I tried not to hold my breath, and inwardly a stream of colourful curses spiralled through my mind. I didn’t need to utter them aloud, the expression on my face said it all. I could only whimper helplessly, as I struggled to even turn over in bed, let alone get up. Tension gripped my whole body, as I gingerly and very very slowly tried to roll over, keeping my back as rigid as possible. Sharp pains stabbed my spine and shot down my leg. I felt as though a thousand swords were slicing me open with every tiny movement.
Like many people in the UK and around the world, I’ve experienced the crippling feeling of disabling back pain. Even otherwise fit, healthy people like me can be affected by this recurring condition, which requires a special combination of exercise and treatment to keep symptoms at bay. I’m offering a Ballet Fusion Bootcamp at SPACeHoxton from August 22nd – 26th, where you can learn some of my best techniques for staying fit, beating back pain and feeling great. But first, let me tell you more about how I developed my back pain cure.
My natural hypermobility gives me an advantage in my professional dance career. But, like many others with above average flexibility, I had to learn the hard way how to manage the increased likelihood I have of developing injuries as a result of muscular stiffness and restricted joint movement.
At first that sounds implausible: if I am more flexible than most people, surely my joints should not feel restricted? However, let’s look at that more closely.
Many activities in our daily and professional lives require repetitive movements, or involve sitting or standing in a fixed posture for hours at a time. Often, tasks like writing emails, proposals and reports, or editing video and audio files, require me to use a computer or hand held device for extended periods. Rehearsals and film shoots often require multiple repetitions of the same movement to hone and perfect a sequence. Just like many office workers, routinely spending several hours sitting, or going over and over a single task, means I develop stiff, tight, and tired muscles around the key load points of the spine: the back of the head, the tops of the shoulders, the lower back, and the front of the hips.
Because people with hypermobility, like me, have a greater normal range of motion in our joints, the effect of restriction and repetition on us is even greater than usual. Like the old saying: move it or lose it! If you don’t maintain your range of movement and incorporate a variety of body positions and postures into your daily activities, your postural muscles become overworked as they try to keep your spine fixed in one place for longer, moving less than your body naturally needs you to.
My training as a dancer gives me a finely tuned knowledge of the way to optimise my strength and conditioning training, and when to seek help from bodywork professionals, to help me counter the effects of these kinds of overuse injuries.
My experience of back pain and overuse injuries lead me to train as a Sports Massage Therapist and Fitness Coach, and I now combine all the knowledge I have developed over the last two decades into the Ballet Fusion dance fitness class that I and my team offer at SPACeHoxton.
Taught correctly, with attention to the anatomically optimal posture and joint alignment of the spine, Contemporary Ballet helps you learn to use and control the full range of movement of the spine, as well as developing strength and flexibility in the legs, and freedom of movement and control in the upper body and arms.
Standing at the barre, or facing the mirror, you can see and focus on the symmetry of the body, noticing discrepancies in how you hold your shoulders, the flexibility and position of your legs and feet, and feel differences in strength and power between the sides of your body.
Traditional classical ballet exercises train you to lift your core, developing a flat stomach and lifted abdominal muscles, which are crucial for good posture and controlling low back pain symptoms. Many people who sit all day have tight hip flexors and weak glutes and hamstrings. Can you guess which muscles are worked in an arabesque? Yep. The iliopsoas is your main hip flexor, which must be stretched to achieve a beautiful arabesque line, while your glutes and hamstrings are engaged to lift and extend the let behind you.
Ballet Fusion technique combines modern classical techniques with contemporary dance to create a fun and creative workout class.
The concept of release and movement efficiency have been extensively explored by contemporary dance experts. When applied in dance training, visualising your movement having these qualities gives you a feeling of freedom and relaxation when moving. Many traditional ballet classes feel as though they are all about control and discipline, forcing the body into a position it is not ready to achieve yet. That’s why working on flexibility, general mobility and conditioning is so important, to prepare the body for being able to easily and effortlessly move through it’s natural movement range.
Sitting at a desk or doing repetitive physical tasks are effectively training the body to move in a limited way or become habituated to a particular posture – often an unhealthy one. It’s essential to expand the potential of the body by gently challenging those fixed postures and habitual movement patterns with movement combinations that focus on flowing from one position to another, visualising movement qualities like opening, reaching, falling, releasing, throwing, gliding and floating. The mental training is very effective in helping you achieve an almost meditative state that athletes describe as “being in the zone”: a state in which you can indulge in your body’s natural expansiveness and capacity for physical power and creative expression.
Using your mind to lift you out of the rut you might have fallen into with your normal workout routine can make a huge difference to your experience of pain, tension and stiffness in your body, as well as helping you address the underlying unhealthy habits that are causing the problem. Often we focus on how much you have to do your boring and difficult exercises to get rid of the pain you are finding so hard to cope with. Instead, using visualisation and fun, creative movement combinations, the Ballet Fusion workout improves your strength and conditioning without you even thinking about it. While your attention is distracted by learning new movement combinations every lesson, your body responds to the variety of physical challenges as you are pushed out of your comfort zone. Using a combination of familiar movement patterns and unfamiliar combinations, you can achieve great results and have fun, while improving the strength of your spine and the fitness and health of your whole body.
If you want to learn how to beat back pain using ballet, to explore your physical and creative potential, or need some creative inspiration to motivate you to commit to your workout goals, the Ballet Fusion Bootcamp could be the refresher you are looking for.
Find out more and reserve your place by registering now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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