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There are lots of good warmup and conditioning vidoes available via DVD and the Internet. This article focuses on:
Warming up before dancing or intense physical activity needs to be focused on cardio; the after-activity cool-downs focus on stretching.
Warming up means we increase the blood flow to our large muscle groups to make them more pliable and able to handle ballistic movement without injury. This includes walking, jogging, calisthenics, and the dance equivalents, starting slow and building intensity for ten minutes. Erik Whitney writes: "You practice like you play. Normal sporting activities, dance included, are mainly ballistic by nature and you must prepare your body for that. How many poses do you really hold for 30 seconds in a routine? Not many. Mostly you do a lot of very quick ballistic type movements."
Choosing which warm-up activity to use is as easy as slowing down what you will be doing during your work-out. For example, if you will be running, warm up with a slow jog, or if you will be cycling outdoors, begin in lower gears. An ideal intensity for an aerobic warm-up has yet to be established, but a basic guideline is to work at a level that produces a small amount of perspiration, but doesn't leave you feeling fatigued.
The dance equivalent: traveling steps with undulations, hip snaps, hip lifts, hip circles. Anthea Kawakib Poole has solved the problem of choosing warm-up movements that are tailored to belly dance with her twenty-minute DVD of foot patterns, hip and arm movements, isolation drills and simple stretches.
Erik Whitney states that stretches "should be done in sets of 3 and held for 30 seconds- not a 30 count- but actually 30 seconds. These stretches need to be performed at least 3 times a week to see improvements- and improvements will come faster the more its done- it can even be done several times a day every day!"
Melissa Stone had this to say:
The key to moving past your limited flexibility is to hold that point of slight discomfort at the edge of your stretch. When stretching you should be breathing into your stretch for 45 seconds or longer. Most of us do not hold the stretch long enough to see the benefit... What happens when you stretch: The muscle will contract (tighten) and then release (open). If you are not holding your stretches long enough you will only contract the muscle, which does nothing for your flexibility. I am a huge fan of stretching as an everyday practice, but I do not save my stretching just before a dance performance or exercise program. I incorporate stretching before, during and after any activity where I will be doing a repetitive motion, sitting or standing for long periods of time and/or to give myself some rejuvenation during the day.
Erik Whitney's Warm Up! at OrientalDancer.net.
Dancer Anthea Kawakib's YouTube channel provides access to free and for-pay streaming videos.
Melissa Stone is a Certified Massage Therapist and yoga practitioner who wrote for the now-defunct Belly Dance, A Raqs Sharqui Magazine. These quotes are from her Warm Up for the Dancer article in the Fall 2010 issue.
Learning research shows it best to learn three new things at a time and then cycle through the three again. This keeps the focus sharp without trying to cram too much in.
PLAN to BREATHEFrom 'Improving Breathing for Better Dance Performance' by Taaj:
Start by bringing your body into the basic belly dance posture. Take a couple of deep breaths... As you are breathing, mentally scan your body to make sure that you are indeed in alignment and that no tension exists anywhere in the body... Direct your breath into your belly. Put one hand on your belly just below your belly button and one hand on your chest. The hand on your belly should rise every time you inhale. As you exhale, the belly should return to normal. The hand on your chest should always remain still. Practice this for ten minutes a day. After a month, you should notice that you are able to do this naturally at any time during the day without thinking about it.
As you move into your warm up movements, coordinate your breath with each movement so that you exhale on the extension (moving away from the body) and inhale on the contraction (moving toward the body). Keep the breath and the movements slow and smooth. If the extension takes five seconds, the contraction should take five seconds. Continue to coordinate breath with movement for a minimum of five minutes. If your warm up includes movements that hold, be sure to breathe through those movements. Never hold your breath. Including breath work in your warm up should decrease the amount of time it takes to fully warm up the body as efficient breathing increases vascular functioning without increasing your heart rate.
WORK YOUR PLANFrom two 2001 Jareeda articles by Katisha, 'Reducing Muscle Soreness' and 'Healthy Stretching': Stretching maintains flexibility but also releases tension and counteracts stress.
My favorite conditioning DVD is Cassandra's Conditioning Class - Strengthening, Conditioning and Body Awareness for the Dancer. Cassandra's unusual (and potent) exercises keep the wolves at bay.
Warming Up on OrientalDancer.net. The references to Ballistic Stretching may actually refer to Dynamic Stretching, since the author cautions that the stretches be restricted to a light bounce. From web.Mit.Edu: "Dynamic stretching... involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both... Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or jerky movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists... dynamic stretching exercises should be performed in sets of 8-12 repetitions. Be sure to stop when and if you feel tired. Tired muscles have less elasticity which decreases the range of motion used in your movements."
Beginner stretch routine on OrientalDancer.net, divided into warm up and cool down phases.
Advanced stretch routine on OrientalDancer.net, divided into warm up and cool down phases.
An interview with Joe Williams during which he describes how to integrate Delsarte into yoga practice. It is applicable to stretching in general.
Nabaweya Mostafa is my idol!
Taaj, the Belly Dance Trainer has a number of well-written and informative articles on her website.
Jareeda Magazine is a Middle-Eastern dance magazine that has been published continuously for over thirty years.
Mild cardio (brisk walking) and mild stretches are also useful for undoing the negative effects of desk-bound work (caused by a lack of muscular contractions and bad posture) when performed several times a day. Optimum: stand up and move for two minutes every 20 minutes.
From a 2012 email from Hannan Sultan: "Every sixty minutes, move for sixty seconds. All waking hours, every day. One, swing your arms. Two, reach overhead. Three touch your toes. Four arch your back. You get the idea."
Melissa Stone writes: "I am a huge fan of stretching as an everyday practice, but I do not save my stretching for just before a dance performance or exercise program. I incorporate stretching before, during and after any activity where I will be doing a repetitive motion, sitting or standing for long periods of time and/or to give myself some rejuvenation during the day."
American Chiropractic Association:
|Healthy Back Tops, Doroski Chiropractic Neurology, web.|
When I realized that my desk job was going to kill me before I retired, I got rid of my car and started collecting a list of exercises that I could do at work. Many of them can be done at a (my) cubicle desk. A couple of others I do on the stairs or in the large handicapped stall in the loo. The folks whose suggestions made my list are referenced at right.
FACE and NECKTry circular exercises for the neck. Pretend your neck is mounted on a clock: chin towards chest at 12 o'clock, right ear to shoulder at 3 o'clock, head back and chin up at 6 o'clock, left ear to shoulder at 9 o'clock.
Try Brain Wave Vibration:
CHEST and SHOULDERSTry circular, sliding and stretching exercises for your shoulders.
WRISTSTry circular and stretching exercises for your wrists.
SPINELengthen and Strengthen. Boy, these feel good.
KNEESHamstrings (muscles at back of thighs): they extend the hip and flex the knee, pulling the leg back.
Quadriceps (muscles in front of the thighs): quads flex the hip and extend the knee, pulling the leg forward.
Vasus Medialis (Muscle in inner thigh that controls position of knee cap):
LEGS and ANKLESThe Achilles tendon is a very large, very important tendon behind the ankle which functions as the primary flexor of the foot and ankle, or, the transmitter of the force which allows a dancer to rise up on her toes or the balls of her foot.
The best preventative measure is regular strengthening and stretching exercises and mindfulness during sudden abrupt movements.
Brain Wave Vibration at Dahn Yoga. "Brain Wave Vibration (BWV) not only benefits the mind and body but also ultimately stabilizes brain waves to an optimal state. Closely tied to hormone production, it induces the secretion of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates a sense of happiness, and dopamine, which suppresses stress."
Southern Dancer magazine is defunct. The author of the Achilles Tendon info was identified only as an orthopedic surgeon and a physiotherapist; the knee exercises were attributed to an article in the Sentinel Star Newspaper.
Man Kali of TridoShawWellness.com.
1952 version of Walk Your Way to Better Dancing by Lawrence Hostetleron at archive.org.
Magana Baptiste, a runner-up in the 1951 Miss USA contest, and her husband Walt, Mr. America in 1949, opened the Yoga Philosphic Health Center in San Francisco in 1955, where he taught body building and she taught yoga. She is still alive, but her daughter and son seem to be running the studios.
Yoga Poses for Aches and Pains Pain Injury Relief.
In a chair:
"Exercises for Good Ground Contact" in Belly Dancing by Coluccia, Paffrath, and Putz, Park Street Press 2003
Mountaineer Online on at Fort Drum.
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