Journey to the Center

So ironically, after writing my last blog post about recovering from a bad day, this weekend, I find myself having a tough time. If you caught my social media on Friday evening, then you know we experienced the very-rare-for-Orange-County thunderstorm! I love a good summer thunderstorm (we’ll ignore the fact that it’s October because it’s still in the 70s/80s here). But unfortunately, I also live with seasonal affective disorder, so gloomy weather makes me gloomy. It was gray and rainy all day on Saturday, and by Sunday morning, even though the sun started to come out, I was also feeling quite gray.

It was still a dancing weekend. Or at least a dance training weekend. After Zumba on Friday, I met with Teacher’s wife on Saturday for an assessment of what I needed to do to get my body to do what I wanted it to do. It boils down to me wanting more strength, flexibility and control. You know, just small things.

Maybe I’m foolish to think I can improve those aspects of my body at my age to the point that I can pull off those fancy leg tricks you see so often at the Open level, but hey, I’ve accomplished a lot that I wouldn’t have believed a few years ago. My instructor on Saturday was kind enough to not tell me it’d never happen because I’m too old (I think it’s only in my head that I hear it). I have to admit though that the session wasn’t what I was expecting. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I assumed we’d go through a laundry list of things that would indicate how flexible or not I am. What happened was more like something out of the Karate Kid.

One of the first things she had me do was lay on the floor. My body needed to lay as flat as possible while relaxed. This is a lot harder than you would think. Trying to flatten one part of my body would make me tense up another part.

We went through a couple other brief exercises, but the main homework was to spend time laying flat. The point is to get my body aligned and understand that everything comes from the core. It’s “easier” to do laying down vs. standing because you have the floor as a reference point. Plus you can really relax everything, assuming your body relaxes (I laid on the floor for about 25 minutes on Sunday and I don’t think I convinced my neck to relax once). I use the word “relax” loosely because it’s like an active relaxation as the core is still actively engaged, pulling from the belly button to the spine. Then you’re supposed to lengthen the body out from the core… Don’t ask me to explain it all; I only spent an hour with her. 😉

It reminded me of Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid making Daniel paint the fence and do other chores before he learned “real” karate. Here I was thinking I was going to go through a whole checklist of dance flexibility and/or strength tests, but I didn’t get past “lay on the floor.” To be fair, that task plus holding each stretch in my current sequence for at least a minute (bare minimum per Mrs. Miyagi, several minutes is better) will fill my evenings. But it still amused me to think about while I was trying to figure out how to pull my belly button down towards my living room floor to take the arc out of my lower back without tensing my hips or chest.

Despite my gloomy mood, I still made it to the studio to get in my solo practice. The self-doubt was alive and well as I tried to duplicate what I saw in my videos of our Open Waltz routine. I’m having a hard time keeping track of how many turns I’m supposed to do in different sections without Teacher there to guide me. That plus other challenges made it a frustrating practice. BUT I still did it, and I think I made some small progress.

This coming week is going to be about testing how I can best incorporate my homework from Mrs. Miyagi into my already full schedule. She said it herself – we’re not professional dancers being paid to work out and train in the studio every day. I wouldn’t mind that, but my current reality is different. I sit for the majority of the day, five days a week. I struggle to get enough sleep during the week as it is, so to add additional activities every evening that take specific chunks of time is going to be a challenge.

One obvious thing to do is get my more-than-one-minute stretches while I’m doing something else. I could be stretching while I’m writing this blog post! Ok, fine, I’m not, but I’m still activating my core. Work that center! The point is I can multi-task the stretching. Aligning my body on the floor for an extended period of time will be a different adjustment.

I’m also not putting the pressure on myself to get everything done every single day right off the bat. I’ve done that to myself enough and I know it always fails. I’m not solely a dancer; I’m also a blogger, a client services manager at the day job, and a Mama to my fur babies. Incorporating additional conditioning work takes more than just the discipline and grit required of all dancers. So, in true Solo Practice Guide fashion, I am starting small and building from there.

I’m reminded of the Journey to Splits challenge I did a few years ago. The cool thing is that with just the light stretching I’ve been doing every morning plus before and after my dance lessons, I’m a LOT closer to doing a front split than I was at the end of the splits challenge, without actually spending time in splits. So I’m fantasizing that adding more structure to what I’m doing will get me fast results. We’ll see!


If you need help adding some structure to your dance training, sign up for the free Solo Practice worksheet!

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