Posts Tagged: whole body alignment

Tango: A Pain in the Neck?

Is Tango a Pain in the Neck?

I have not known how to broach this subject of tango being a pain in the neck, and it seems to be a common recurring theme as of late. After returning from another 3-day tango dancing event, several people shared with me their “pain in the neck” or their “pain in the back, effecting their arms.” Does posture in tango have to cause so much pain? I really believe that it does not. But if you have been dancing for many years the same way, to change this habit may be too much to ask for.

Our bodies really are our autobiographies, the sum total of all that we have done, our histories, up until this point in time. But if you are in pain dancing, I wonder why you learned it that way in the first place. Monkey see monkey do perhaps? Maybe there’s a weakness in several body areas, accompanied with a lack of knowledge about the body and its biomechanics that has afforded you this painful posture. I know that the minute I point out why you are having so much pain I might be in for some controversial backlash, but here it goes.

That head tilt to the left (their ear is nearly resting on their shoulder) that some leaders have, compounded with a raised left elbow, and 2 scapulas practically kissing each other – are you in pain just from reading it? I am! And with this the whole spine is now curving unnaturally in 2 directions and in 2 planes: in a spiral and in an arc. All of this is further pronounced with forward projected ribs, compounding undue pressure on the vetebrae of the spine.

But just changing one part of the system, like just the neck or the cervical spine, will not take away your pain. Your system, your whole body, will suffer from this posture and static positioning more and more over time. I think you can have whatever look you want in tango but that static stuck fixed posture is also causing pain.

I know that many who read this will not be happy with my suggestions but change will be the way to get rid of pain and hopefully dance until you are 90 (if you want to).

We really must look at the whole body because just taking away or changing your neck and shoulder habits might not get rid of your pain, as they are probably tense in the first place as a way to cope with the forces created by how you are walking. (Katy Bowman Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear)

Let’s take the model of alignment found in Restorative Exercise (thanks to Katy Bowman). Here we find 25 bony landmarks to help us align our bodies, working with gravity and a system of corrective measures and exercises we start aligning the body. And I believe that with this understanding as a measuring tool we can free up our tango posture and dance pain free.

So why does the head tilt to the left? Either the follower is imposing their heavy head into the leaders space as opposed to keeping her head on her spine and in her own alignment, or / and the leader is attempting with a very tight right shoulder to wrap completely around the follower’s back. This excessive wrap, with already tight shoulders, hinders the embrace. Often this is compounded with an already tight scapula. This is those shoulder blades practically kissing each other. Those shoulder blades squeezed together tells me there’s a weakness not only in the back but also in the front of the shoulders. There are other muscles in the back that can support the weight of your arms and they are not being used or even considered. The left elbow sticking out is a sure indicator of this; which then protrudes the ribs to try (I guess) for a “chest connection”. And now the pelvis is so far out of alignment (dumping forward – as I call it – there’s a blog on that!) and the majority of weight of the leader’s axis is now around or beyond his metatarsals. And he doesn’t fall over? Probably because the follower is matching this falling posture.

So let’s back up a bit. Alignment affords health. This is the premise I am working with. Health means oxygenated blood coursing through the body without being hindered by bumps in the road. But health also means less pain.

There are ways to use the spine dynamically in its vertical axis with 3 natural curves; there are ways to support the arms and have a chest connection with a partner without thrusting the ribcage over your toes.

As opposed to hanging onto bad body mechanics and being in serious debilitating pain, consider the following:

  • Stretch those calves and hamstrings.
  • Widen those scapulas.
  • Hang from a bar.
  • Put your head on your spine by ramping up your head several times a day.
  • Drop those ribs.
  • Check out my blog at My Alignment Practice and check out Katy Bowman’s video on all About the Shoulders.

You can really dance pain free and without being so tense.

If you came to me for an alignment session, for example, I would start with you standing and aligning your feet, with the weight in the heels, and placing your pelvis in a neutral position. I would then follow with placing the ribs into their alignment, which is the lower rib on top of the neutral pelvis. We would allow the head to fall forward and slowly begin to ramp it up. I would include calf stretches. Then to tackle a bit of the shoulder area we would move to the floor in a quadraped position (on hands and knees) and do some hand stretches and exercises for those tight muscles between the scapulas.

I really think there needs to be more awareness drawn to the body and its’ mechanics. Maybe you walk through life in a fixed posture – because you probably also spend a lot of time sitting in the same posture, so you probably dance in a very painful fixed posture.

This can change!
I would like to get you to dance dynamically both as a leader and a follower. Using this model of alignment to work the body in a more friendly, productive, and pain free way.

Let me know if you are ready to let me help you with your posture..

PS – spread the word – more body awareness makes for happy dancing… ☺ share with people you like..

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Those Heels! Footwear Education!

1 Inch Heel

Thanks to the Restorative Institute(TM) for supplying picture.

Thanks to my recent certification in Whole Body Alignment I can share this picture with you.

See the woman on the far left, she is standing perfectly aligned. All of her alignment markers in their proper places. She is standing perfectly vertical. Her human machine should function perfectly! (if she indeed were not a picture and a human!) The woman on the far right just put on a pair of heels – and not even a fancy pair of the high heels from CIF or Soy Porteña.

Do you see how she now veers from the vertical plumb line? Where do you see the adjustments that her body needs to make to wear those heels? In the knee? Or maybe in the lower back? Or maybe her mid-to upper back? What about her neck?

These are all the places that take the brunt of wearing those high heels. And not to mention the foot pain or the plantar fasciiatis, or neuromas, bunions, or metatarsalgia that she may acquire over time.

From a 1999 study from the Journal of Podiatric Medecine by Mandato and Nestor, the pressure on the forefoot increases 63% in a 2″ shoe. On a 2001 poster from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons entitled Women’s Shoes and Knee Osteoarthritis by D. Casey Kerrigan, Jennifer Lelas, and Mark Karvosky, the statistics are as follows: with a 1″ heel the pressure on the forefoot increases 22%, in 2″ 57%, and in 3″ there is 76% increase in pressure on the balls of the feet. NO WONDER OUR FEET HURT! and our backs, and our knees, and our necks, etc… Also, the higher the heel the shorter the tendons get and we experience heel pain. This altered position of walking in high heels places excess forces on the inside of the knee too. The knee joint pressure increases 26% when wearing heels.

For any men out there reading this, you too have heels in your dress shoes. This applies to you too!

Are you panicking? Does this mean that Daniela is promoting barefoot tango dancing from now on? Does this mean you have to sell all those high heels and trade-off sexy?
(pause for dramatic effect)

NO of course not!
Phew! right?
But what I will begin to encourage you to do is to decide what you are going to do for yourself post the tango dancing high. After the long weekend of a festival, or during the festival, or after dancing at your local milongas with your favorite dancers. What are you going to do to restore yourself?

You can refer to my blog with my Foot Care Toolkit. AND also check out Katy Bowman’s book Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet
Stay tuned for an upcoming list and explanation of exercises designed for tango dancers and their whole bodies.

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Daniela’s Foot Care Toolkit

With all the time we spend in our high heels and investing in beautiful shoes for our tango journey I think the time we spend out of them is just as important. Here is a short list of things I do when I am not in my heels dancing to take care of my feet: my foundation to dance forever.

1) Rolling the feet
Foot RollerI love rolling my feet out. I use this great device that was gifted to me during my modern dance days. You can use a tennis ball, too. I use it often. Even as I write this blog. I take it with me on trips. It’s an essential for me. Roll roll roll and often!

2) Happy Feet socks or a similar version of Foot alignment socks.
Some of you know that I am currently enrolled in a Whole Body Alignment course, where I have been reintroduced to my foundation: my feet! And these great socks! The goal of the socks is to separate those toes and enervate some of those unused muscles: 26 bones, 33 My Happy Feet Socksjoints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and 1300 nerve endings per square inch of your sole (thanks to Theresa Perales, DPM). The foot is impressive! She recommends starting with about 30 minutes of wearing your Happy Feet socks per day and then gradually work up to sleeping in them. I remember when I first got mine, I could barely stand wearing them for 10 minutes! And I still can’t bring myself to sleep in them…but I notice a big difference in my feet overall. Using the socks has helped to relieve some stress and pressure in my feet. I can’t isolate all of my toes individually but maybe one day my feet will be as articulate as my hands. You can buy them on Amazon. (click on this link Foot alignment socks.)

3) Cold water soak
I never thought I’d become a fan of putting my feet in cold water but even in my early days of tango when I danced for endless hours in Buenos Aires I would find myself sitting with my feet in a sink filled with cold water in the early hours of the morning. And this remains a ritual. After dancing or even after a shower I stand in cold water for a few minutes or longer until my feet almost feel normal again. I always tell people to start off as cold as they can stand it and then stay in it for as long as they can stand it. This one takes some trust to believe that it will actually feel good at all, but it does. I got an email from a student in New Mexico who wrote to remind me that while I had been teaching there he had seen me stick my feet in cold water and therefore, remembering that he did it and found it very helpful to him in relieving his aching feet.

4) Arnica Montana
Arnicais a homeopathic remedy and before you stop reading, it does help some people with bruising. I find that rubbing it on my feet before going to bed also makes me feel relaxed. So this could be the fact that I have to massage it into my feet or that it provides some healing benefits. I believe it helps with soreness. I like to use the cream or the gel that I can find at my local Sprouts or Whole Foods.

5) Calf Stretch and / or Theraband (TM) stretch
Calf StretchThere’s a fabulous calf stretch that I have added to my bag of tools. It too is from the Whole Body Alignment course. I take a towel and roll it up and place 1 foot with the metatarsals on the towel and the heel on the floor. I stand straight with the weight in my heels and then I slowly begin to move the other foot on the floor passed it. I keep my feet in a parallel position, weight in the heels and aim for the rest of my body to be in alignment, in a plumb line, and breathe into this stretch and then change feet. When you do this check to see if your but is sticking out or if your ribs are or what about your chin? Make adjustments to put them back in place and over time see the benefits of this one.
I also use my Theraband or use the towel and place it under my metatarsals and pull my feet towards me. Your feet will be flexing at the ankle joint. Do this with your knees straight and go easy – just a little at a time. I do it lying down and sometimes sitting down. Either way, remember to go easy.

And finally,

6) Massage and Elevate
Better yet, if someone else massages for you, with some arnica or with some lavender lotion. Or I invest in some reflexology or some Thai massage sometimes. Or stick your feet up on the wall for a little while: lie on a bed or the floor and raise them onto the wall and just breathe…..

You can find information online about these ideas and more. Don’t hesitate to ask me about them to or I can show you a demo. That’s the next step – on video!!!

What do you do for your feet?



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