Why is it so challenging? Our every day life greatly affects the way our body develops, where we hold tension, muscle weakness due to lack of use, overuse of other muscles that pull our bodies off balance, etc. I view our dance posture as "simply" bringing our body back to anatomical neutral. In other words, what would our natural alignment be if we didn't have all these every day life situations affecting it? What would our natural lumbar spine curve be? Where would we hold the weight in our feet? Where would our shoulders be in relation to our hips or what would our neck alignment look and feel like?
Our posture is not only very beneficial to express the movement vocabulary, but we can use it as a tool to gain better body awareness, recognize imbalances and begin to understand what we can work on to bring our bodies into natural alignment. Everyday activities like sitting, driving, crossing our legs, looking at our phones, wearing heels, etc greatly affects our anatomical neutral posture and natural alignment. Working on dance posture in every day life will not only help bring us back into balance, but will help reduce injury, keep us dancing longer, showcase more expressive movements more safely and effectively and even heal existing injuries.. In other words, our dance posture can actually be quite healing and counter the affects of every "life posture".
Its important to understand that the body is a working unit meaning what's going on in your shoulders could be affecting your feet, your glutes could be affecting your knees, etc. There is so much information I'd love to share, but for the sake of time (and not boring the hell out of you), I'll try to keep this blog simple. Plus, a lot of this is best shared and experienced in person with hands on adjustments and exercises.
LET'S START WITH THE FEET
Let's start with three simple exercises: Close your eyes (ok, well wait until after you read this part).
1. Feel your feet on the floor. I mean REALLY feel your feet on the floor. Feel grounded. Where is most of your weight? In your toes, in your heels? Perhaps you roll a little to the outside of your feet or the inside?
2. Next, lift one foot off the ground and notice the areas of the feet and ankle where the balanced foot makes adjustments.
3. Finally, with both feet on the ground, lift your heels and notice the changes in balance. Are you rolling in our out? Shifting weight more forward or even through the center line of your body?
Now, let's play around with what balanced feet might feel like:
1. Spread your toes wide.
2. Even your weight across the ball of your foot from your big toe mound to your pinky toe mound.
3. Now even your weight between both points of your heel (inner and outer portions)
We call this the "four corners" of the feet.
Now try lifting your heels, but maintain the balance equally across the ball mound of your big toe and ball mound of your pinky toe (this space is called your transverse arch)
Is it harder to balance? Just notice what changed. Write it down for later exploration!
Why is this important? The list of reasons is too long to list here, but I'll share a few of my favorites and the ones I think make the most impact to our movements.
- Finding balance in your feet is huge for ankle stability and strength which can impact your balance in shimmies, arabic steps, slow steps like camel and turns. This will also help prevent ankle injuries.
- Equal balance in your feet means equal engagement in your legs. Many of us roll to the outside edge of our feet (called our lateral arch) and this means the muscles along outside of our legs are working harder than they need to be. This includes our glutes!! How can we find release in our full shimmy if our body is too busy trying to use our glutes for stability when we lift our heels?
- Balance in our feet also helps engage the adductor muscles along the inside of our legs which in turn engages core stability as well which.....tadaaaa...... helps us better engage our back muscles for upper body posture!
The body is SO fascinating!!
While in dance posture with all four corners of your feet firmly pressing into the floor, place a yoga block or ball between your ankles.
Lift your heels slowly to a count of five
Hold for five counts
Then slowly lower your heels for a count of five
Repeat 10 times at least twice a week
Next in the series, we'll take a look at the knees and hips as we work our way up the body!
I hope this information at least inspires you to check in with your body and have a greater appreciation for our dance posture and hopefully I'll see you at an upcoming workshop and we can dive in a little deeper!
Interested in anatomy and alignment? Check out Alignment of ATS®