Weekly Challenge for 7-22-13
Busy weekend for this belly dancer! What about you? Now it’s Monday, though, and it’s time for another challenge!
Have you ever been in a class where intense stretching was part of the “warm-up” and felt pain? Or as though you could never get into that effortless stretch the teacher seems to do? Do you always seem to be injured or getting injured during performances?
It means you are not warming up properly. Warming up is a way to get blood moving to our muscles, and synovial fluid into our joints. Without it, we are more prone to tearing the muscle in an injurious way rather than a building-muscle way. Yes, we make tiny tears in our muscles when we exercise, but that is normal, and helps us build more muscle. But if we are not warmed up, then we are at risk for tearing the muscle in a bad way, preventing us from dancing. Not cool.
Let’s get is out of the way: if you are trying to do splits or other stretches for your warmup, you are doing it WRONG. Yes, I am actually saying that. Warmup should be about movement, not about holding a stretch. Once you are warm (and I do mean warm, as in, the first signs of sweat are starting to show), then yes, light stretching can be a part of your warm up, but it should never be the first thing you do.
So what’s the challenge this week?
For all levels, all students, professionals, teachers…any dancer of any kind…PLEASE try actually warming up before your practice or perform this week. Every time you practice or perform this week.
For at least five minutes (ten to fifteen is best and recommended), do easy movement exercises for your warmup. Don’t go straight into dancing, just do some body movements to get the blood going. Rotate the shoulders and neck gently, do easy chest slides (meaning don’t make it about the isolation or hits but about easily moving the spine from side to side) and hip slides and circles. Rotate the knees and ankles. Maybe do a few jumping jacks where you go slow and don’t actually jump (raising and lowering the arms while squatting). Once you get moving, THEN get into some safe stretches, like forward bends, easy lunges, standing yoga poses, etc. Even better than that would be more movement, as in some types of yoga in which holding the stretch is not the focus, but the movement between poses, or some light dancing.
Intense stretches like splits, pigeon pose (and it’s variants), lunges that go to the floor, back bends (or poses like upward dog), or anything of that nature should be reserved for when you are completely warm, preferably AFTER your practice.
This is important before you perform, too, and yes, you CAN do these in costume. I’ve seen a lot of dancers just get dressed and get on stage, and that’s a great way to hurt yourself, especially if you do strong techniques likes hits, or extreme techniques like back bends and Turkish drops.
Teachers: it is especially important to remember that while you may think pigeon pose isn’t that intense of a stretch, your students may think otherwise. You could be doing them serious injury by leading them into a stretch that their bodies are not ready for yet.
Never ever skip your warm up, and happy dancing!