Posts

The Skinny… on Fats…

It is a scary thought when “the Center for Disease Control predicts that our children’s generation could be the first in history to have shorter lifespans than their parents.”  Yikes!  But on the other hand with my own studies into health and nutrition I’m not surprised.  We have to change our relationship with food!

I am so delighted to be able to offer this wonderful article by Lisa Greene, a wonderful woman and mother who is passionate about feeding our children to enhance health.  Check out her free blog and wonderful book!

 

Just to add a comment to when she is talking about coconut oil for cooking – I’ve been using it for over a year as my moisturizer that I put on my face.  It’s inexpensive… works really well… natural… I figure all of those beautiful Polynesian, Filipino and Indian women who have such beautiful skin and eat/use coconuts daily are onto something:)

Enjoy Lisa’s article!

The Skinny…. on Fats…..

We hear a lot about ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats, but who can make sense of it all?

First, the ‘bad’ fats. These include trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats are the deadly trans fatty acids that have become popular in the media these last few years. Trans fats are man made fats created by adding hydrogen to an oil to increase it’s shelf life. Unfortunately, this process makes the oil very unhealthy to eat. According to the American Heart Association, consuming trans fats lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol while raising your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increases your risk for heart disease. They also say that there is no amount of trans fat that is healthy to have in your diet.

Typically, processed and fast foods contain trans fats, or hydrogenated oil. Staying away from these types foods can improve your health dramatically, both inside and out. Not only are these foods bad for your cholesterol and cardiovascular system, they contain many chemicals that contribute to obesity as well. To stay away from trans fats, always read the package ingredients. The FDA requires food manufacturers to label the number of grams of trans fat, but allows them to round down. So even if your food item says zero trans fats, look at the label  for the words ‘partially hydrogenated’. If you see these words, don’t buy it.

Next on the ‘bad’ list is saturated fat. We have always heard that we should consume a diet that is low in saturated fats. However, all saturated fats are not created equal. It depends on the source. A diet high in saturated fat from conventionally raised meats and dairy products will absolutely contribute to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

However, there is one saturated fat that has amazing health benefits – coconut oil. Coconut oil has been proven to boost the immune system, promotes heart health and weight loss, has antiviral and antifungal effects on the body, and keeps the skin healthy and young looking. In studies done in humans and animals, those with diets high in coconut oil, even with their high fat concentration, were thinner and more heart healthy than those with diets without coconut oil.

Fats are imperative to our brains, heart, lungs, nerves, and digestion. They are essential to our eyes, add luster to our skin and hair, encourage hormonal and emotional balance, and lubricate our joints. Choosing the right types of fat for your diet is imperative to creating a healthy, lean body.

Next we have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Our bodies absolutely need these fats to function properly. Think about what would happen if you never changed the oil in your car. Eventually it would stop running. Just as your car needs that lubrication, so do our bodies and brains!

Monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, but can turn solid when refrigerated. Olive, sunflower, and sesame oil are examples of monounsaturated fats. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and nuts. Don’t stay away from these because of their high fat content, they are so good for you.

Polyunsaturated fats stay liquid when refrigerated. These fats can further be broken down into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Examples of omega-6 include vegetable, safflower, soybean, and corn oil, and some nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fats are found in flax seeds and fish. Our bodies do not produce these essential fatty acids, so we must get them from our diets. We need a ratio of 1 to1 omega-6 and 3, but our modern processed diets typically contain 10 or 20 to 1. When this imbalance happens, many health problems can occur. Too much omega-6 without enough omega-3 to balance it can create inflammation in the body, causing problems with the immune system, cardiovascular system, and the brain. Many processed foods have omega-6, so it is easy to get out of balance by eating a typical western diet.

Unfortunately, our western diet has practically eliminated omega-3s. A diet low in omega-3s can cause children to be more impulsive, less able to pay attention, and higher risk for depression. Teenagers may be more prone to anger and violence. In adults, memory problems, higher risk for stroke, and dementia can occur. Creating a better balance by consuming more omega-3s could improve many health issues such as coronary artery disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and may ease the pain of Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The best way to add more omega-3s to your diet is with a high quality fish oil supplement. You can get them at your local health food store in liquid and capsule form. They are not cheap, but they are well worth it for the health benefits you will receive.  (Deborah’s note:  I’m partial to lemon-flavored Carlson’s cod liver oil.. put it in vanilla yogurt.. yummy!)

Not only choosing the right fats, but also choosing the correct balance of fats is so important to our health. By steering clear of trans fats and limiting animal fats, cooking with coconut oil, eliminating processed foods, and supplementing with an omega-3 fish oil, you can create the health and vitality you were meant to enjoy.

Lisa Greene

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”

Recovering from injury

I am a 15 year old ballet student who hopes to pursue a career in dance. Right now I have an achilles tendon injury that requires passive healing, a lot of physical therapy and may take many months to heal. I have been off of dance for about 2 months now, and I’m having a very hard time coping with this rest period. Going from 15 hours of ballet a week to none has put me in a kind of “dance withdrawal.”. I am trying to keep in shape, but there is really no physical activity that compares to ballet for me, and I have a hard time finding the motivation to go to the gym. Do you have any reconmendations for keeping in physical shape (flexibility, strength, balance, core work, etc.) and also in a good mental state during periods of injury rehabilitation?

Thank you so much, your blog is a wonderful resource.

-Jackie B.

I’m so sorry to hear about your Achilles tendon injury. It is especially rough for someone like you who is used to being so active. I know your ankle is being taken care of with going to physical therapy, so we’ll focus on the right of your body ‘s well being.

I’d like you to first focus on the perspective that this is a good cross training opportunity for you. How is your cardiovascular strength? What about your upper body? That is an area that many women could improve – especially in these days of extreme athleticism and using your arms for support in contemporary choreography.

Those 2 areas along with core work with theraband or foam roller could easily be focused on during your rehab – even without going to the gym☺ (I don’t like the gym atmosphere and also prefer working out at home) I like using the kettle bell for my cardio. It’s amazing how much you work within just a minute. It’s a weight that has a handle on top and you swing it for between a minute and 2 minutes (I started at 30 secs) and then rest, walking around for a few minutes in between. You are doing interval training with this. Cardiovascular health is about the ability of your body to recover from stress.

I found a kettle bell demo on youtube that is better than most – although I will say that I do not ‘snap’ my knees or suggest that my dancers do as she is showing on this video. Bring them to straight, using the gluts and engaging the abdominals as you straighten your legs – but do it without snapping. Here’s the youtube link so you know what I’m talking about.

This time off from dance is a great time to be focusing on virtual rehearsals – using visualization to set new pathways from the brain to the muscles.

I’d like to tell you a fascinating story about Marilyn King, who was a two-time Olympic athlete and later a coach at the University of California. Her story beautifully demonstrates the power of mental rehearsing. She made the 1972 pentathlon team and placed 13th in the 1976 Olympics. She was determined to do even better at the 1980 Olympics and gave herself all of 1979 to train for the trials that would happen in the spring of 1980.

In November 1979, she was in a head-on car accident and suffered a severe back injury. Her friends and physicians felt her chances for competing in the Olympics had come to an end. She spent four months in bed, a daunting setback for anyone training for a physical competition. During those long months, Marilyn was determined to continue training and working in the only way she could, which was in her head. She went through every event in her minds eye and watched endless hours of the world’s best pentathlon athletes competing. Sometimes she watched them frame-by-frame.

When she was able to walk again, she went to the track and continued to train by envisioning herself going through each event successfully.

When it came time for the trials, she was better enough to compete and put herself through five grueling events—without having months of physical preparation, as the rest of the athletes had. She described moving almost as if in a dream, as she had rehearsed it so many times in her head during the past months. She placed second in the trials and went to the Olympics that summer.

Inspiring story, yes? She had a strong desire, focused only on what she wanted – cultivated by an emotional attitude that supported success—and took the actions she knew would optimize her performance, physically training when she was able and mentally training when she was not.

Elite athletes have long known about the power of mental rehearsing. Musicians and dancers are beginning to be more aware of the body/brain connection to their performance.

Watch the videos of your favorite dancers, put music on and go through barre, or other warm-ups… in your mind’s eye – not in real time. Imagine how good you are going to feel when you are back in class – and feel that way now!

What I know about healing is those who are able to maintain a positive attitude, imagining the best coming out of the situation, rather than the worst, are often the ones who heal the quickest as well.

Hope that helps – and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

50% off on select DVD’s until midnight, January 4th!

Happy New Year!

I was sitting at my desk this morning reflecting upon the past year and setting new intentions for 2009. I am so grateful to have my dance community. As teachers, nothing makes us feel better than to share our knowledge with others, it is a win/win situation.

I thought about how wonderful the past week was with having my 3 children at home (plus a few of their special friends☺ I scaled back like many of you have, and yet this holiday season was one of the nicest ones in years because I wasn’t so stressed about doing it right. Fewer gifts and more laughing…

The kids and I had some good home-cooked meals (the African curry turned out super!) and played Cranium and Mad Gab, and my all time favorite card game ‘May I’. (It’s a Vogel tradition – I’ve played it since childhood – a type of rummy)

As a thank you to you, my appreciative dance community, my DVD’s are now half price – 50% off – until midnight PST, January 4th. My intent is to help you start the new years off right – with affordable and to the point (no pun intended) information to help you become even more amazing dancers and teachers than you already are.

When you go to the http://www.thebodyseries.com to order your DVD’s, the sale price will be reflected accurately in your shopping cart. There are 5 DVD’s being offered at half price

* Analyzing Turnout
* Analyzing Arabesque
* The Standing Leg
* Ballwork: Releasing Muscular Tension
* Strengthening the Lower Extremity

Perhaps you can round out your collection or give a gift to a special dancer.

When you are at the website, check out December’s Dancing Smart blog postings in case you didn’t catch one of the 7 posts! Make sure to listen to The Science of Dance Training podcast that Lisa Howell and I did together just before Christmas.

Most of all, please accept my warmest wishes for a peaceful, abundant, healthy and dance-filled 2009!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Utilizing Turnout without tucking under

Greetings, everyone, and Happy New Year! May 2009 be the best year ever!

I’m wondering if you can help me with turnout. I understand the concept of turning out using the small rotator muscles underneath the buttocks, however every time I engage them, I can’t help but to engage my gluteus maximus also – which doesn’t benefit turnout. If I let go of my core I can relax these bigger muscles while maintaining turnout, so I’m wondering if this is an issue with how I hold my center more than turnout?
Thanks!
Emily

Congratulations for knowing that the turnout muscles are smaller and deeper – underneath the bigger gluteal muscles!

Whether or not the gluteal muscles contract depends on what the movement you are doing. The gluteus maximus is a powerful hip extensor – it takes the leg backwards and stabilizes the pelvis on the legs. They actually assist your turnout when you take the leg behind in a back tendu. If you are standing in first position and do a cambre forward and backwards, the gluteals will contract strongly when you cambre back.

When you are doing a demi plie, though, the gluteal muscle should not be contracting strongly because you are flexing the hip. If you contract the gluteal muscles when you are doing a demi plie, you will tend to tuck the pelvis under – not a desirable action.

So turning on the gluteals is almost automatic when you take the leg behind you – but how do you turn them off when you are moving your leg to the front or during the descent of a demi or grande plié?

One of my favorite exercises for teaching dancers where their turnout muscles are is to have them lie on their side with their legs bent with their knees forward and feet in alignment with their hips. Placing one hand on the top buttock area, slowly open your top knee like a clamshell keeping your feet together. If you do a set of 20 lifts (remembering to slowly close the knees together) you’ll definitely feel the deeper rotator muscles working, while being able to monitor whether or not the gluteal muscles are contracting.

Another good way to practice this patterning between the gluteals and the rotator muscles is to start by standing in parallel with one foot in coupe. You’ll then stay standing in parallel and slowly turn out and open the gesture leg to the side.

It is very easy to monitor whether or not you are keeping your pelvis square through the weight on your standing foot. Keep the 3 points of the feet firmly planted on the ground and don’t let your foot ‘roll in’ or pronate!

In time, you will have changed the pattern of always gripping the gluteals – and – your range of motion and ease of movement will be better!

Until next time,

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Buttock Pain

Greetings!

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving holidays were wonderful…. I am grateful to have all of you in my dance community!

The new website is nearly done…. hoping by the next newsletter it will be up and running!

Here’s the question of the week…

My daughter is 14 and has been dancing for 10 years. She started a very intense dance schedule in June. She was dancing nearly 30 hrs, a week for the summer along with a 4 day intensive. She cut back to 21 hrs a week when school started and has been doing very well growing in her dance ability until now. She takes 3 ballet classes, 3 adv. pointe classes (all 1 1/2 hrs each), 4 jazz classes, 3 lyrical classes, salsa and conditioning. She recently started having pain in her right hip where the sciatic nerve runs. A teacher of her is a certified physical therapist. She felt around and noticed the nerves on both sides were moving and the muscles underneath were knotted up. The pain stayed right there and didn’t travel so we ruled out sciatica. We have iced and heated the area for a week and rubbed out as many knots as possible. It seemed to help and then she went to a jazz class and over did it and now we can’t get the pain to stop for very long. I can feel the knots and deep rubbing seems to help but only for a while. Once she wakes in the morning it starts all over again. What if anything else can we do for it? I know rest is needed but do you have any other advice for knotted muscles? Thank you for your time, Evie

I’m glad you have a physical therapist on board to help you out. I’m wondering whether your daughter could have something called piriformis syndrome. It’s a condition where the piriformis muscles which is the largest of the 6 deep muscles that are the ‘turnout’ muscles irritates the sciatic nerve. Some people only feel pain in the buttock area (this could be your daughter) and sometimes it goes PyrAnatA108down into the leg,
which is referred pain from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve typically passes underneath the piriformis muscle, but in about 15% of the population the nerve goes through the piriformis muscle increasing it’s potential for trouble.

When dancers overwork the piriformis and the other deep rotators as they are trying to achieve more turnout then can create excessive tension in this muscle which presses or compresses on the nerve creating pain depending on where the nerve lies in relationship to the piriformis muscle.

For right now, let’s treat your daughter as if she has really irritated both the sciatic nerve and that the turnout muscles are knotted up and very unhappy!

The massage you are doing is good for releasing tension in the gluteal area, as well as using a pinkie ball or a tennis ball to put between the buttock and the wall to do self-massage. With piriformis syndrome I personally would not use any heat – only ice on the area, and would have her ice as much as possible. This might be a time where a few days of an anti inflammatory such as ibuprofen could be helpful. The next thing I would do is to stretch, stretch, stretch, the turnout muscles to help them release from their painful spasm.

seatedhipstretchShe can do this in a variety of ways. To the left is a sitting chair stretch that is very useful as she can easily do a stretch or two while in school!

Another way would be the traditional sitting on the floor with the legs folded and rounding down over the legs, gently moving from side to side to feel the stretch at the back of the buttocks where her pain is. Make sure to switch which leg is in front as that will change the focus of the stretch to the other side.

Rest is the final part of the treatment program. It doesn’t mean that she would have to take off from all of her dance classes – but it does mean she needs to significantly reduce the amount of classes that she is taking. Her first goal is to be pain free when she wakes up in the morning. If her pain is reduced by pulling back – or totally off classes, then she can slowly bring more classes back in. Working through the pain at this point will most likely increase the length of time for healing – and make for some poor muscle habits as she is trying to engage and work the turnout muscles while they are tender and tight.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Deborah