Weekly Challenge for 10-14-13
A new week, a new challenge!
If you’ve been following the blog recently, you know we’ve been doing a lot of arm challenges lately. Here’s another one, but one for your shoulders!
As modern people with access to computers, we spend a lot of time slumped over our keyboards, our shoulders thrust forward, stretching out our upper backs. This is not a healthy posture. It can also impact our dance. So let’s work on our shoulders!
Beginner: Unless you are a massage therapist, yoga enthusiast, or work hard to have amazing posture, it’s likely that you spend most of your time slumped. While you are not alone, it is important to begin working on shoulders at this level of your dance. Strong shoulders = strong posture. Strong posture not only makes you look more confident as a dancer (no more apology dances!), it will lengthen the time you are capable of dancing (by preventing injury, strengthening muscles, etc.). This week, while practicing, concentrate on your shoulder posture. It will be only a small part of your overall posture, but this week concentrate on those shoulders! Keep them out of your ears, keep them back and down. Check in once and awhile and make sure those shoulders stay put! If you struggle, talk to your teacher or a trainer and see if there are some exercises they can give you to strengthen that upper back and your deltoids.
Intermediate: Depending on how your teacher teaches moves like snake arms and shoulder locks, you may use your shoulders a lot. This week, rein it in a little. While it’s not “wrong” to use your shoulders in snake arms (they move because they are attached…remember there are few “wrong” ways to do belly dance!), many dancers use their shoulders too much. This may be an aesthetic choice, but keep in mind that your rotator cuff may not take the abuse well. Take care of your shoulders this week. Get a massage, see if your snake arms improve with a little less shoulder, make your locks small, sharp, and precise. Also check in with your posture, and keep those shoulders down and back.
Advanced: At this level, your posture should be perfect, with strong shoulders and controlled movements (like snake arms and locks). What I want to talk about this week is how you teach shoulder work. First of all, if you have ever stretched out your students’ upper backs, please stop. You may be doing more harm than you know. Because of our slumped postures, most of us have over-stretched upper backs. Stretching them more is asking for injury. Instead, strengthen the upper back (then stretch it). If you have no anatomy training as a teacher, I strongly suggest you get it, or stop teaching before you injure your students. This week, work on learning strengthening techniques, the anatomy and workings of the shoulder, and share these with your students. If you don’t teach, learn them anyway, and apply them to your practice this week. Then, when you teach shoulder work, check your students to make sure they aren’t over-extending or popping out the shoulder in a way that could injure them. Don’t exaggerate snake arms or your students will copy that. Lead with the elbow, and the shoulder will follow!