Improving Your Posture for dance

You improve your dancing. I get eternal love and coke cans make a cameo appearance.

I recently began blogging on subjects related to dancing and the dance business. While chatting with a long time dance friend she said “Brian the most frustrating thing to me is that people can dance for 20 years and still look like they just took their first lesson. They learn the steps but that’s it. If you can help only one person to think about what they look like dancing, I would love you forever.” So in the pursuit of eternal love here I go!

“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.” – Morihei Ueshiba

Without getting into all the technical details of ‘better dancing’ lets focus on a single basic fundamental, good posture! Sometimes I wonder why our posture doesn’t reflect the joy of dance that we all have. I mean lets face it, we love dancing  but still many of us have particularly bad posture, head down, shoulders rolled forward. When dancers begin I’m sure instructors shout “pick your head up and throw your shoulders back.” Sometime they try, sometimes they don’t. Most of the time its hard. “This hurts” a student said to me recently. Hurts? Why? I’ll tell you why! Its a lifetime of poor daily posture habits or worse a lifetime of poor mental habits! Everything  starts with whats in between your ears. If you don’t mentally make the choice to make good posture a priority then your dancing your body will surly suffer the consequences.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

As a dance teacher it shocks me  to see the toll ‘life’ has taken on some people both physically and mentally. Poor posture and a sour disposition are habits that are formed. We often come to dancing for reasons other than the dancing itself. We come looking for exercise, community or a diversion from something else. Personally I started taking dance classes at age 21 to ‘escape’ from my busy work week as a new business owner. The good news is that we are all here now and along the way we have fallen in love. At this stage of my teaching one of my main focuses is to teach life lessons through dance and the lesson in this blog post is this… We only have one body in this life. We must keep it healthy both internally and externally. Paying attention to our posture not only makes us better dancers but it makes us physically stronger and mentally sharper humans!

4 Coke cans, and understanding posture.

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Take 4 coke cans and stack them on top of each other. Seriously do it. If you want to be healthy use Diet Coke. Editors note: we understand water is the most healthy but water bottles won’t work for this experiment. If you carefully stack 4 cans on top of each other you’ll see that they fit quite nicely. Lets imagine them as 4 main blocks of weight in your body. The bottom one your legs, the next up your pelvis, the third, your ribcage and the final can, your head. If they are stacked neatly you’ll see that you can twist each can individually and still maintain the integrity of the little ‘structure’ you’ve just built. (think twisting your hips in cha cha) You can even afford to tilt them a bit and create as little shape. (think ballroom dance shapes) Tilt them too much though and eventually they will topple over. This is an overly simplistic way to think about your posture but it’s one that I use daily in my teaching, dancing and life. I’m always thinking about how my body is aligned. I challenge you to so the same. Pay attention to which of the 4 body blocks are out of order. Is your head tilted forward? Does your pelvis tilt forward? Backward? Concentrate on stacking your body blocks all day long, when you walk, when you sit most fun of all while you dance.

Improve your mental state too.

But wait! I said that paying attention to your posture would also make you mentally sharper. Hummmm… what the heck does that mean? Another exercise if you don’t mind…. Pretend you are depressed. Yes right now. How would you sit? How would you breath? Where would you look? Would you look up or down? Ahhhhh…. get it? Looking down is never a confidence inspiring posture. Then why the heck would you ever look down when dancing? Not only will it “topple over your coke cans’ and ruin your posture but it makes you look shy and sullen and not confident and happy. So pick your head up and if it feels a bit awkward for you when someone catches your eye with your improved posture just flash them a smile and I guarantee it will add a little pep to your dance step!

3 places to focus on your posture.

  1. During your dancing. Well duh right? Thats right start thinking about it now. Keep you head up and inline with your spine. Keep your shoulders rolled down and back. Keep your hips tucked underneath you. Don’t the your bum stick out our your hips sling forward.
  2. While sitting or driving. Did you know that cultures who eat, sleep or use the toilet at ground level have almost no incidence of  back issues. In cultures like ours its largely sitting that causes much of the back pain that we have. Pay attention to your low back while you sit. Keep your abs tight and your spine and head stacked up even while ‘relaxing’ in a chair or driving to work.
  3. During a Yoga Class. Yogi’s have been at it thousands of years. They have a thing or two worked out about the human body. In my experience (I’ve been doing yoga for 13 years) Yoga teachers have a fantastic sense of posture, much much better than most dance teachers. It’s their job to cultivate the ability to communicate changes in your posture with only one or two verbal cues.

Digging a bit deeper into understanding your body.

If you made it this far you are probably genuinely  interested in learning more about posture, moving more efficiently that things that will ultimately make you a better dancer. May I suggest 2 fantastic physical therapists? Grey Cook & Kelly Starrett. Grey has developed a great resourceful website on basically moving like a better human! Grey Cook an his Functional Movement Screening information can be found at www.graycook.com. Kelly Starrett has an excellent site on injury prevention and simple maintenance for your body at www.mobilitywod.com. There is a great catalog of videos to help improve your posture and movement. I used both of these sites to deepen my understanding of posture and my body in general as I recovered from a major back surgery a couple of years back.

Eternal love and sharing.

If you made it this far I want to thank you for taking the time to read the entire post. Hopefully you’ve found something helpful, interesting or at the very least entertaining. If you are one of the people who found anything helpful please feel free to share this page link on your website or Facebook page. After all all I need is help one of you to “think about what you look like dancing” and I will receive eternal love from my friend! More importantly all I want is to share what I’ve learned so far through dancing with as many people as possible. That brings me more joy than you know.

All the best in dance, Brian ‘B’


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