Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rolling Out The Glutes For Beginners.

I am forever battling sore glutes, which in turn makes my lower back tight and sore. Despite having two Trigger Point GRIDs and a high-density foam roller I don't roll nearly as much as I should. One of my promises to myself in the New Year is to roll out my trouble spots on a more regular basis.

Below is a video showing some beginner rolling techniques for the glutes and piriformis.

In an effort to hone my skills as an "armchair diagnostic specialist" for myself I stumbled upon a term "piriformis syndrome". Hmmmm...

Here is a cute video (cute referring to the clever use of captions and the presenter) for a great stretch for the glutes and piriformis .

In my searching I found this video about piriformis syndrome. It has a great, and simple, exercise for a technique referred to as "nerve flossing", or something along those lines, for the sciatic nerve. It also has the stretch from the video above.

Want to learn a bit more about piriformis syndrome? This video had some interesting info.

Don't have a rolling device? Interested in getting a roller? I highly recommend the TPTherapy GRID. On the right side of this site there is a TPTherapy link. Full discloser- I am an affiliate for TPTherapy products, so if you purchase through the link I receive a small percentage. It's a product I believe in.

Hope this info is helpful!

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Cross Blog Monday. (And, I Went To My First "Glow Party"!)

It's another episode of Cross Blog Monday. In an effort to learn my way around WordPress and to explore a secret love of mine (writing) I started another blog, Less about tutorials, more about recipes and the stuff banging around in my mother of four head. Ha! That last sentence makes it sound like I have four heads. Mother-of-four head. Talk about having eyes in the back of your head!

First, some recipes;

Garlicy Shrimp and Cauliflower "Rice" with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Capers.

"Grab What There Is" Slow-Cooker Chicken.

Dance teacher talk!
I was originally going to post this on this blog, but Blogger was being poopy that day.

Listen Up! It's Your Dance Teacher Talking...

Balancing out the issues of balance.


Weekend Wind Tunnel.

Here are some topics that have hit my radar this week, caused me pause to think about or gave me food for thought (which is just another way of saying “gave me pause to think about”).

And...Now I yammer on some more!


So I went to my first Zumba "Glow Party" this weekend. If you're not familiar with the term, it's basically a big dance party with disco ball effects and black lights. Usually multiple instructors will present routines. The "glow" comes from the black lights picking up white anything; clothing, make-up and in my case nail polish. To be more exact the party was a combo of Zumba and U-Jam Fitness. I was one of the Zumba instructors, so that made it extra exciting. Plus, my long time friend who happened to be swinging by with her husband decided to join me, having never done Zumba or U-Jam before. Two "virgins" hitting the town (remember, it was my first "gp").

Well it was nothing short of a blast! If there are two things I love in regards to dance they are getting out and hitting the dance floor and getting to do other instructors' routines. Of course I love leading a class and whipping out original choreography, as well as bringing to life the choreography of others. But pretty much all instructors start off as students. That's where the first sparks of Zumba-love are lit. I think for most, that flame burns eternal. I've been to licensing and choreography workshops full of other instructors. They are pretty fun, but given the choice I prefer opportunities with a mix of instructors and Zumba lovers and enthusiasts. That love of just busting out and dancing comes through with a purity unmatched.

More often than not I wake up the morning after a night of dancing, whether it be out in the bar scene, a master class or the occasional party or reception wondering "How crazy was I?" or "Man, I'm pretty sure I made a ass/fool/spectacle of myself." My one saving grace, I actually make sure it is a sanctioned dance floor and that I am not some crazed lunatic dancing all by myself. Just a crazed lunatic dancing among others. I can't help but dance with every fiber of my being, unless I am injured. Then it's just best I stay away from any open space and booming music.

When I am teaching Zumba I am the queen of the goofy faces. I don't know why I can't just leave it at a serene and pleasant smile. "The Frat-Boy", "Maniac's Grin" and the "Ohhh, Guuurrrl!" are among my regular mugs. To be anything else, especially at this point, would be unnatural and insincere. Case in point, about a year ago my household had suffered a tragic emergency over a weekend. The light of Monday morning brought with it many unknowns, worries and concerns. Really, I should have just found a sub for my Monday morning Zumba class, but my mind was still reeling from all that had happened over the weekend. Everything I did was an exercise in "going through the motions". I actually did have a pleasant and serene smile. And everybody knew something was horribly wrong. I had no intention of telling my students about what was going on, but between the looks of concern on their faces and having one of them be a neighbor who saw an ambulance at our house I had to come clean. Not just to assuage anyone's concerns, but also I felt the need to get as many people praying for someone who was fighting for their life (not one of my family members, but my oldest daughter's best friend). I'm glad I did. Hands to hold and shoulders to cry on. Within the week there were people on the other side of the world adding their prayers and support. And I had tons of support to help carry me as I tried to cope with watching my daughter loose her last bit of childhood innocence in watching a beloved friend pass.

I guess all that to say "Smoke 'em when you got 'em" or rather "Dance your ass off every chance you get!" Life is short and unpredictable. I've waged my battles against demons in my life, as so many others have. The world is filled with a never ending supply of joy, enough for everyone. Unfortunately the same holds true for misery. As long as it isn't hurting anyone else, GO GET YOU SOME JOY WHEN AND WHERE YOU CAN.

Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the dance that is life!

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Thrift Shop" Dance Fitness Video.

I. Love. This. Song.

What song? "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Wanz).

The concept of making a catchy, hip, funny song about thrift store shopping is appealing enough, but in my opinion the creators of the song hit the ball outta the park. Fun to just listen to, but even more fun to get moving to. The music video for Thrift Shop just brings the words to life.

Language Warning!

Given the choice, the original is the one I sing to myself when the younger of my brood are not in my presence. But when it comes to presenting routines for my Zumba and other dance classes, I try to keep it as "clean" as I can. At least in regards to swear words. More often than not people will say they don't care, but I do. Within my natural environs I'm no beacon of vocabulary building word choices, something that is brought to my attention on a regular basis by my husband and children, and extended family when on rock and roll excursions with me. Another story when I am in teacher and instructor mode though.

So imagine my glee when I found a "clean" version of the song.

I videotaped this dance fitness routine at the prestigious Grungy Rug Studio. Okay, it's my garage. Lest you think I have unlocked the secrets to an organized garage I would like extoll the virtues of camera angles and field of vision. After the dance I give a little tutorial for a couple of the steps.

My husband brought in the wicker screen to class the joint up a bit. Super sweet, considering the day before I chased him out of the house because I wanted to do a tutorial about rolling out the glutes and piriformis. He is a treasure.

Thanks for hanging out, reading and watching.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bump That Step Up; Use Your Head!

The human head holds many things. A brain, thoughts, dreams and in my case, lots of choreography and dirty limericks. The human head also holds the ability to work as a mace. A ball on the end of a chain (spine). Just like trying to control the weight of a kettle bell during a swing, our heads have a considerable amount of weight that our bodies, preferable our cores, have to try and control. This can be used to our advantage when we want to bump up the heat on a step.

Let's take the basic Salsa step used in the Zumba format.

The following video progresses from the basic Salsa step to one with a little more umph. Then further progresses to a more challenging version that uses the weight of the head to increase the work that the core must do.

Take a look...

The next time you feel free and easy with your Salsa step, throw in some sass and use that head!

Switching from Zumba to Balletone- here is a post that I was trying to put up a few days ago, but Blogger was being poopy. So I put it on my other blog A perspective on balancing.

Thanks for hanging out.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Positive Thinking.

The other day I had one of those blessed moments when I got to share time, space, thoughts and ideas with a friend. I was on my way out of the gym when I noticed that said friend (who is also a group fitness instructor) was laying on her back massaging one side of her abdomen in the psoas area. Well, if there is one thing you can set your watch by its that I can't keep my mouth shut about the psoas. I'm fascinated and tormented by my own psoas and the role it plays in movement and general well-being. I don't believe we as humans can sneeze or fart without our psoas being involved.

But this post isn't really about the psoas. Back to my talk with my friend. I yammered on about some ideas that she could try and she shared ideas with me. One of the things discussed was the concept of body focused meditation, which of course almost always brings up the effects that stress has in our lives and how perspective can be a driving force in how we approach the challenges of daily life.

My friend has had to take time off to recover from a surgical procedure on her wrist. And it wasn't her first one. The most recent surgery was a redo and repair from another surgeon's work. Surgery, poor results, pain, frustration, search for answers, another surgery, pain, more recovery time. I've never had to go through something like that, so I can only imagine how frustrating a long drawn out process like that can be. But what I can relate to is the stress of having little kids (my youngest is 8 now), running a household, trying to maintain sanity with marriage, family and work.

Even when everything is running along fine there are life's stresses here and there. It is all too easy to let those little stresses become bigger than they are. Then when an actual big stress comes along there is less mental energy to stay focused on tackling those stress biggies. Everything feels like its going to implode on itself. You lose sight of what's really important in life and sometimes even who you are.

How can this vicious cycle be avoided? We worry so much about physical fitness, diet, financial health, are we jacking up our kids by doing this and not that. Sometimes it makes me want to lay on the ground and cry.

During my chat with my friend she revealed that she had been feeling really down as of late. Dealing with recovering from wrist surgery as well as other injuries meant having to sit around more than usual and not getting to do the things she enjoyed doing. Yes, at times that's just life. But it doesn't mean that it doesn't have collateral damage on our ability to have a healthy perspective on life.

She mentioned some advice she had gotten. Something so simple, yet so impactful. The advice was to simply take a moment, everyday to point out something positive. Perhaps an achievement, no matter how small. "I made it to the gym today, just as I had planned" or "Dinner was calm and pleasant and I enjoyed sitting with my kids" or even "I'm so glad to have a roof over my head". Its your positive brain space and soul of the heart that you are honoring. You get to choose and there are no wrong answers.

Say it out loud. Say it to a loved one. Say it to your dog. But give it weight and legitimacy by saying it out loud.

 This advice resonated so much with me. A healthy perspective can be everything. When I look back on my biggest personal struggles that I've been through; overcoming an eating disorder in my teens and early adulthood and my 20 year battle with bouts of depression, its my dark perspective during those times that makes my heart ache. Even now, when I feel like I'm a mess of "dark ink scribbles on the canvas of existence" I know in my heart of hearts that it is at those times that I must bare down and fight back at the encroaching vines of anxiety, depression and dark thinking with the sword of positive thought. Not "Pollyanna" thinking, but an honest assessment of what is good around me, about me and the people who need me to be mentally and emotionally healthy. While I am not a religious person in the fact that I don't attend a church or am affiliated with a specific doctrine, my faith in a higher power has carried me through dark moments. Sometimes just taking a moment to recognize the ways I'm not suffering. I'm no where near the Congo, my children and husband are healthy, there no bullets of from an enemy soldier whizzing past my head and threatening my family's life.

When my husband is feeling overwhelmed and disheartened by frustrations with his job and how the stresses of being the main breadwinner for a family of six, I will often remind him of what we are not facing. Not in a "Oh stop your whining" kind of way. His concerns, fears and frustrations are real. So many share the same worries. Those fears and concerns need to be recognized. But allowing the burden of worries to paralyze won't help in any way. "Our kids are healthy and free of serious illness", "We love each other. Our marriage is good", "The house is not on fire and nobody is coming at us to kill us". Once you can see what your not having to face, it can become easier to take a deep breath and focus on what it is you really are having to face. It is with that outlook that solutions are more easily found. Even if an answer doesn't present itself immediately, at least possibilities aren't hiding in the corners of the mind, fearful of entering a hostile environment. Fear is the killer of creativity.

It all sounds so simple and easy. "Just think good thoughts". But sometimes it can be so difficult. Something that should be automatic becomes elusive. I honestly believe that one has to actively work at keeping a positive perspective. Some have a more natural ability than others, but if you where to ask them they would probably say that it isn't always automatic.

So starting right this instant, take a deep breath, let the past stay where it belongs and give voice to something positive in your life. Own it. Everyday day.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dog-Split Yoga Series.

I saw this yoga series in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of HEALTH Magazine. It was created by yoga expert Kristin McGee.

*Disclaimer; as with all exercises on this blog, attempt at your own risk. Be sensible and know thy limits, whether those limits be from a permanent condition or temporary. Stay well and healthy.

But first, before attempting, warm-up those wrists. Do some wrist rotations. Gently stretch the hands both backwards and forwards. If you have problems with your wrists that make weight-bearing wrist exercises difficult and painful, perhaps sit this one out.

Work within your own range of movement.

Engage your core and keep it engaged throughout the series.

Start from a downward dog position.

Inhale as you do each knee position and the one-legged plank.
Knee to nose, knee to outside shoulder, knee to opposite shoulder.

Exhale as you go into each dog-split.

The article recommended doing the series once each side. Depending on your goals for a particular  workout session you can do it more than once each side, maybe a couple of times. In doing so you can possibly increase your flexibility within a session of the series. Although just doing it once each side is a pretty good workout!

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Couple of Pilate Moves; Swim and Grasshopper.

I used to attend Pilates Mat class pretty regularly. Between changes in my schedule and life in general, over the last few years I haven't gone as much. I incorporate many Pilates exercises in what I do with my teen dancers and last summer I had the opportunity to sub a handful of Pilates Mat classes. I still sub here and there. But teaching isn't always the same as doing. Even though I frequently do the exercises along with my students and attendees, the focus is very different. Because I'm cuing the breath patterns, for me at least, means I'm not fully utilizing the power of the breathing patterns throughout a given exercise. Which is kind of ironic, since aside from the close relation to movements found in Ballet technique I was drawn to the art of learning how to breath through movements that is an important aspect of Pilates training.. Breathing was always something I struggled with as a young dancer. It wasn't long after my fourth kiddo was born that I started Pilates. At that point in my life I realized that by midday I had usually replaced breathing with hollering. So learning how to breath through movements, especially during the most strenuous parts, was a sort of awakening for me.

So with all that said, when I slip into a Pilates class I usually get my butt kicked in some fashion. In a good way of course.

In between subbing some classes the other day I was able to do just that, and catch the second half of a Pilates mat class from one of my favorite instructors, the lovely Amy. I always learn something new. Whether it's an exercise or a new layer of technique revealed.

Before attempting these, or any exercises for that matter, make sure you are warmed up. Don't go into them cold. Do some squats or jog in place for a bit to get heat to your muscles. Push ups are a good body heater upper. One of these days I will post some quick warm ups.

"Swim" is not a new mat exercise to me, but this particular combo was.

Laying prone (stomach down) on the mat, legs parallel, feet pointed. Arms lengthened overhead. Core, as well as quads and glutes engaged. Shoulders pulled and set down away from the ears.

Inhale; lift and lengthen R leg and L arm. Hold for 2-3 counts.

Exhale; lower

Repeat other side.

Go through that 2-3 more times.

Then stay on one side. With the breathing pattern lift and lower just the R leg/L arm.

Repeat other side.

Repeating on just one side made me see where I had to fire up a bit more on the supporting side of my body.

"Grasshopper" was completely new to me.

Laying prone on the mat, legs are straight and about hip width apart. Feet are pointed and legs are turned out (insides of the thighs should be rotated toward the ground and heels are touching). Place hands under forehead, hand over hand.

Inhale; keeping the front of the pelvis pressed into the mat, lengthen and lift the legs, keeping them straight and feet pointed.

Exhale; using 3 short, quick exhalations, flexing at the knees, cross and gently beat the ankles R L R.

Inhale; straighten the legs, still lengthened and lifted off the mat.

Exhale; lower legs to the mat. Control the movement so the legs don't just fall to the mat. Keep the pelvis pressed to the mat throughout the movements.

Each repetition change the pattern of the ankle beats. So the next one you would beat L R L. Do a 3-5 sets.

I had a pictorial breakdown of keeping the knees level, but I just couldn't reconcile the "crotch head on" angle. The words below are much better!

So what I loved about this exercise was the focus on the knees. During the beating action of the ankles the challenge is to keep the knees in their exact spot from the leg lift. This requires stabilizing the hip, pelvic and glute muscles, while simultaneously isolating the lower legs for freedom of movement. Try to keep the knees at the height of the initial leg lift and level, as if they are set on a tabletop. For me that's the sweet spot of this exercise. Feet staying pointed keeps everything from head to toe engaged.
I instantly saw a dozen ways this exercise could shed light on aspects of Ballet technique, as well as muscle and movement control through a sequence of movements.

This next bit isn't necessarily an exercise as much as it is a reminder of proper placement.
When on all fours (think "Cat and Cow"), it is important to maintain hip over knee/shoulder over wrist alignment. It's all to easy to stray a little out of proper placement, as I was reminded of the other day. Oh, it's those tiny layers that can be so grueling. But oh so important to go back to and review!

The problem is shifting, even a small amount, of the weight from a neutral tabletop position to one where there is too much weight into the arms and wrists. This happens when the hips are shifted in front of the knees.

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but my hips are not aligned over directly over my knees, and I'm straining in my arms because of to much weight shifted into them.

Here my hips (from the point of where the hip joint is and not my booty) are better placed over my knees. Less strain through the arms and better alignment over the wrists.

Using a mirror can help with set up, then internalizing the feel of proper placement so the image in the mirror becomes an image and feeling in your "mind's eye". Then of course, checking in with your technique, as I discovered, is important.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!