Tag Archives: posture

Posture, ballet and yoga

Ballet as my introduction to posture

My journey from ballet to yoga began when I was five and I had a ballet teacher with great posture. My childhood ballet teacher, Miss McLellan didn’t have an overly athletic figure, although she was fit and strong, but what she did have was immaculate posture. In the twelve years I trained with her I did not see her slouch once. I remember seeing her walk around and simply her beautiful straight spine gave her an air and grace that is unique to ballerinas.

My ballet teacher taught me about maintain correct posture using cues like: tuck your ribs in, hold your stomach in, grow and hold your tail under. These prompts on how to hold your body for good posture are ways that encourage our muscles hug into our spines. It makes you compact and strong. Nothing is wobbling out there. It is kind of like drawing in your core, as you learn in pilates class.

Ballet and yoga

Skip forward thirty something years and I came back to doing what I love and that is being in a room with people working our bodies into poses together. As a child it was ballet. As an adult it is yoga.

A lot of ballet dancers become yogis. Ballet dancers are usually flexible and this is seen as a benefit as a yogi, but yoga is for everyone. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga.

Some people think that ballerinas are drawn to yoga after they stop ballet because ballet can be so harsh on the body that it causes injuries that can be healed and soothed with yoga. I think that the reason is because practising ballet requires you to focus your mental energy on where your body is in space. Yoga does the same thing.

Finding yoga

I found yoga in my thirties and it was the space, the time, the focus on the simple practise of moving my body through certain poses with a concentration that let me escape my mind. I loved the discipline of letting go of the outside world and working on the physical work of bringing my body into set poses repeatedly. It didn’t matter how I felt physically before the class I would always feel better afterwards.

Just loving it

My Mum tells the story of when I was a child and she would pick me up from ballet class after school. I would get to the car and I would be sweating, I would be noticeably exhausted. She would look at me and say, how was class? She said I never once said, that I was tired or hot or that the barre work was too repetitive. I would always reply, that it was great. I would feel exhilarated. I loved it. There was nothing I loved more.

Ballet pain

It did become difficult in the middle of my teenage years when I grew centimetres in height in a short period of time. I felt gangley and I found I had to work harder to be as graceful as I had been when I was younger. But I loved the classes. I loved improvisation. I loved solos, I loved group performances at eisteddfods and concerts.

I had blisters and sore feet. Yep, the sore feet is definitely a pain that I can recall vividly. Imagine trying to get your wooden toed pointe shoes on again when your feet are already blistered. Mine didn’t bleed the skin just rubbed straight off.  A blister never lasted long enough to heal. Jumping all your weight on your toes when they are blistered with only a stocking and a small foam toe pad to cushion the impact is Very sore. But it does look beautiful.

Missing the love of my life

It was many years between when I attended almost daily ballet classes and a regular yoga practice. I learned a second language and travelled and lived abroad. I kept fit in gym classes and my own version of exercise and I had lots of fun and I got married and started a family but this disciplined body work that I had in ballet class and found again in yoga was missing. I feel sad that I let this main love of my life lay idle for so long. I feel happy that I have returned to what I love.

 

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This is a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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Your posture and your overall health

As I walk down the street I notice people’s posture. I notice if they are walking along head first with their mind driving them along, their body barely able to keep up and without a say at all. I notice the people whose hearts are shut off, protected by severely rounded shoulders, the hunch on their back more pronounced the older they are.

Sometimes not. Sometimes the protagonist is a thin young man who maybe grew too quickly and tried not to stand out by rounding his shoulders to bend in with his peers. It is not my place to rock over to the person and place my hands firmly on their shoulders asking them to relax and release the tension in their shoulders and to then lift their shoulders up and back and down. Who am I to coach a stranger? I am not trained in somatic therapy. I am a yoga teacher but I still have so much to learn.

Turned out toes

I notice how my friends walk and how their legs might rotate outwards in their hip joint so that they walk with their toes pointing out. I used to do this as I have high external rotation in my hips and all of the ballet training had turned my toes out. I could turn them straight again on purpose for contemporary dance, but my natural gait had me walking with my toes pointing out. It was only when I started practising yoga and strengthened and lengthened my muscles and gained increased the flexibility in all of my muscles that I was able to walk with optimal alignment of my feet.

Success

I notice successful people have lovely straight spines. I am yet to meet an excellent communicator who stands with a slouch. A straight, aligned spine and strong well-aligned limbs means all the bodies organs are well supported. When our joints are stacked the force of gravity is holding us firmly to earth comfortably. Our heads are very heavy and if the shoulders are slouched and the head is hanging forward it means the neck has to work harder to hold the head up.

One of my teachers who is a somatic therapist, Fran Archer shared at a recent workshop that one of her teachers had responded to the question: “what is the right position for my neck?”  – “the next one”. In other words we should be in constant flow and motion because this means we don’t stay in one position for too long. Any position held for too long is not good for us. Even if we are sitting with a straight spine, anything that is too repetitive without contrasting, counterbalancing movement is not healthy.

Everybody is talking about standing desks. But I think the best idea would be to sit sometimes, stand sometimes and go for walking meetings. Bring movement into your everyday tasks. Just standing all day isn’t any better than sitting all day. Anyone who has worked in a job where they are standing all day is no good for them. Just ask a hairdresser. I know two hairdressers who have had problems with varicose veins for standing for long periods doing repetitive movements focusing on their work.

Posture tells me so much about a person.

Have you examined the alignment of your joints? How is your lumbar curve? Do you walk with your arches of your feet nicely pulled up instead of rolling in. Nothing in our body is set in stone. Our ligaments and tendons and muscles and fascia can all be strengthened and stretched and straightened out. You are never too old and it is never too late. Isn’t this the best news?

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This the first in a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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