If you attend my classes with any regularity, you have probably noticed that I cue a lot for posture. (And I can never say everything I want to express about it, not even in this blog.) Our posture determines how comfortable we are in our bodies. It even predicts how comfortable we will be in the future. As a tall child, I was often told to "suck that tummy in and stick your chest out" by folks who never modeled that behavior themselves. As a result, I copied what I saw, not what I was told. This could be true for you, too. We learn to walk from modeling mom's posture, if she was the primary caregiver (eventually, boys may try to copy dad). So look at your mom's or dad's posture and see if you notice a similarity. Given that these postural habits predict where we hold tension or pain, is any similarity something you prefer, or not?
We live our lives walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. Pretty much the same way day in, day out. Our posture creates patterns of holding which become stuck over time as connective tissue shrinks to fit our posture and becomes more rigid. The beauty of a practice, such as dance or yoga, is the way it encourages us to stretch and move beyond our habitual patterns. Dance allows our movement to flow, it introduces grace, fluidity, and increased mobility. It gets us unstuck from our postural habits and allows us to develop new ones.
Some of my postural cues are: lift your heart, lift your sternum, allow the shoulder blades to slide down the back, float the chin, relax the jaw, sense yourself suspended from the top of your head, allow the spine to dangle or flow down from the top of the head, bend the knees slightly, palms up - opens the heart, and many more I can't think of right now. The cuing, the flow of the dance, the beauty (or fun) of the music, the joy of being surrounded by other dancers, all allow us to just be - differently - in our bodies. A lot of the theory the cues are based on comes from Alexander Technique (moving from the top), and Feldenkrais (awareness through movement and sensation). Both of these healing methods involve gentle changes in alignment, nothing radical -- like tuck your tummy and stick your chest out! It seems to be working because I have witnessed tremendous postural changes in those who have come to class regularly (and practiced) for several years. The ultimate goal is to dance out of class and into the rest of our lives, pain-free, with the same grace and ease we practice in class. It's not just an exercise class - it's about how we live in our bodies, how we feel in our bodies. When we lift our our hearts, we feel better. When we feel better, we're more willing to be generous and contribute to making the world a better place. (Oh-oh, the secret agenda is out! And you are allowed to think it is just an exercise class, if you want.)