Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Fresh Start with Bed 'Yoga'

I know yoga isn't really supposed to be performed in bed, but bed yoga is better than no yoga. Not that I don't pull the yoga mat out once a week or so for a good hour long sesh, but as my 40 something year old body begins to experience some aches and pains, I find it necessary to supplement my dance with some daily maintenance movements. Many of these are performed as soon as I wake up and before I have time to talk myself out of it. They are not strenuous, just mobilising. Save the strenuous stuff for the yoga mat.

Arm Circles

Begin while laying on your side. Move your arm in large circles 3 - 10 times in each direction. Keep the arm long and feel how the shoulder joint is moving and gently warming up. Repeat on the other side.

Leg Raises

Laying on your back with arms by your side, gently raise a leg as high as is comfortable. Keep the leg straight for the whole exercise. Repeat 3 - 10 times. Swap legs and repeat.

Knee Bends

These are for those strange knee pains people can get in otherwise healthy knees. The exercise is performed laying on your back. Raise your leg in the air as in leg raises. Then carefully bend and straighten the leg at the knee. Be gentle and mindful, stopping or moderating the exercise if you feel any pain. Repeat 3 - 10 times and then with the other knee.

Air Cycling

Laying on your back with both legs in the air, pretend you are cycling an upside-down bike. Cycle first in one direction, then reverse.

Push Ups

Some shoulder niggles have indicated the need for me to perform some daily push-ups. I started with up to 10, gradually increasing to 20 per day, (Girl ones). Keep it light until after you get up and have performed your morning routines.

Reverse Ankle Grab

While still on your stomach from the pushups, bend your knees, reach back and grab both ankles, creating a reverse arch of the back. This is a great stretch to start the day for any chair dwelling person.

A Fresh Start

These exercises have certainly helped me to raise my energy and ease the process of getting out of a warm bed. They are warming and motivating. They are also great for the joints of the shoulders, legs and back. They are a great way to start each day.

Not Only for Physical Reasons

As a dancer I have many modes of exercise available to me. My reasons for beginning an exercise ritual upon waking were of a less physical nature. As a sufferer of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) I had suffered years of troubling dreams. They had me waking (understandably) in a foul mood, morning after morning. I needed a distraction that took my attention as soon as I became conscious in the morning, before even opening my eyes. Essentially I began the practise as a dream forgetting tool. Activating the physical realms directly upon waking meant my mind didn't grab onto the dream fragments threatening to torment my first waking moments.

Good for Me

Personally I have found that my morning bed 'yoga' practise has directed my mind toward more positive things as I wake from sleep. Another benefit is the physical improvement. It is winter and I am neither teaching dance nor doing much walking. The persistent morning ritual of a little light exercise has helped to prevent some of the knee pain I suffer when I don't exercise enough in winter. I hope others can benefit too. Keep it simple. Adopt a single new exercise one at a time. If it's hard it won't be repeated. Don't make it hard. Make it simple and doable so it becomes a daily ritual. I developed this particular set of exercises to suit my own body. Use your own body's wisdom and needs to create your own practise. 

I am currently planning for Spring Majickal Bellydance Classes. Stay in touch with this blog or my Facebook page for up to the minute details. 

Move Safely and Be Well ✴︎

Leanne Margaret ©️ 2017

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Motivation to Dance

We are suffering the coldest depths of a Melbourne winter and other than directly to my car, I've barely stepped outside in weeks. My muscles and joints are slowing, stiffening from the lack of physical activity. I am accustomed to walking several times a week and the occasional run. At this time of year my bellydance practise is more important than ever. But how do I motivate myself from my blanket wrapped position on the couch?

The Music

Music moves us. The right music will elicit an emotional response in our body. This can be a good starting point as we begin to move. It can be helpful to have a playlist organised containing your favourite dance tracks. I have a playlist that I use for each term of dance classes including warm up tracks with 90 minutes of music for drills, improvisations and a couple of cool down tracks at the end. You don't have to dance for 90 minutes for it to be worthwhile. Even five minutes of spirited dance can be an effective full-body, mini-workout. Deciding to dance a song each day can turn into longer sessions when motivation is higher.

The Dance Floor

Ideally the dance floor will be permanent. If I need to shuffle furniture around, I probably won't bother. If I'm uncomfortable or cold I probably won't bother. For me, this means having a music player set up in the main living/kitchen area where I spend most of my time. I have a large rug on the floor so it's comfortable to dance barefoot, even during Melbourne winters. I also have a pair of dance slippers on hand ready for spontaneous dance sessions on my hard floor area where I like to practise my spins. 


Props Ready

Within arms reach of my dance space I can easily grab a pair of dance canes and a small veil. Raising the arms actually raises more physical energy to further energise dance. With our arms raised and open our solar plexus and heart energy centres can open, firing us up so we dance with our hearts.

Belief

The primary point of power over whether or not you dance today is belief. If you believe you can't be bothered, then bother you will not. If you believe that music can move you, feeling it in your heart and bones, you will be moved. If you remember that raising your arms can raise the energy you need to dance, then your faith can move you to turning on some music. 
From my own experience, dance motivates more dance...just begin dancing. Which I what I'm going to do right now.

Dance for Joy

Leanne Margaret © 2017

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Bellydance Medicine

There's a reason I named my style of bellydance 'Majickal Bellydance.' Aside from the ceremonial and ritual aspects of Majickal Bellydance, it is also designed to be therapeutic, in ways both physical and energetic.

Balance:

Basic bellydance posture aligns the feet, hip width apart, with the knees soft or slightly bent. Keeping the knees soft allows us to more easily re-balance ourselves as we move in space. Stiff or rigid knees can increase the likelihood of stumbling or even toppling over. Keeping the knees fluid allows fluidity of the lower body, promoting a lower centre of gravity. As dancers begin taking steps into various directions of space, their bodies are more balanced and connected to the ground. Majickal Bellydancers practise dance drills involving stepping first into four directions of space and then expanding into eight directions. Being conscious of the direction and shape of each step we take increases our security in physical space. 

Co-ordination:

Dance drills that combine movements such as circling the hips and walking, help to increase co-ordination as dancers learn to adjust their hip position to counterbalance their steps. Combining lower body movements with chest and arm movements are a great way to promote co-ordination as well as keep the torso upright and the lungs free. Advanced co-ordination practises involve dancing combined with the use of props such as canes, veils and swords. The small finger cymbals known as zills provide an extra co-ordination challenge, as well as strengthening and toning the hands and forearms.

Strength:

The practise of keeping the knees slightly bent while dancing places the weight on the large thigh muscles. The muscles supporting the legs and knees grow in strength and balance. Balancing our weight slightly forward into the muscles at the front of the thighs helps to keep our weight oriented away from our lower back. Staying conscious of how the feet press into the floor helps us to maintain correct posture. The slight emphasis of weight on the front of the foot helps to keep the pelvis properly aligned to prevent lower back strain. When balance in set into our legs we can feel strong and steady.

Back Majick

A good loose shimmy can help to shake out back stiffness if performed with correct posture. Lower back stiffness also responds well to reverse undulations or pelvic rolls that begin with a deep inward tuck of the pelvis and lower abdomen, followed by a rolling forward and down toward the feet. The movement stretches the lower back and mobilises the spine. These movements, combined with gentle hip circling can also assist with period pain. You may find that circling the hips in different directions provides different results, i.e. clockwise and anti-clockwise. 

Spreading Our Wings:

A hearty lift of the ribcage assists us to raise our arms to perform snake arms and spin veils.
Mobilising the upper body helps to increase lung capacity, energising our dance and our mood. Today's desk and device culture requires a little extra effort to stay free and strong in our neck, back and shoulders. Personally, I suffer shoulder pain and stiffness. Ensuring my dance practise involves plenty of arm circles, veil and cane work helps to control my symptoms. Provided no injury is present I believe many aches and pains are our bodies way of saying 'move me please.'

Handiwork:

I have suffered from hand and wrist pain since my cashier days in the early 1990's. Although it is beneficial to wrap my wrist at night to keep it stable during acute episodes, by day the best medicine is to maintain a regular practise of movement. I have found the bellydance cane (a stick around navel height, sometimes with a curved handle like a walking cane) a powerful tool because the circular movements involved in twirling the cane do great things for my joints. There are many habitual activities we all perform that engage the joints of our bodies in ways that can be repetitive, one sided and unbalanced. These changes in symmetry can affect the balanced development of our bodies. We may not be exercising the full potential of each joint. I have found that by utilising circular movements in my wrists, elbows and shoulders, I can manage and reduce my symptoms of pain and stiffness.

Heads Up:

I have observed in myself and others, a tendency to 'pull our heads in.' This means to slightly pull the skull toward the spine, resulting in the head sliding slightly forward. Many modern day activities seem to promote this habit, such as bucket style chairs that push the head forward, also mobile devices, laptops (such as mine) that are lower than eye level, even books. This habit appears to shorten the neck and creates more pressure on the cartilage between neck vertebrae. It can result in rounded shoulders and reduced lung capacity, as well as neck and shoulder tension. When we practise our Majickal Bellydance drills we learn to focus on the top of the head, stretching it toward the sky, feeling the neck and spine lengthen. After we centre our lower body properly into the ground, we are free to grow toward the sky. Our dance expanding further into vertical, spiritual dimensions of space.

Freedom:

When our feet are embraced by the ground and our knees and thighs are mobilised for movement we can open our chests and our arms to embrace the space in which we dance and are energised. Our energy can rise up our spacious spine toward the top of our head, our spirits reaching toward the sky. From there the energy cycles back toward the earth in great dance breaths of ripples, circles and waves. We are body. We are fluid. We are energy. We are free.

Leanne Margaret © 2017
Majickal Bellydance
see www.majickal.com.au for current events.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Bellydancer Habits That Keep You Young

This week I met with a long time friend and bellydancer after a long absence. I think we were both amazed at how young the other was looking. Our children have grown to adulthood and neither of us has lived without difficulty. I was reminded of the power of bellydance on so many levels. It's an energy dance and once found, that energy radiates like a sunny mist. There seems to be a certain sense of agelessness among my bellydance and yoga practitioner friends. From experience I know that none of us are immune from the natural wear and tear of being alive, but the practitioner of therapies such as spiritual bellydance and yoga process these changes in a particular way. This article focuses on dance because Majickal Bellydance is my main practice.

When a Dancer Hurts

When dancers feels an ache, our first response is usually not to lay down on the couch and pop a pill. We know that living life to its fullest can sometimes create a little fatigue or stiffness. We are accustomed to stretching after classes and are often trained in relevant yoga positions to help alleviate our aches. We know that by maintaining a regular movement practise that attends to mobility of joints and strength of muscles, we can better support our bodies activities. By applying routine stretches we can support our bodies to recover well, as our skills and limits are coaxed ever-wider with our dance training.

Dancers Use Mirrors

As dancers we are accustomed to being photographed and to using mirrors to visually refine and craft our movements. Therefore any postural issues can be clearly identified. Photographs last forever, but posture doesn't have to. We can use our routine training to alter the way we move, sit and dance. Maintaining correct posture assists the body to carry us through dance and through life, while reducing the chance of injury and unbalanced wear and tear. In the mirror we gain a regular overview of our visual impression on the world. We are the creators of our appearance. I'm not talking about fakery but about celebrating who we are and expressing our best potential. I wish to sincerely convey myself as the energetic, vibrant person I still am.

Dancers Eat Good Food

Dancers need good fuel. We expect to have large amounts of energy available to us when we want or need to dance. We also expect our bones and joints to support our dance for the rest of our lives. We need to ensure a good, regular supply of the kind of food that gives us sustained energy, without bloating or sugar crashes. Many of us creative types are extremely sensitive and suffer food intolerances. These intolerances, although inconvenient, can ensure a better diet, provided other foods aren't binged on to take the place of eliminated foods. We are conscious of the process of forever building our dance body to express our dance mind. Learning about health and good nutrition is part of the physical side of our spiritual dance.

Dancers Plan on Dancing More

Dancers like to stay fit, active and vigorous so we can keep on dancing. We experience such a huge amount of joy from our craft that to imagine not being able to dance is intolerable. So we take care of our bodies and our attitudes so that our health and our motivation are enduring. We eat and sleep well to keep moving. We move to recover from movement and to keep on moving. The energy we generate in repetition carves patterns of positive routine into our lives. 

We dance so we may keep on dancing. The movement literally keeps us more alive. The circle dance of the cycle of life resonates through us, and we glow.

Leanne Margaret ©️2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

What is Majickal Bellydance?

Majickal Bellydance is a therapeutic style emphasising mobility, control and an understanding of living energy. I am really pleased to be sharing my Majickal Bellydance style at Seville House again next term. Last term we enjoyed a short 5 week introduction using metaphors from the elements of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. We mobilised our bodies from the ground up, spiralling, circling and rippling toward harmony, health and laughter.

Earth energy helps us to anchor our feet into the ground with stability. Our knees provide the leverage for living energy to ascend and descend the spine. Water energy helps us to understand our emotional flow as we respond to the music and to our feelings and thoughts. Fire energy illuminates our confidence and fires up our shimmies. Fire motivates the will to get up and dance in the first place. Air carries our veils, symbolising the doors to spiritual realms. Air energy transmits the music to our inner world via the ears, lungs and heart. It connects us to our dance troupe and to the outer world as we breathe the air shared by all.

But there's more...

Next term I am presenting the '7 Circles Majickal Bellydance Course.' Dancers will still learn the basics from the ground up, like the 'Elements' course, but with the addition of some deeper dimensions of bellydance. Many movements will be presented and repeated using a system of metaphors to assist learning and the retaining of knowledge. Dancers will receive a whole body workout as well as a clearing and balancing of the energy body. The 7 Circles course involves a greater range of head, neck and hand movements. We will also play with spinning, so find your twirly skirts girls. It's a lot of fun.

This is spiritual bellydance. We are not working toward performance and require no special costuming. We are working toward the development of good self care. Majickal Bellydance is a system of movement therapy that can be taken home where it's full power can be realised.

As a sufferer of PTSD, I have developed Majickal Bellydance with the needs of trauma survivors in mind. This means dancers learn a style that promotes loving kindness toward the body and mind. Dance drills are designed to mobilise the entire body with lots of arm movements to heal and balance the heart chakra. Trauma survivors often detach from their bodies. Majickal Bellydance gradually brings mind and body into cohesion where innate healing can take place.

Majickal Bellydance is great for people with minor mobility issues too. The gradual circling of the joints of the body promote circulation and proper alignment for good healing.

Majickal Bellydance is also great for people with the kind of social anxiety that makes it hard to learn and retain choreography in class. We use dance drills in repeating patterns that need only be performed in your own lounge room.

All shapes and sizes are welcome to bellydance. You don't need to have a 'belly' to be a bellydancer. I don't fit the stereotype of a bellydancer, so don't worry if you think you don't either. All shapes have their signature movements.

So if you can get to Seville, Yarra Valley, Victoria in May 2017, check out my classes.
Bellydance Classes