Dance Conditioning - Part 2: The Seated 'Leaning Tower'
My last post generated more views and "recommends" than usual, indicating an interest in conditioning for ballroom dancing. That's a good sign for the dance community, because our goals should include fitness and safe practices to fully enjoy this wonderful sport.
Convenient, seated exercises seem to appeal to many of you. I mentioned one of the best routines last time, one that works the core, leg, thighs, and feet. Today we're discussing a variation many experienced dancers find equally practical, one that is great for the upper and lower back.
Before we begin, I want to repeat a warning: Check in with your medical specialist to receive assurance this drill is OK for you. Please remember we are all built differently, with different inherent and acquired capacities or limitations. Plus, our bodies invariably change as we age.
Seated 'Leaning Tower' for the back
Start by sitting as straight as possible, your spine against a straight seat back, similar to the "Seated Dance Frame" described in the previous post. The "Leaning Tower" exercise also works your core muscle group, there are main distinctions: It places an emphasis on stretching your neck and back, helping to relax muscle groups and easing tension between the vertebrae. And in this case both feet remain on the floor.
How to check your alignment? The back of your head, neck and the full length of your spine – should follow a straight line as much as possible throughout the range of motion.
Contract your stomach muscles back towards your spine. As you do this, you may feel your spine straighten even more. Keep your head as "tall" as possible, but angle your chin downward slightly towards your chest. You will feel a mild stretch at the back of your neck. However your spinal line should still remain straight. While maintaining that position, gradually lean slightly forward (perhaps at first no more than 10 or 20 degrees) very slowly.
An image to keep in mind: the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, often listed as one of the world's architectural wonders. The tower tilts to one side, yet it still stands tall with lines that have remained almost perfectly straight since its first construction phase seven centuries ago.
When using this exercise, you should notice contraction in the core muscle group, plus a mild stretch all along the back. Hold for about five counts, then slowly reverse the process. You might sense a subtle "roll" of the vertebrae as they realign to support your back in an upright position. Repeat about three or four times.
Important: If you feel any pain at any point in this exercise, stop. Simply relax, and check back in with your doctor. This exercise may or may not be appropriate for dancers with certain muscular or skeletal issues, such as stenosis, osteoarthritis, or scoliosis.
If you are cleared to try the "Seated Leaning Tower," your back may thank you by feeling better and stronger during many years of dancing – although none of us can match the longevity of that historic tower in Italy.
Hope to see you on the dance floor!
© 2012, Cheryl Burke Dance. All rights reserved.