Power-Full Posture

November 27, 2011 Caroleeena HoopingPoiUncategorized

When you slouch, your shoulders roll forward, your head droops, your general appearance becomes that of a person who is afraid of taking up space. Physiologically, the diaphragm becomes compressed, breathing becomes constricted, energy is restricted. Yoga teaches us that our chi, or energy, flows most effectively when we extend and expand ourselves, when the pull up is equal to the pull down. Flamenco dancers have some of the best posture of all dancers. They stand tall and proud, lifting the chest and almost suspending the body in the air, which is what allows them to slam their heels down in percussive bursts, even as they do intricate armwork above their heads. They are fierce and proud and it shows. Flamenco dancers have no qualms about taking up space.

When I took up flamenco dance, my teacher was constantly chiding me to drop my shoulders. Try as I might, though, I could not do it! I had spent so much time slouched in an office chair, or on a couch, or in front of a computer, or driving a car, or reading a book in my lap, that my shoulders had slowly moved into a permanent forward slouch. And the crazy thing was I didn’t even know it! I was on my way to becoming one of those slouched over elderly folks who loses inches with every decade and I was completely unaware of it. Thank goodness I took that class and set about correcting my posture. And little did I know that correcting my posture required addressing things a lot lower in my back than just setting my shoulders.

Excellent hooping is a combination of mind, body and breath. Posture affects our hooping in all these ways. Restricting our breath makes us feel tired because it restricts our flow of oxygen. It also affects our state of mind by making us feel depressed. It can make us not hoop when hooping is exactly what we need. It also adversely affects our hooping. If we have a tendency to slouch, it makes us lean forward and this causes the hoop to drop to the floor or spin haphazardly instead of on a nice flat plane. To keep the hoop up while slouching, we must push the pelvis under and up to try to compensate. This leads to low back pain and other health risks as well as throwing off our balance. Ideally, when hooping on the waist, our belly button thrusts straight forward, then straight back toward the belly button’s opposite location in the upper-low back. The back does not sway and the butt does not have to push back and forth. The isolation is very small, almost beyond the eye’s ability to perceive. If you watch new hoopers though, you get a more clear idea of what most hoopers are actually doing – a kind of pelvic thrust that starts from the knees and gyrates all the way up through the chest. Even a little of this gyration affects our balance as well as our ability to utilize other parts of the body while simultaneously hooping. Correcting our posture allows us to minimize our movements, make our dance more beautiful, maximize the amount of oxygen we take in, have more energy and protect our overall muscular and skeletal health.

So where to start? The key to moving from bad posture to good posture is to reactivate muscles that have atrophied over time from lack of use while realigning other muscles that have become over-developed in an attempt to compensate. Think North and South. Pulling equally in both directions simultaneously will automatically pull your posture into alignment. If your belly and/or chest is headed east and your ass is headed west, your posture is out of alignment! Squeeze your lower abdomen to flatten the pelvis. If you look in a mirror, when you release your lower abs, your pelvis probably drops pushing your bottom back and creating a sway in the back. Tightening your gluts (or the muscles in your bum) also pushes your pelvis into alignment keeping the lower back straight and pain free. If the pelvis drops forward when you relax, this is an indication that you need to strengthen those lower abs! Tightening the transverse abdominals, takes the pressure of the low back while also supporting your organs and your posture.

Next step: Correcting those rounded shoulders! A simple exercise for this is shoulder rolls. First, roll your shoulders forward and down as far as you can. Next, keeping them forward, push them North as high as you can. Third, keeping them high, push them back as far as you can. Fourth, keeping them back, push them down as far as you can. Finally, maintaining this position with the shoulders sitting down and low in the back, squeeeeeeeeze the shoulders together like you are trying to crack a walnut between them. Maintain this position for five to ten seconds, then repeat the entire exercise. This end place should also be your resting position all the time! (Note: Do not push forward through your chest, which will cause your back to sway. Stand tall, lower abs and gluts tight, chin up, while you roll your shoulders back and down.)

Do this shoulder roll exercise periodically throughout your day, especially in the circumstances where you are most likely to let your shoulders roll forward: while driving, using the computer, watching television and sitting at your desk. I highly recommend leaving yourself a sticky note at each place that reminds you to “Roll Those Shoulders Back and Down!” Pretty soon it will become second nature.

Shoulder rolls help relax not only the shoulder muscles but loosens the neck muscles and takes pressure off the base of the skull, three places people are most likely to store their stress. Tightness in these places is painful and harmful to your health. It causes muscle aches, nerve pain and headaches. Rolling your shoulders back and down not only alleviates this, it allows your arms free range of motion for integrating beautiful armwork into your hoopdance.

Again, the keys to good posture are:
1. Tighten the lower abdominals,
2. Tighten the gluts
3. Roll the shoulders back and down and then relax, and
4. Stand tall.

This allows you lift from the diaphragm without even thinking about it, which creates space between your vertebrae, allows you to take in more oxygen, increases your freedom of movement, gives you more energy and enhances your confidence and self-esteem. It also affects how others interact with you as well as allows you to greatly improve your hoopdance while reducing low back pain.

When you walk into a room as if you own the building, holding yourself with certainty and power, people will be drawn to you and you will interact with them differently. You will act with confidence and pride and you’ll look like a million bucks. So hold yourself proudly, generate energy, move with enthusiasm, put yourself in a great mood – all with the way you hold your body. You’ll live longer and fuller and your hoopdance will improve too.

Start right now. I’ve scoured YouTube and this is the best video I could find on improving your posture. Check it out:

And stand tall! You are unique and more wondrous than you know. You deserve to take up space.


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