.
That’s the direction we are headed but still not how I want to contextualize Tango and Alignment.
In the Whole Body Alignment course I took for the certification we spoke about alignment in these terms:

Alignment is NOT for the purpose of aesthetics, conveying an emotion, or to identify culture. It is the required skeletal position to achieve the desired outcome of accessing your full potential energy. Alignment is for cellular regeneration. We want to use our skeletal position for cellular regeneration. In order to get cellular regeneration we use our alignment to maximize the potential energy into kinetic energy. The best geometry = the least amount of joint friction or compression (which would cause pain or injury.)
(Daniela’s notes from lecture Whole Body Alignment )

amanda standing barefoot

Thanks Amanda

Alignment from the Restorative Exercise standpoint is a necessity to obtain optimal health. If your cells are regenerating they are healthy, they are receiving oxygen and expelling toxins and are essentially happy. (That’s the very short form!) And in reality this is not a new idea. Think about what chiropractors do, Alexander technique, or other similar modalities. They try to line you back up! So the concept is not new… but the approach might be.

In Restorative Exercise we use alignment markers, which are essentially boney landmarks on the body, that we want to align in relation to each other and, in whatever position we might be in, we are looking to have the best possible alignment of these markers. For example: If I am sitting on a chair, on the floor, or standing, my pelvic markers can be aligned, my feet, my knees, my head, ribs, etc, can all join in.

Ashlee dumping

Thanks Ashlee and Erick

I believe that we need POSTURE to dance tango.

Posture as defined by Merriam-Webster:
the position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose

But how much POSTURE is too much? Is there such a thing as too much posture for tango? And can you use alignment markers to help your posture? I SAY YES! If you are in a lot of pain at any point in your dancing, then I say, clearly something is wrong.

I think we all need a tango coach and we all most definitely need an alignment coach. Alignment is needed for our overall health and well being as much as tango is needed for our health in other ways. For me they work synergistically.

Get in touch and peruse online videos for Restorative Exercise Nutritious Movement(TM).

 

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