About the Body

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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How to Hug a Giant in the Living Room Session 2

Daniela and SarahI can’t tell you how much I am loving these Living Room Sessions! The last one we embraced (!) was all about the abrazo but from a biomechanical and energetic perspective. How do we hug a giant? As with all the Living Room Sessions, my goal is not to tell you how to do “it” but to give you the tools and body knowledge to increase your own tool box to improve what you want to intelligently.

We moved along a voluminous framework that included exercises in expansion through breath; we took a brief look at the anatomy of the shoulder girdle, all those moving parts, and into some exercises to open up and increase attention to this area; I shared concepts from my wise Maestra Graciela about putting awareness into our hands; and finally embracing with our new found tools. When we increase our breadth of knowledge and realize how expansive and profoundly we can embrace it builds our confidence and changes our dancing too.

I think there is a bit of fear in our embraces. We don’t want to be too hard, too soft, too heavy, too light, too one sided, too grabby, too not enough… Sometimes we see an embrace we like and we try to copy it, hoping that it will give us the desired results. In a small setting like these Living Room Sessions, there is time to hear thoughts and to share experiences as well as to explore ideas of what might work better or feel better. And then with tools based more in your anatomy you can take them into “the field” and try them out dancing.Susanne and Veronica hug

Thank you to all the ladies who came to share this experience. Thank you for being open and for sharing this time with me. Thanks Susanne! We are planning the next session.

In the meantime:
7-9 October 2016 Tangueras: leading following dancing
Join Daniela Feilcke-Wolff and me for a fun intensive 12 hour all women’s dancing weekend + Women’s milonga in Berlin.

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The First Living Room Sessions

The goal of The Living Room Sessions is to share information on many tango topics to a small intimate group of interested dancers. The first Living Room Sessions topic was about our Feet. Susanne made us gifts of sage salt scrubs for our feet (lovely!) and we snacked on apples and helva! The objective, as I explained to everyone, was to help dancers become better informed about their feet and this included information about the (negative) effects of wearing high-heeled shoes.

Daniela talks about feetI started the session with some basic anatomical information and pictures of our feet. We did some exercises and aligned our feet looking at each of our feet and legs individually. We also stretched and massaged our feet giving them some much needed attention. It was nice that everyone was open to sharing their “Foot autobiography”. I enjoyed looking at everyone’s shoes and having them explain how they felt about their tango shoes. Clearly, sometimes loving the cute painful pair but end up wearing the one or two pairs that are most comfortable.

Some take-aways from the evening:
1) the arch is a muscular construct and therefore, will be affected by muscular contraction
2) there are as many nerves in the sole of the foot as in your face: 1/4 of all motor nerves (of the whole body) are dedicated to your feet
3) from barefoot to 5cm heeled shoe the pressure increases on the forefoot about 65% and then adding another 2.5 cm to that heel (so 7.5cm) you increase the pressure on the forefoot ANOTHER 30%. And why is this bad? because there are 26 bones in your feet and the biggest bone of the foot is the heel, where the bulk of your weight is meant to reside. So if Daniela About the Feetyou’re increasing the pressure in your forefoot, all those little bones are getting the bulk of that weight. Ouch!

So when you are not in your heels what will you do for your feet to honor them?  Stretch, massage, go barefoot, go for a walk (not in your heels!), grab a tennis ball, a golf ball, and a dozen other recommended ideas that we shared!

Thank you everyone for joining me!

The next one 30, September: How to hug the giant (no matter what size they are).  In this Session we will look at the shoulder girdle and the arms, the ribs too,  anatomically and biomechanically. We will do exercises and of course, hug. As always, I am not necessarily here to change your mind, I just want you to be a more informed dancer! Open to both roles. Remember to RSVP.

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Are you Dumping?

Are you dumping?

Are you dumping your pelvis? You have probably heard me say this in class. What am I talking about? Why your pelvic tip, of course!

One of 2 things happens with the pelvis when you come to tango class – you are either tipping it or tucking it!

Rommel Sitting

The Pelvic Tuck

If you are like most of the population who has been sitting at a desk all day, you are probably tucking your pelvis, so then your posture for tango is a little confused. As a leader you might be hitting your partner’s knees or as a follow you might feel that you are not getting your legs out of the way fast enough or that you are dropping the weight into your heels when you are moving backwards.

Tucking is the opposite of tipping for me. So then a teacher who might not know much about biomechanics comes along and says, stick your butt out, for both the lead and follow, get your crotches / genitalia out of the way of your partner! (I actually heard this in a class once!) The teacher is asking you to stick the butt out to create more room for the legs.

I most recently read an article written by a newer Argentine student studying in Argentina who began to focus on walking and the embrace and he described his proper body position as having “el pubis levemente mirando al piso”, which literally translates as having your pubic bone staring slightly at the floor.

And those who know me can imagine my reaction!! So let’s look at this.

If your pubic bone, as a lead or follow, is looking for the floor, it means that you are tilting /tipping/dumping the pelvis. Imagine, that your pelvis is like a bowl and you are now attempting to dump the contents onto the floor in front of you or as he said, place your pelvis so that the pubic bone is looking for the floor.

Ashlee dumping

A pelvis dumping and ribs thrusting

I know the idea is to give the illusion of creating more space for the legs. Unfortunately, what it does is create damaging effects to the vertebrae of the spine and to the integrity of the torso. It also limits the capability of the extension of the legs. What I mean by the integrity of the torso is that now, the abdominal muscles are lax and lengthened, with no real supporting structure for you and in turn the organs in the trunk are adjusting to this new position. And what does that mean? Well, imagine now that your organs are now displaced and putting pressure where they probably shouldn’t. I propose that this affects digestion and elimination at this level. And with all this weight out in front of you it pulls on the discs / vertebrae of the back, mostly the lower back causing shearing. Shearing is when vertebrae are not stacked on top of each other but more sliding across each other. Ouch! And with all this weight out in front of you, your knees, feet, and neck will probably hurt after a time, if not other body parts!

But sometimes dumping has nothing to do with you actively tipping your pelvis but actually, actively sticking out your ribs!

So are you dumping?

I think you can dance like this for a long time or a short time depending on your body type and the partners you have been dancing with. But eventually, I promise that something will give.

ahslee and eric no dump

Same Happy Couple

I view the pelvis as a body stabilizer. It is a bridge between the legs and the torso. It connects your heart and your intension of this dance to your movement, your legs.

If you look at some of the really strong, lovely followers, look at the stability in their pelvis. It is often harder to see the male pelvis in action due to their clothes, so I suggest Corina Herrera and Ariadna Naveira as 2 examples of amazing female followers who also are amazing leaders. They are so stable and solid in their pelvis – all their power comes from here. And I think you can see it.

My point, it’s unhealthy. Regardless of style, this exaggeration of the pelvis will offer you some health issues in the long run. Just hoping to raise some awareness – happy body, happy mind, happy dancer!

*pictures thanks to my students at ASU and taken from and for The Tango Workbook

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