4: Spine flexibility


Posture can be an easy feeling throughout your musculoskeletal system when you have good alignment.  If you do most of your activities of daily living with poor body mechanics, or are injured or stressed in any way, this ease may well be replaced with muscle spasm and spinal misalignment. This effect is enhanced for dancers and athletes as their bodies are placed under continual strain.

Good posture comes from being upright against the force of gravity so that your bones fit properly with one another at their respective joints (places where bones connect). The way the bones fit in relationship to one another and to the whole body form is referred to as alignment.

Posture experts have described ideal alignment in terms of the location of body parts used as landmarks, relative to a vertical  line that runs down through your centre.

Clinically, ideal postural alignment occurs at the joints with the two bones meeting at their centres. Ideal postural alignment causes the least neuromuscular strain.

Chronic back and neck pain can often be helped with yoga ad dance. It is an ancient holistic system based on poses which allow the correct position to be achieved without  destabilization. Novice teachers may potentially be harmful to the back or neck pain sufferer.

In dance the first activity is to realign the spine. I encourage the students to adjust this themselves. By placing the weight to towards the toes. and zipping the pelvis the a neutral position the skeleton relaxes and the shoulders sit naturally in alignment.

It is relatively easy to encourage dancers to align when stationary but more complex to maintain this alignment when moving or off balance as either the dancer is focussed on the movement and landing or they cannot identify where the centre line is.

I teach alignment first seated on the floor. I have been criticised for this in my observed lessons but it provides a time for the dancer to align the spine without moving the hips. They can gain confidence in where their spine should sit, add armlines and tilts to provide their brain with movement and positioning. I then introduce exercises for the pelvis. I am very aware that alignment starts from the feet. I show students the weight placement and sit the ribs over the pelvic girdle.

Plies are introduced in parallel then turn out then in 3rd and finally 4th and 5th to allow students to develop the muscle strength to move to the next position. This allows them to develop safely and to develop balance between antagonistic muscles so that more complex movements leaps, jumps and turns can be introduced.




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