Photo Credit – Unsplash
General Fitness and Well–Being Guest Posts June 3, 2021
Dance General Fitness and Well–Being Online January 13, 2021
Happy New Year, Movers!
The last couple of months have been so varied. Since my last post in September, I was actually swamped with working in the studios; then I went to California for the holidays; now I’m back in London and house-bound!
With that said, I want to share what’s been helping me stay sane, mobile, and happy during London’s lockdown #3. We all know it’s easy to forget about our body and mind, so check out these wonderful online classes.
GAGA PEOPLE/DANCERS – TEL AVIV | BERLIN | LONDON
I quickly learned that I love starting the week with a Gaga class on Monday mornings. Since these classes have been online, they’re only operating as 30-minute classes but not to worry, you will still get the full benefits of a Gaga class – fluid, three-dimensional, bone shaking, wild, and soft movements. You’ll also get a good sweat!
Gaga People / London (TBA)
LITTLE YOGA SPACE – LISBON
I’ve just taken Katrin’s Thai Yoga Massage Intro Workshop last Sunday and it was such a treat! We spoke about energy, intention, and attention. An important theme as most of us are mainly at home or, perhaps, working harder than ever. Kat’s studio offers many classes including yoga, pilates, online retreats, and much more.
LINES DANCE CENTER – SAN FRANCISCO
These classes are more than Ballet. Forget what you know and experience a dynamic and full bodied approach to the Classical form. Being that LINES Dance Center is one my former stomping grounds, having access some of the most knowledgeable teachers on the West Coast is something everyone should also take advantage.
BAEFIT – LONDON
Oh yes. Helena’s classes are the ultimate ‘spirit lift’. Her classes range from HIIT to Primal Pilates – with and without weights. This working performer gets you working out through her ecstatic personality. I’ve done these classes during the first national lockdown and boy did I see a difference in my body. Open to all levels.
First class free! Just mention The Movement Blog 🙂
MINDWALK YOGA – VIRTUAL
I came across Zakiya’s Instagram a little while ago when she was due to cover one of my classes while I was away. Zakiya’s social enterprise and virtual-only studio has quite a lot to offer. From free classes to wellness retreats for Black women – the main vibe is about relieving stress, anxiety, and trauma. I’m sure we can all get on board with that!
STRONG LIKE A MUTHA – GLASGOW
I’ve been following my former colleague, Lyndsey (from London Contemporary Dance School) from afar. From the opening of her fully equipped studio to the comprehensive online platform she’s today. From pre-natal classes to strength, nutrition, and overall body positivity, this is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for every body.
I have a lot more to share, so consider this ‘Part 1’ <3
Dance General Fitness and Well–Being Interviews the Gyrokinesis Method July 24, 2020
I met Kayla way back in the day during our time at the LINES Ballet BFA program in San Francisco. I had also picked her to perform in my Senior choreography piece, so from working with her in this way, I always knew she had something special to offer.
Flash forward 10 years, I was right. She has become the embodiment of her ideas and experiences, from Dance to GYROKINESIS® and now healing. She also provides and offers tremendous support for the movement and wellbeing community with retreats, podcasts, and more.
Naturally, I wanted to know more about the work she’s doing now and catch up a bit from the last decade. I was also particularly curious about her experience as a mover and trainer of color. Here, we speak about the last few months in the U.S., what we’d like to see in the future, and what we can do about it now.
This is her story.
Follow Kayla’s Work
Listening is a virtue, especially for the body. There’s no need to force the body into shape; let’s nurture the body instead.
In a time where we’ve been physically confined (and mentally for some of us), we now need to start wiggling our nervous system a little bit as we re-emerge into the world.
The body holds all kinds of muscular restrictions formed from memory, habits, mental and physical trauma, stress, etc. To truly feel the body, we must learn how to listen. Thus, we should turn to somatics for guidance.
Although the idea of body listening is not necessarily revolutionary or ground breaking, it is, nevertheless, a concept that has been under-emphasized in the dance technique class and should be revisited.
5 Components of Somatic Approach –
awakens the senses and prepare the body and mind for learning. One way of accomplishing this involves the use of improvisational structures within the technique class, rather than just “see and do” exercises.
the examination and processing of information the learner receives from doing movement.
affirms the dynamic state of the experiential moment, as each person tunes inward to listen to each inhale and exhale. Breath can be a very powerful way to build and retain concentration, endurance, focus, and flow in the dancing moment.
accounts for the whole person, not excluding the environmental context in which the person lives and moves.
acknowledges that a dancer’s technical training should include opportunities to hone his or her creative skills.
Source: Enghauser, Rebecca. Developing Bodies in the Dance Technique Class (2007).
We can use aspects of this approach in our own time or even while we’re taking class. Here are a few methods that specifically uses a somatic approach that’s geared for dancers and movers alike:
Happy Moving <3
In April last year, Rob Jackson and I explored Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (and beyond). Here are some great reasons why Vietnam has a lot to offer in staying fit and eating well.
>> Queue: Onra’s Chinoiseries <<
First of all, Vietnamese cuisine includes some of the healthiest ingredients on the planet. From the ever popular Phở to its abundant rice based dishes, this cuisine wonderfully caters to gluten, wheat, and diary free diets.
Fresh herbs and spices are also used extensively throughout – lots of mint, cilantro, ginger, lime leaf, cinnamon, turmeric, the list goes on. You’ll often get fresh local fruit as dessert over sugary pastries. Best of all, fresh food is available everywhere.
However, if you want to maintain a clean diet, you’ll need to (obviously) avoid ingredients like: condensed milk, famously in the intensely strong Vietnamese coffee; anything fried/deep-fried; and fruit concentrates.
In a cafe, I found a gem of a magazine called Word – it’s like Vietnam’s own Time Out. Rob and I also found some outstanding places by asking the people we came across. I highly recommend Quan An Ngon restaurant and asking for a good Bun Cha spot.
Particularly in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, yoga studios are almost everywhere with most of them offering classes and retreats in English. A simple Google search will do, or have look around cafés nearby.
Even in April it was already too hot by 9AM. The remedy is to wake up at sunrise (when the rest of the locals would do their exercises) or an indoor workout. If I were a ‘morning person’ I’d choose the morning option every time because the sunrises were absolutely out of this world.
Of course doing GYROKINESIS® on the beach was the best, but I also thoroughly enjoyed using the Nike Training Club App. Falling lucky with ample indoor space in my BnB’s, there was usually enough room for a full workout plus a mini-Barre class.
My all time favorite activity was hiking and swimming through the beautiful Hang En Cave (3rd largest in the world) with the incredible Oxalis group. We then ended the trip with trekking around Sapa’s rice fields. I’ve never felt so alive!
With all the soups, trekking, and hot weather, you’ll be fit and well without even trying.
More in Vietnam
Dance General Fitness and Well–Being Tips February 25, 2018
Getting use to your own body after time off might take some patience. Thankfully we have the visual memory and muscle memory systems to help us return, but how else can we continue to improve technique in the present body?
“Technique” is thus understood as the skills experienced in practice and inscribed into one’s own world of understanding – Jenny Coogan, Practicing Dance: A Somatic Orientation.
Depending on what style of training and/or performance, it’s often through consistent practice that a technique or style becomes enhanced. This may mean that practice can create a fuller understanding and meaning to the work both physically and mentally. Therefore the goal with practice is to explore, especially the challenges.
Move the body as it is today, right now. When this happens there isn’t time to fixate on how we pliéd, jumped, or pointed our foot in the past. When returning to a technique, this is the time to move and listen well with the mind and body.
With having past experiences in a particular technique or style, it might be tempting to just go with the motions. How can we continue to generate new feeling and new meaning in our movements? Using imagination, small tasks and goals are very useful. Never allow the mind and the body to become unresponsive to feeling and challenges.
Ask questions amongst your teachers, peers, and colleagues. Also maintain an inner dialogue which can help with problem solving when learning or rehearsing something new (or old). This inner dialogue could also help with maintaining curiosity and a fresh outlook.
The process of practice and improving don’t really end. Therefore, it’s pertinent to enjoy the process. For some of us, this can be difficult as progression and improvement are hard to see with our own eyes. Think about what elements that you’ve enjoyed within a class, performance, research development, etc. Do more of that!
Most of us stretch when we wake up in the morning or when we feel stiffness in certain areas. However, we should make stretching a part of our daily routine.
Whether you’re an office worker, runner, or fitness enthusiast, here are a few reasons on why you should be stretching correctly.
To Improve True Flexibility
Forced stretching leads to opposite effects of stretching. If you’re just beginning (or just really tight) and find the muscle(s) not wanting to release, first relax into it instead of forcing the stretch. Only go as far as you can.
Relax and release a little at a time with every exhale (passive stretching). This way you’ll work with you true stretch and see more of an improvement in your flexibility. In fact, there are many types of stretching, choose the one that will work for you.
To Avoid Overstretching
Reduce the chance of injury from overstretching. The main reason to stretch is not only lengthen the muscle but to create more space in your joints and ligaments so there is less impact and so the bones can rotate properly to maintain appropriate range of motion.
Take one day at a time, and be careful not to go beyond your limit. Each day will be different. Know the difference between when you’re pushing yourself safely and when you’re over doing it.
To Release Deep Muscle Connections
When stretching is done correctly and frequently enough, those aches and pains in deeper muscular areas can finally begin to release. Why? This is because deep muscle connections are all intertwined with each other. The psoas muscle, which connects to the lower back and top of the hamstring) is fantastic example of why the body needs to move and stretch as an entire system.
To Stretch Right for Your Body Type
Every type of body is unique and every type of body will need slightly different stretching techniques. Pay attention to your range of motion each day and where soreness and tightness may lie. Being aware about what your body needs each day will set how you perform, exercise, cool down, and stretch. Listen to your body and stretch mindfully.
Want more tips? Read this:
Are you an office worker, freelancer, self-employed or ‘digital nomad’? This one’s for those who tend to sit for long periods at a time on a laptop, desktop computer, and phone. Let’s talk about finding good posture while on our gadgets.
I spend a lot of time blogging and looking for freelance work online, so I can definitely relate. Here’s some useful tips to help us sit up, stand up, move and, most importantly, work more efficiently.
Try to Sit on the Floor
Sitting on the floor allows the body to readjust and be in its natural form. To adjust the laptop height, use a few pillows. You can also sit on a pillow or put one behind your back. Folding the legs (as pictured above) can help release the hips and keep the knees healthy. If you’re leaning against a sofa, during break you can lean back, creating an arch in the spine.
Maintain the Head Over the Shoulders
The skull is one the heaviest points on the body. When the skull is no longer supported by your spine, it creates stress and impact on the neck. Forward head posture and rounded shoulders are one of the most common postural deviations, but can be avoided when repositioning the head to balance on top of the skull. To allow the head to be supported by the spine, change the height of the computer screen to eye level. Just prop a few books under the laptop.
Stand Up Correctly
Something as simple as standing up is a great way to give the hips and legs a break from compression. However, standing upright can be tricky. First, readjust the height of your computer screen to ensure proper head-spine alignment. Make sure your feet are comfortable with or without shoes. However, don’t stand too long, it’s best to alternate between sitting and standing every 1-2 hours. This helps the body to keep moving.
Mobilize the Hips
Lie down on your stomach, and bring yourself upward with your hands by the shoulders so that the hips are off the floor, like in Upward-Facing Dog Position. Relax the ribcage downward and bring the belly button inward to support the lower back. This position can help to recover the body from a constant frontal, folded position. If you would like to stretch more, come into a Lunge Position. Send the tailbone toward the floor and gentle engage the abdomen.
Treat yourself with a few minutes of self-massage starting with the the large jaw muscles then work your way around the muscles around base of the neck as well as the bones of the face.
Especially after typing/working for hours on end, the hands often get left out. Clasp your hands together and straight your arms forward with the palms facing outward. Next, bring the clasped hands together and roll the wrists around, alternating each way.
The eyes becomes fatigued when they become dry. The eyes become dry when there isn’t enough blinking happening. When we stare at a backlit screen for long periods time we often don’t blink enough, causing dry eye and blurriness. It may also be useful to make the text larger.
Or partially. Try a gentle spinal flexion roll down from the standing position is easy yet effective. Allowing the torso to be upside down releases tension from weight we carry due to gravity. Begin standing in a neutral, upright position. Slowly roll down, knees slightly bent. It’s OK if the hands don’t touch. Reverse the direction, with the chin into the chest until fully standing.
Incorporating these intermittent sitting, standing, and movement strategies every 20-30 minutes can help you work more efficiently, longer, and with more ease. Remember to take real breaks.
Set a timer if needed. Perhaps encourage your colleagues around you to do the same. We only have one body, let’s take care of it.
Other Useful Links
General Fitness and Well–Being Guest Posts October 2, 2017
Daniel N. is the “Fitness Crab“, a Toronto-based fitness coach and yoga instructor. He’s been helping his clients improve their health and set up their home gyms for over a decade with incorporating the BOSU Ball.
Daniel believes that BOSU balance trainers are a must for any home gym as they are the perfect warm up exercise, and a great low impact cardio workout. He also teaches people how to achieve ideal form with bodyweight exercise as well as machines like rowers and climbers. Read Daniel’s explanation and workout plan on the Bosu Ball.
Enjoy your workout!
How to Use a BOSU Ball to Strengthen Your Core Muscles
A BOSU ball does not look much like a piece of fitness equipment but it is a multipurpose physical fitness tool. It is great for core strengthening since it forces you to enhance your balance and stability. However, if you are beginner, you might want to do these exercises without a ball first. This way you will get a feel of the movements.
What is a BOSU Ball?
A BOSU ball looks like the bottom third or fourth of a large round ball. It can be used in a number of physical fitness movements with either the flat side or rounded side facing up. That is why it is called BOSU meaning “both sides up.”
What is the Core?
The main area of the core is made up of rectus abdominis, inner and external oblique, erector spinae, glutes and hamstrings. The main role of your core muscles is to keep you stable. Therefore, whenever you have to compensate for stability, your body is working the core. So whichever way you use the BOSU ball (with the dome part or flat surface facing up), it offers a very unstable platform. This makes your core muscle into continuous compensation.
Reasons Why Working the Core is Essential
If you fail to work your core you might:
Experience lower back pain
Have bad balance
(rounded shoulders, excessive lower spine curvature or external foot rotation)
Weak glutes can cause your femurs to rotate outward. This effect moves to the feet and does the same thing. This is the reason for duck-feet.
A strong core keeps your back erect when sitting and standing.
The core muscles also help to remain upright for long when riding a bike. For example, when riding a bike up a hill, you will struggle miserably when your core is weak and experience lack of stability. This is because you need power to push hard as you climb the hill.
Moreover, power is important when performing martial arts, playing sports like basketball and football where you need to make hits, fend off opponents, and maintain stability at all times.
Exercises to Perform with a BOSU Ball
I am sure you already know how to do a pushup. So rather than placing your palms face down on a flat surface, you will grab either side of the BOSU ball, with the curved side on the floor. As you push up the same way you do your conventional pushups, your stability will be greatly tested. Several parts of your body will be receiving a workout at the same time. These include your arms, your lower back, your abs, and other core muscle groups. Carry out sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.
Arm and Leg Raise
Place your BOSU ball with the flat surface facing downwards. Sit down in front of it, and gradually lean back. The BOSU ball should support your lower back. Gaze at a place high above you and at the same time lift your right leg and left arm. Keep both your arm and leg straight and bring them together if you can. Do 5 to 10 reps, then lift your left leg and right arm and do the same.
Position the BOSU ball with the round side down and step on it. You will instantly feel your core compensating in order to give you stability. While at this position you can carry out toe raises, squats, and barbell curls.
With the flat side up, grip the sides of the BOSU ball, and hold a plank with your arms extended. Take your left knee to your right elbow and draw it up all the way. Go back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds. Do the same with your right knee.
Side Plank Hip Drop
With the flat side down, do a side plank on your right side by balancing on your elbow. Your shoulder and elbow should be lined up. Stack your legs together and push your hip high up. Drop your hip and return to the starting plank. Do this for 30 seconds on both sides.
With the curved side up, sit low on the BOSU ball. Hold a 3 to 10 pound dumbbell in both hands and extend your arms behind your head. Without arching your back, keep your core tight and pull your belly button to your spine. Crunch up like you are reaching for the ceiling while maintaining your arms in a straight position. Return gradually, extending your arms backwards every time you come back down. You will feel your abs shake on the rear side which is a good sign. Do this 25 times.
– Written by Daniel N., Certified Trainer, Yoga Instructor, and Health Coach
Phone : 647-905-0942 (Toronto, Canada)
Previous Guest Posts
Breathing and the GYROTONIC® Method by Lucia Vergnano
Benefits of Yoga on Anxiety and Depression by The Klinik Blog
Dance General Fitness and Well–Being the Gyrokinesis Method March 26, 2017
I’ve only been teaching the GYROKINESIS® Method for the past year, however I’ve been using this method in conjunction with my dance training for nearly 10 years now. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should take the Gyrokinesis Method too.
The Gyrokinesis Method has been one of the only methods (along with the Gyrotonic Method) to truly address my tightness and weaknesses, which has helped me to move efficiently over the years.
No equipment needed!
Dancers can use this method as a vital part of their warmup and preparation before class and/or performance. All you’ll need is floor space and a place to sit comfortably with the feet on the ground. Movements in this method range from spinal motions to a killer abdominal series. There’s also a self-massage protocol called Awakening of the Senses, which revitalizes the body from the head to the toes.
Its specific breathing patterns, can help calm not only the mind but release tense, stubborn muscles and, of course, can be practiced anywhere in combination with the exercises. These breathing patterns allow the body to engage properly in movement without overworking and create more energy with strength and release simultaneously.
Not your typical group class.
Gyrokinesis sessions are often taught in group classes, and you won’t have to break the bank. Usually classes aren’t too big (up to 6-10 people) but it can depend on the studio. These classes are often taught in a circle or semi-circle so there’s more space to move and have the opportunity to see the movements and instructions from the trainer.
This is unique and beneficial because the class can actually move as a group, an entity, without that completive feeling. In addition, you’re getting all the principles you would get in a private Gyrotonic equipment class – win/win.
Get to the root of the problem.
Imagine a place where you’re able to achieve those things that allow you to lengthen tense muscles and strengthen weak areas simultaneously with more ease and awareness while being able to see and feel improvements within minutes.
How? Well, methods like Gyrokinesis use the body’s anatomy in the most natural and organic way for it to be moved (i.e. the spiralling concept). We want to create space in the joints as much as possible before we move, continuously. With that comes muscular length, strength, alignment, and suppleness – some of the methods’ main principles.
Increases pelvic mobility.
Pelvic mobility and range is highly significant for movement (along with core stability). In dance, the pelvis is constantly being challenged and fully utlized, which could develop into fatigue and ‘overworking’. Maintaining this kind of strength is difficult and so the hips will need some sort of recharge.
Furthermore, the Gyrokinesis Method focuses heavily on range of the pelvis (like in the Arch and Curl) and how to release its attachments to improve posture, alignment, and reduce back pain. Exercises are based sitting on a chair so you can safely mobilize the pelvis and spine. Great for those who spend a lot of time building websites and networking online.
Move without pain.
Dancers must learn how to maximize their movement potential without compromising the body or creating unnecessary pain. Pain often comes from poor alignment, overuse, fatigue, or worst, ignoring the root of the problem. Fortunately, there are ways around working without too much pain.
The Gyrokinesis method was originally designed for dancers who needed to be educated about ‘how to move without pain’ and to create awareness of self. Once we become more aware of our body in movement, we can adhere to this principle. This method also helps dancers to find true rotation and balance without impact.