Some Irish dancers automatically assume that they need to perform more stretching exercises if they cannot touch their toes or if they cannot lift their legs higher than some of their classmates. NEWSFLASH! This is not always the case. Poor posture is more likely the issue. Stretching will benefit you but it is only a temporary issue. You need to find the root cause to properly assess and fix the issue – THIS IS WHERE I COME IN USEFUL!
Let me give you an example. Have you ever heard of extended posture? Check the image to get a better idea.
In this type of stance, a persons ribs is in front of the body, glutes stick out, and there is a huge curve in the spine. If you know someone who has similar posture, you might be able to help them after reading this post.
This extended alignment affects the functioning of the diaphragm. If you don’t know already, your diaphragm is one of the primary muscles for respiration. What is respiration? It is the action of breathing. As a result, you will not be able to work and perform effectively. When your diaphragm fails to work properly, your body will automatically compensate by recruiting other muscle groups when performing at an intensity higher than your resting heart rate. Speaking from experience, the muscles most likely to become stressed are your hip flexors and your lower back muscles. If the situation lasts for long periods of time, other muscles connected to the same chain can also become stressed such as the hamstrings and calf muscles. I know this is a lot to take in but bare with me 😀 If you know someone who has extended posture, this will all make sense to them.
As I said, the hip flexors are more likely to become stressed from repetitive use. When your hip flexors become stressed or tight, corresponding stress and tension can also be present in the diaphragm. Tight hip flexors can also cause a few other issues including an unwanted anterior pelvic tilt. When this happens, it can put stress on the hamstrings and stretch them, making them feel tight. Now you might say ‘’is stretching my hamstrings not a good thing?’’ My answer to that is ‘’yes’’ if your hamstrings actually need to be stretched. But, it’s never a good thing if your pelvis is doing the stretching for you. Even still, this will not fix the issue.
So in a nutshell:
Extended posture can result in poor functioning of the diaphragm which affects respiration, tight hip flexors, tight lower back muscles, weak glutes and weak abdominals.
As a dancer, this can be a nightmare but the good news is that it can be corrected.
Some common dancing errors you may find in a dancers performance if they have extended posture:
Poor leg lifts
The upper body may lean forward
Poor upright position
To break the trend and recover from extended posture, you need to follow some simple exercises and do them on a daily basis including this one:
Lie on your back. Bend your needs keeping your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your arms straight, place your hands on the ground and shoulder height with your palms facing downward.
Take a breath in through your nose. When you do this you might notice your abdominals raising, leaving a gap between your back and the ground.
Exhale through your mouth pushing as much air out of your lungs as possible. When you do this your abdominals will lower to the ground the gap between your midback and the ground will lessen.
When you have exhaled, hold your position for 5 seconds.
Then repeat but this time you have to use your lower abdominals to keep your midback flat on the ground at all times. This will also push your pelvis into a neutral position. Repeat up to 5 breaths. Do this daily.
This exercise along with the perfect training and rehabilitation program will correct extended alignment.
If you need more help and advice on this subject please do not hesitate to ask!
Thank you as always for reading my blogs. If you enjoyed it, please give me a like and a share. It would mean a lot to me and it would help others too.
You can check out older blogs on my website www.irishdancingphysicalfitness.ie
By Peter O’Grady
The Author of Upping Your Step.
A training Book & DVD for Irish dancing.
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