Stretching Tip!

Today we are going to talk about fascia and flexibility and what one simple action you can take to increase your flexibility.   Fascia-150x150

First… what is fascia?

Fascia is connective tissue that wraps and surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve and organ in the body.  It gives separation between these structures and creates a 3-dimensional, interconnected web of tissue through the body.  

Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-3.56.49-PM-150x150Imagine an orange or grapefruit that you’ve taken the outmost skin off of.  If you could magically make the juice disappear from inside white fibrous webbing that’s left is the fascia.  It’s almost impossible to separate the fascia and muscle, for example.  That is why a lot of practitioners talk about the myofascia.  Myo for muscle and fascia for … well fascia.  Some of you may have experience a myofascial massage that focuses on releasing fascial pulls.  

What most people don’t know is that fascia is composed primarily of water – approximately 70%. The other 30% is compoased of collagen and elastin and proteoglycans, which are proteins and carbohydrates.  

Read more

Put your health first on the list…

Happy January! I love the first of the year as it is so filled with potential and possibilities and thoughts of change.

As a dancer and dance teacher there have been  similar patterns to my thoughts over the years at this time. I vow to decrease my sugar intake, increase my exercise and spend more time with the people I really care about – quality time – not just quantity.

Within a few weeks life gets busy and somehow my good intentions are pushed to the back recesses of my mind.  I forget the importance of those simple goals… after all if you aren’t healthy you can’t be at the top of your game physically, mentally, emotionally.  When your body doesn’t feel good – you don’t feel good.

It’s a challenge to keep focused on a daily basis and decide that there is nothing more important than to feel good.   We know that when we feel good life works better and when we feel badly about ourselves nothing works quite as well.  We forget (at least I forget) that no one else is in charge of my perspective besides myself.

I blame life…. if only I had more money… if only I didn’t have to work so many hours… if only I had more time to focus on myself.

I forget that success at anything is an inside job – that then gets reflected into the outer world of my life.  It is my commitment to myself to make 2012 my healthiest and happiest year yet.  Not a resolution…. a commitment.

Every now and then I’m going to use the blog to update you on my progress.  Nothing like public accountability to get the juices going:)  I’ve got a few different strategies that I have already begun.  One is a new way to do some high intensity fitness training – easily – with my 10 pound kettle bell.

The article that inspired me can be found here. I’m all for ways to exercise and maintain health that are efficient and don’t require an hour or more out of my day.  Who has time for that!

After reading the article, come back to read the rest of the post… otherwise it won’t make sense.

Here are the modifications I made since I don’t have a bench to do the various presses that are talked about in this article.  I do 3 of the 5 recommended exercises. My modifications for the chest and overhead press are to take my 10 pound weight lie down on the floor for the chest press and do the very, very, very slow straightening of one arm (with weight) towards the ceiling and a very, very slow descent back down.  You only need to do 4-5 reps before your arm is very, very tired!  (how many times can I use very in this post?) 🙂

Then do it with the other arm.

For the overhead press I do the same thing one arm at a time either sitting or standing, slowly pressing the 1o pound weight towards the ceiling.

You can do it with whatever amount of weight seems appropriate to your level of strength – start light – you can always increase.  The tempo of the action is more important than the amount of weight in the beginning.

For the leg press I came up with a nifty variation: standing on 1 leg, in parallel, doing the slowest demi plie you have ever seen.  It was amazing to me how quickly my thigh muscles felt like they were burning as I did my 4 reps on each leg.

I can then change it up and do a couple of more active interval trainings like jumping jacks as quickly as I can for up to a minute, then walking around until my heart rate has come back down to normal.

I’m curious to hear other’s responses if they try the super slow movement sequences.  Feel free to post your comments below.  Next week I’ll get back to answering your questions.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the new year!

Best regards,

Deborah

 

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Top 20 Dance Blogs

Everybody has their favorite dance blogs that they bookmark and read.  Nichelle at DanceAdvantage.net (a wonderful blog) is having a contest for the top 20 dance blogs.  I decided to enter my Dancing Smart blog in the Teacher Talk section.

logo

The way this contest works is the blogs with the most comments will win in their category and this is where I need your help!  Please comment below this post with a brief comment of either why you like the Dancing Smart blog, or even simply wish me good luck in the contest.  Nichelle will check this post by the end of 12/20 – which is tomorrow (I know… I know… I’m slipping in just under the wire – but the end of the semester has been kind of brutal:)

If you can spare the time to comment I would be most appreciative!  I’m working on this week’s post which is on what age should flexibility training for splits take place.  Watch your inbox over the next few days for when it’s up.  Will be a good one!

Thank you in advance for supporting me – together we can spread the word about Dancing Smart and Teaching Smart!

If I make it to the finals – voting will take place after Christmas.  I’ll let you know how we do but in the meantime please post a brief comment below.

Warmest regards,

Deborah

“Without dance I cannot feel my soul, hear my heart, or see my dreams.”  Ninka

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacroiliac pain

I am a dance teacher and have been experiencing pain in my sacro-iliac joint on my left side.  I figure it may be due to my demonstrating most exercises with my right leg and being supported on the left.

I have been to a chiropractor who helped me isolate the problem, but none of the treatments really helped ease the pain.  The next step they recommend is to have an MRI done.  Is there anything else I could try or anyone I should see before going through that expense?  I’m finding that the pain is getting worse, and all I can figure to do is to ice it during the day.

Just as an added bit of info:  I started carrying my bag on a cart this week instead of on my shoulder, and for the first time in a while, when I got out of bed this morning, I didn’t notice the usual pain in my back.  Maybe some connection?

You’re the best!  Lisa

fullbody-1-142x300Lisa, carrying a bag on your shoulder most likely didn’t cause the pain – but it may have been exacerbating it!  I’ve seen really interesting connections between movement patterns and shoes, purses, backpacks, bags, you name it:) The challenge with carrying a bag (I’m envisioning a dance bag that hasyour day packed inside of it) is the shift it creates between the torso and the pelvis.  Let’s say that you have it slung over your right shoulder or even crossed from your left shoulder to the right hip – automatically the pelvis shifts to accommodate the extra bulk.  (See image on the right and imagine a bag hanging on the right side of his hip.)  Do you see how the left side of the lower back and pelvis is crunched up?

It’s interesting that you mentioned that you typically demonstrate by standing on the left and having the right leg be your gesture leg.  Same pattern of slight pelvic shift left torso shift right.  I know it is traditional to always start with the right leg – but it might be good for you and for your students to mix it up every now and then and start off on the opposite leg!  Also check when sitting in a chair if you like to cross your right leg over your left more often…. same pattern:)

Now I have no idea if this is your pattern in standing but you can stand facing the mirror and look to see if you have any shifting – and in the meantime, if pulling your bag behind you rather than carrying it helps – keep doing it!  The other aspect of SI joint problems besides a pelvic torso shift is looking at whether or not the pelvis is torqued.  This can easily happen with a tight iliacus muscle (the ilio part of the iliopsoas muscle)

In the short clip below from Essential Anatomy: A Multimedia Course – I demonstrate how to check for a torqued pelvis.  Since I’ve taken this clip out of sequence let me explain that if you feel the bones at the front of the pelvis those points are your ASIS.  Ideally those 2 points of the pelvis should be even with each other.  When you have a torque, one ASIS will be lower towards your knees (generally on the side where you feel the discomfort in the back).  It’s as if one side of the pelvis is being draw forward and down. The torque happens at the sacroiliac joint and can cause pain.  The side that has the ASIS that is lower (in the clip the right side of the pelvis) will have more limited hip flexion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_auFs7fYfg

Sometimes stretching the hip flexors will help to reduce the torque on the pelvis, and often I do a triggerpoint release to the iliacus muscle, which can help a lot.  I do teach dancers to release their iliacus triggerpoint themselves, but that is beyond the scope of a blog post.  I would encourage you to ask a physical therapist or the chiropractor if they can see if the triggerpoint is sore and how to release it.

Generally, when the release of the iliacus is succesful, the ASIS are even and you can bring your knee more easily towards your chest.  When there has been chronic inflammation or strain in an area it can take some time to calm down – but you will know you are on the right path – because it feels better!

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Second position

Before we dive into the question of the week I want to share a link that was given to me by a past student of mine. It is a very thought provoking article about shoes and how they influence our gait. Very interesting! Click here to read it – and thanks, Laina, for sending it!

Secondly I want to acknowledge Hiroyuki Nagaki, a dance medicine specialist in Japan. He is teaching a course for physical therapists on working with dancers and is using my Essential Anatomy: A Multimedia Course as the textbook! I’m so delighted that this information on how to dance smart and teach smart is literally being shared around the world!  (Picture on right is being shared with permission by all participants)

That leads nicely into my third announcement which is you have a chance to win a free copy of Essential Anatomy: A Multimedia Course for Dancers by going to the Dance Advantage website (click here) There are free giveaways all week long – my offer goes live this Friday and the way you are entered into the drawing for this product is by answering telling me what you want me to answer in my Dance Myth-busters (working title).  I keep hearing things like ‘lift your leg from underneath’ and I thought for once and for all – let’s de-myth and explore some of these corrections we’ve all heard.  Let me know what you want included in this next product by leaving a comment at the Dance Advantage give away page! Wait until Friday, and then enter this exciting contest.  Check out the other free gifts when you’re there!

Okay….. onto the question

I was wondering if you could offer some advice. I am a contemporary dancer. I spend a lot of time doing floor work. My sitting second position isn’t that great, although I spend lots of time trying to better it. I would like to achieve a wider leg spread and be able to lie with my chest on the floor. What do you think I should I do?

p.s. Love your website.

Kind regards, Miki

Good question, Miki!  My answer is going to take several steps.  My first question would be about hamstring flexibility.  Are you able to sit upright with your legs extended in front of you without slumping or rolling back on your pelvis?  If you can’t sit easily upright, then you’ll want to first focus on gaining more flexibility there.

Next check to see how easy it is to stand on one leg and place the other on the arm of a sofa, for example.  I almost always encourage dancers to stretch the adductor muscles one at a time, rather than being in second position on the floor.  With your leg on the arm of the sofa, knee facing up to the ceiling, press gently down with your heel as you slowly lean forward with a flat back.  It will feel as if you are sticking your pelvis out in back.  Come back up, then press your heel gently down again into the sofa as you tilt sideways over your leg.  Think of dropping your sits bone as you bend sideways.

You’ll feel those 2 variations in different places.  Then of course, do the same thing on the other side.

Third question would be to see how easy it is to lie on your back with your pelvis close to the wall and your legs open in the straddle, second position.  In this position the back is at rest and elongated, and the focus is on passively stretching the adductor or inner thigh muscles.  If you can do that fairly easily and have a good second position in that position, but can’t sit in second position and lean forward, the issue might be in the hip structure.

Leaning forward while sitting in second position requires the hips to easily rotate and turn out.  A dancer who has anteverted (the ones who can W sit) will have more problems with this position.  They will have a hard time keeping the knees facing the ceiling in this stretch and may or may not be able to do what you are proposing which is placing your chest on the floor while sitting in second.

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you improve your second position – and/or help you understand what the elements are that may be holding you back:)

Here’s a quote – author unknown that I will end with …” Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another”

Have a great week!

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Do knock knees mean the end of my dancing?

I don’t know if you can help me but my question is mainly about my knock knees. I have been dancing all of my life, and now into college, I would love to perform in a Company someday on a more professional level, I feel like I have hit a wall in my improvement and training, It’s almost like no matter what I do I cannot improve on certain things because I continually have received the same corrections and no matter how much I work on it, nothing seems to change because of my anatomical alignment from my knock knees. I feel as though I am no longer able to improve at the rate I would like to be.

Since anatomically my knees do not align over my toes, it makes balance and maintaining the proper stance in the correct alignment with Ballet and modern and everything else I do difficult as well as maintaining my turn out especially when dancing in center and moving across the floor, not really the barre work.

I hope you are understanding what I am trying to explain, I mean Ive done pretty well so far dealing with my knock knees, but I seriously feel like I am being held back at this point, and I am getting the same corrections about my alignment all the time when I try so hard to correct it. I don’t know if you have experience working with dancers with anatomical things such as knock knees or bow legs, etc, but do you have any advice for me? or any excercises or things I should be doing to help with my knock knees?

Recently I have researched and found out that there is a surgery that can be done to correct knock knees, but it takes about a year to regain full strength and mobility after the surgery, and since I am not someone to want to take that time off from dancing especially in the junior year of school, that would be something I would have to think about maybe later in my future, and I don’t even know if that would be a good idea to do anyway. All I know is I want to find out what I can do to make my last two years of college ones I can really get somewhere with my improvement even though I have knock knees, You seem so knowledgeable about everything, so any help or suggestions would be soooo wonderful! sorry for the long e-mail!

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! Angelica

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Angelica… your question is a bit hard to answer because I’m not clear with how knock kneed you are. You are accurate that it does make it impossible to get your hip/knee/ankle in a straight line, and that is also true with a dancer who is bowlegged. How far apart are your feet when your knees are touching? It may be very helpful to go to a physical therapist that works with dancers to have the different elements of your technique looked at. For example, being knock kneed doesn’t have to influence your turnout, so you’ll want to see what the hip structure is like. Is it possible that you have a hip joint that structurally turns in some? (called an anteverted hip) I would address the hip joint separately at first from the knees.

Here’s a very short clip showing how anteversion (being structurally turned in) or retroversion (being structurally turned out) would test at the hip joint. (The 2 clips are taken from my new Essential Anatomy: A Multimedia Course for Dancers and Dance Teachers)

Moving down to the feet – the goal is to be as even as possible between the three points of the feet. With knock knees there is a strong tendency to pronate, or roll in. Training your balance on one leg would be key. Try standing on one foot and tossing a pinkie ball in the air for up to 3 minutes. Notice what area first gets tired. That is an area of tightness or weakness. Often dancers will find the outside of their hip on the standing leg getting sore first, and I encourage them to do more pinkie ball release around the pelvis and outside of the hip if that does happen.

What I want you to focus on is the fact that you have danced all your life and you continued right into college! And you don’t mention that you’ve had any significant injuries – a definite good sign. With knock knees the goal is to keep the muscles as balanced as possible from the hip down. There isn’t any exercise that will ‘cure’ the knock knees since it is a structural issue except surgery – and I’m not sure I would recommend it, especially if you are fully functioning (meaning moving without discomfort or pain).

There are certain types of dance that may be easier on your body than others, and you’d know what those are by just doing them. I’m not encouraging you to change forms – but to just explore. I had a student at Oberlin who had pretty significant knock knees, and she ended up competing nationally on the swing circuit!

My point is you obviously love dancing, and you want to improve – I got it. I want you to focus on improving the balance of all the muscles around the hip joint first. Test your turnout – look at the balance between the quads and the hamstrings – as well as the outer hip muscles and inner thigh muscles. Get them as flexible and strong as possible. Focus on your feet and improve your balance by balancing in as many different ways as possible, on your bed, on a soft pillow, standing on one leg with your eyes, closed, etc. You’ll be focusing on what you can do to improve, rather than being so aware of your knees, which you can’t structurally change.

At the college is there anyone that teaches a dance kinesiology class that you could meet with to muscle test you? That might help guide you where to focus your efforts on bringing balance to the muscle groups – the same focus that every dancer should have.

I’ve seen lots of nontraditional bodies moving in beautiful ways.. I don’t want you to give your dream up of continuing to have dance in your life after college.

warmest wishes for a great junior year at school!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

What a way to start the day!

I teach a course on Somatic Studies at Oberlin College and shared with them a YouTube clip on affirmations (since we spend a lot of time exploring how words influence our behavior and our results) I ran into a few of them recently and they told them they are starting their day off by watching this short 49 second clip.  They used it to get it to deliberately change their attitude into a positive one and then set off for that day.  What a good idea!   If you haven’t watched this yet you are in for a delightful surprise.  Can you imagine if our students (children, spouse, ourselves) felt they could do anything their hearts desired?  Appreciation in what is and confidence about the future – a good combination for anyone.  Enjoy! (click on link a new window will pop up)

Jessicas _Daily Affirmation

or

click here to watch it on YouTube

Snapping at hip

About two years ago when I started training very seriously for just ballet, I started having a popping sensation in my hip. I soon learned that I had snapping tendon syndrome. During the winter of that year I hurt it badly enough where I couldn’t walk comfortably and couldn’t dance for about two weeks. It got better, but I always had the same popping.

Now two years later, I have learned that I have had snapping tendon tendonitis. It hurts whenever I do anything to a la seconde (especially doing développés, ronde de jambs, and retire/posse). It also hurts when developing devant and fouettes of course.

Last year I got physical therapy at the local exercise place and it didn’t help at all. I’ve read your “Tune Up Your Turnout” book (and love it 🙂 and I’ve been stretching in a lunge position during class often. Any other stretches or exercises I can do? Will my tendonitis ever go away even though I’ve stopped growing, and are foam rollers helpful?
Thanks, Rachel

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SnappingHip2-187x300It’s unclear from your description whether the popping is coming from the front of the side of the hip. Snapping hip syndrome usually refers to the pop at the side of the hip that comes when the thick band of tissue (the iliotibial band) snaps over the greater trochanter which is the bump on the outside and top of the thighbone.

The foam rollers are extremely helpful as you roll slowly on the outside of the hip, and down the outside of the thigh. It can be pretty tight and uncomfortable, so only put as much pressure on the foam roller as you can easily tolerate.

If the popping is coming from the front of the hip it is the hip flexor tendon that is causing the snap. I’m happy to hear you are doing the stretches from Tune Up Your Turnout, which focus on stretching out the iliopsoas muscle with the lunge stretches, and standing quadriceps stretching. Keep doing those and add on a new way of stretching with the foam roller.

fm13Start resting with the foam roller at the top of both thighs. You are going to rest on your elbows. Gently allow your weight to drop into the foam rollers. Slowly bend both knees until you feel a subtle stretch. Keeping your knees bent let both feet drop to one side,  then the other. It will feel as if you are rolling across the width of the quadriceps. (The foam roller stays in the same place on your thighs)

fm3After doing a couple of passes, shift forward slightly so the foam roller is now a bit closer to your knees. Repeat   bending your knees and slowly letting your feet drop from one side to the other – easily and slowly.

Try this once again bringing the foam roller closer to your knees – staying at least 4 inches above the knees. In    this final position your chest is probably now resting on the floor as you drop the feet from side to side. The last   position will be the most tender (or at least is for me) so please do this carefully and slowly.

Then stand up and see how your legs feel – hopefully a lot looser!

It does help that you have stopped growing as growth spurts are notoriously challenging for dancers and athletes. Can you get rid of your tendinitis? Absolutely, Rachel! Tendinitis is an overuse syndrome and can be very tricky to work with. It often seems like it is 3 steps forward, then 1 step backwards. Decreasing the overall tension of the contributing muscles and creating a better balance between strength and flexibility will give you better muscle tone, increased range of motion, and decreased pain.

Good luck, be patient, and let me know how you do!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Flexibility and Aging

Let’s continue the theme of physical wellness and aging…

I am a teacher who teaches 6hrs straight a day, some tap, mostly jazz.  I stretch with one of my classes throughout the day. I am finding when I have my next class my hamstrings are even tighter. Any suggestions on why I feel I am losing my flexibility which was great 2 yrs ago. I am a male and 36 yrs of age. Thanks in advance for your help!  Rocco

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Great question – and – I will admit that your question hit a small nerve for me, as I don’t like some of the changes I see in my own flexibility. I had been chalking up the changes to not spending the same amount of time stretching now that I am teaching over performing, so I decided to look at the research.

This is what I found.

“Even elderly men and women over seventy years old can increase their flexibility (Brown et al. 2000; Lazowski et al. 1999). With strength training the elderly, even in their 90s, can increase their strength and muscle mass-not as fast and as much as young people, but they can (Fiatarone et al. 1990; Lexell et al. 1995)” Thomas Kurz, author of “Stretching Scientifically”.

YES! I found other research that supported the statement that aging and decreasing flexibility or strength do not necessarily go hand in hand. But let’s get real, okay? That is not the experience that most people have as they age. Why not?

The study of physiology and aging also states that as we age, our muscles and joints tend to get tighter, and that is because as we age connective muscle tissue shortens. This shortening of connective tissue can influence the range of motion we have at a joint, especially if muscle balance isn’t maintained.

Rocco’s question about his hamstrings could be a perfect example of this.  Rocco, I would have you look at your lower back muscles, the iliopsoas, and the erector spinae muscles and work to loosen them up by doing the psoas lunge (runner’s lunge) and the more normal rounding forward stretches we do for our spine. Often when the lower back muscles are tight, we will feel the strain in our hamstrings, and when the hamstrings are tight, that stress will be felt in our lower back. When one muscle group gets tight, the other muscle groups will try and compensate. The same pattern happens with strength. If one muscle is weaker, another muscle will try and take over some of the work – often setting up a possibility for strain or tendonitis, etc. in the compensatory muscle.

We are very aware of muscle balance and alignment as dancers, and when we are still taking class for ourselves we continue to work on maintaining good muscular balance. Teaching, however, as our main form of exercise, does not do the same good things for our bodies, simply because we are so focused on our students as we are moving. It’s been my experience that even if I am stretching with a class I am still observing students, talking and counting as I am stretching, yes – I’m aware of what is happening in my own body – but not truly in dialogue with it.

There are lifestyle changes that happen after the age of 30 that influence our flexibility and strength. We begin to have more responsibilities, less time to focus on our own health and well-being. Certainly, this has been a juggling act that many people – not just dancers – are faced with.

So – the good news is our bodies are adaptable and can improve its flexibility and strength even after a long period away from dancing (or having children, or whatever our reasons are).  The bad news is that it will take making it a priority and stretching and strengthening, not twice a week, or three times a week – but small amounts daily, or as close to that as possible.

It’s not useful to beat up on ourselves for not having the body we used to have when we were in our 20’s. And, we can take comfort in the knowledge that when we begin taking time out to stretch daily, we WILL see the results of our efforts.  Jane Fonda was right on when she said if you don’t use it you’ll lose it!

I’ll close with a quote from Dr. Michael Kaplan, director of the Rehabilitation Team, a sports medicine and physical therapy clinic in Maryland who says, “There’s no reason why people in their thirties and forties and even older can’t have just as much flexibility as when they were younger–or even more flexibility. A 60-year-old can have more flexibility than a 20-year-old, if she works at it and stretches.”

As dance teachers you all have many stretches that you have learned over the years to better your flexibility.  If you haven’t already, you might be interested in checking out my Effective Stretching dvd.  These stretches were designed to stretch muscles and fascia, sitting in your chair, easily and effortlessly.  They are simple to do – and – as the title suggests – very effective at creating change.  The dvd came out after I worked with my musicians and dancers over a couple semesters creating stretches they could do while they were studying or as a preparation for practicing.  Many students had more significant responses in their flexibility and function with these stretches over doing the typical passive, hang out and stretch ones they had been doing for a while.  Plus – if you order any product before the end of the month you’ll get a free Tune Up Your Turnout book!

Happy dancing!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Improving focus

Today’s Q&A post includes an excerpt from Train Your Brain: A Teen’s Guide to Well Being. Enjoy!

I just found your web site and blog and it is really interesting.

I have an almost 7 years old ballerina at home, and I have some concerns.
She’s very lean, but she’s not so flexible and I don’t want her to get hurt while trying to improve her flexibility.

Another concern of mine is if she’s I’m the right age range to be at the RAD primary level. Unfortunately I don’t have the syllabus dvd available for her to practice at home (she goes to ballet and jazz classes twice a week). I’m asking this, because even though the teacher has told me that she has improved a lot in the 3 years of ballet class, I see that she has trouble following her older classmates, and gets distracted and looses motivation because she’s always at the back of the class.

My daughter loves ballet and dance I general, and I would love to see her blossom in what she loves, any tips for me so I can help her?

Best regards and congratulations on your wonderful work

Diana

Hi Diana,
You are asking some good questions, Diana! First, I want to say that her sometimes lack of focus and motivation is absolutely normal for an almost 7 year old. Has she tried any other type of movement classes besides ballet? It’s possible that trying a gymnastic class or creative movement, etc. might help her come into her body in a different way which then will help her ballet. How does she do in her jazz class?

There are some studios that don’t start their student in a ballet class until 7 or 8. I know students who didn’t start in ballet until 9 or 10 years old – and became beautiful ballerinas!

My personal bias might be coming out here which is dance classes for the youngest of our students should have a goal of making a student more comfortable in his or her body as well as improving their physical health and abilities.

Every young student will go through periods of being less flexible. That’s because whenever they go through a growth spurt their bones grow faster than muscles and that can be a very awkward stage.

My initial thoughts on how to help her blossom into a confident, beautiful woman would be to teach her to focus on what she wants. When you talk to her why does she like ballet class? Does she dream of dancing on stage? Does she like how dancing makes her feel? Does she feel good when she’s dancing? That’s so important!

Wanting to help our young children gain confidence in their abilities is why I wrote the Train your Brain book for the 8 – 12 year old. It has exercises in it to help the young child learn how to follow their own guidance and become confident – following the same guidelines that I have for my own life.

I’m going to do something that I haven’t done before and that is share one of the chapters with you. Each chapter follows a child’s challenge – and while the book is not just for dance students – I will share the chapter that talks about Chelsea, a young dancer.

Train Your Brain: A Teen’s Guide to Well Being
Chapter 3

If you saw Chelsea playing with her brothers or talking in class, you’d think she was always happy and carefree. But, if you saw Chelsea walk into her ballet class, you’d see a whole new girl.

For some reason, Chelsea got nervous when dance class rolled around. She didn’t know why and didn’t want to quit because she loved dancing…and had been doing it since she was three. But for the last few months she’d become so nervous-everyone was improving it seemed, except for her. Chelsea’s body started feeling stiff and her feet felt like lead. She was clumsy and her dancing wasn’t smooth at all. Even stretching was hard for her…she felt as if her muscles were too short for her body.

Chelsea wasn’t sure what to do but she knew that she didn’t want to keep going to class if it was going to be like this. Was it time to quit doing something she loved?

This may sound confusing but it’s really easy. Before I tell you how to do, let me share a little brain secret. Your brain if full of little paths, like roads, that are formed whenever you do something or think something. So, let’s say you eat 10 hot dogs and then you throw up. Well, you created a path. So then, the next time you eat a hot dog, your brain will return to the path that goes with hot dogs. Along that path is also throwing up. So, now, when you think hot dogs you also think throwing up. And when you think throwing up, you think hot dogs. And each time you think those thoughts, the path becomes stronger…kind of like putting new cement on the road so it’s stronger.

The cool thing about these paths is that we can purposely create paths that help us. That is what Create a Feeling is all about. We’re going to connect a simple action (like making a fist or curling your toes) with positive, confident thoughts. That way, you’ve created a path. And you know that positive, confident thoughts create positive, confident feelings. So, when you need those positive, confident feelings, you’ll be able to do a simple action that is connected to those good thoughts and BAM, positive, confident feelings come along.

Let’s Rewind and Replay Chelsea’s dance problem and see if Create a Feeling can help her out…

If you saw Chelsea playing with her brothers or talking in class, you’d think she was always happy and carefree. But, if you saw Chelsea walk into her ballet class, you’d see a whole new girl.

For some reason, Chelsea got nervous when dance class rolled around. She didn’t know why and didn’t want to quit because she loved dancing…and had been doing it since she was three. But for the last few months she’d become so nervous in class that she could barely move.

Chelsea wasn’t sure what to do but she knew that she didn’t want to keep going to class if it was going to be like this. She needed to find a way to start enjoying dance class again.

She decided to get her brain to help her find a way to get her confidence and joy back. She decided to create a path. First, she came up with a small action. She decided she would take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. At the same time she thought of her past dance recitals. She remembered how comfortable her body felt dancing, how loud the clapping was when she bowed, how her legs moved to the music.

She practiced taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling while thinking these positive thoughts a few times everyday.

By the time dance class rolled around, Chelsea was ready. When she felt her body start to freeze up at the dance studio doors, Chelsea took a deep breath. Automatically, her body relaxed and the confident, positive feelings of past recitals flooded her body. Chelsea smiled; she’d created a path that would help her look forward to dancing again!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The doors will close on the Inner Dance of Success 3 – month coaching program to create a healthier you…. through changing your body/brain connection to diet and exercise.

Email me at Deborah@thebodyseries.com if you’d like more information. I only sent information to the people who took the survey and left their email address for me to contact them – but if you want to learn more about it – and didn’t fill out the survey– act fast and email me – because the program will close on midnight, Monday, February 1st. That’s tomorrow!!

Warmest regards,
Deborah Vogel