Defining the comfort zone

If you are in any movement practice I am sure you have heard your teachers encourage you to move past your comfort zone; meaning to challenge yourselves. But how do you know you are in the zone to begin with? How do you know the limits of your comfort? And most importantly what does it take for you to acknowledge discomfort?

Finding the balance between comfort and discomfort

How would you know comfort if you don’t experience discomfort? Also, consider this, how would you begin to define discomfort if discomfort was part of the comfort zone?

If you defining comfort as in not painful, it means that pain is your only indication of discomfort. Discomfort then is part of your comfort zone because you can’t hear all the other signals of discomfort the body is giving you until you reach pain.

Similarly if you think of comfort as easy, as time that there is no challenge, you have made discomfort part of the comfort zone plus you are eliminating the possibility of learning and progressing while not being physically challenged.

Signs of discomfort can be as subtle as inhibited breathing, when you feel as if you are holding your breath. How many times have you been in that situation? I am sure, plenty. Have you ever considered this discomforting? Most likely not.

Picking up all the signals will allow you to be more aware of the boundary between comfort and discomfort. Defining the boundary will then allow you to push past it when you feel ready, when you are comfortable to do so.
Lastly, it will allow you to be more empathetic with other people, more understanding of their situation as you will have a deeper understanding of the different shades of discomfort and how they can appear in the body.

An excellent video that speaks more about this yin-yang relationship and our movement practice, is this video of Ido Portal speaking on mindfulness. It is short but very much to the point and has inspired me to look for balance in my practice and in my approach to movement.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Looking for balance? Try out our latest workshop!

What do we call balance?

We often say, I need to work on “balance” or “I can’t keep my balance”. And when we actually go ahead to practice we start with standing on 1 foot, maybe doing embellishments with the free leg or coming up on our toes and holding.

Therefore when we say balance, we mean being able to hold ourselves still in a specific position for a long period of time.

Balance Vs Stillness

Creating a hold or simply being still, is that the same as being balanced?
Well… not necessarily! Because we might able to be still but the main volumes of our body may still not be balanced. For example, we might be hunched over, with our hips tilted back and our chin protruding forward. Try it… it is a very common pose! haha

This comes to show that still does not necessarily mean balanced.
So what is balance? Or better yet what are trying to balance?

We are trying to balance the forces running through our body, so that our movement can be efficient and safe. In this context if we actually would like to hold, balancing the 3 main volumes of our body, head, torso and hips, can lead to a comfortable efficient hold instead of a trembling/ troubling structure.

What are the cues that we are in balance, aside from we don’t feel in any key joint such as the hip joint?

  • We feel relaxed but at the same time
  • Ready to move and we also
  • Notice that our breathing is not inhibited and therefore has a comfortable flow.

And what would be the benefit of such an approach?
Aside from creating safer and more efficient movement, it will allow us to be more aware and also it will allow us to focus on balance while moving and not while holding. Holding can helpful and such an approach can help you in creating efficient holding too; however if you are practicing dance it is necessary to practice balance while moving.

This is exactly what we are working on in our latest workshop. Try the recording, and let us know how it went!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: For more on tips and drills visit our Technique Page

Active couch potato – Are you one of them?

I love this! Active couch-potatoes! Haha
I found out about this “term” from a member of our community of Bautanz, when during one of our discussions they mentioned this article.

But why is this the title of our newsletter today?
Well one can simply think, well Tango is an activity, therefore if you dance and practice Tango you are not an active couch potato.
And I would agree this is definitely one aspect of it. But there is more to it I think, at least in my experience.

Dancing Vs Going to the gym

Comparing dancing Tango or any dance, to going to the gym there are three things that make dancing special. 

  • One is the social aspect of it, you create something with someone else, it is a joint effort that brings something to life in the moment.
  • Secondly, it is something special because you can’t replicate it, you do it there and then and after that no matter how many times you repeat the action it is never exactly the same.
  • And lastly, even in practice or even if you are dancing in your kitchen there is the pure joy of moving your body simply because you just feel like it. Not because you have to, not because you will get fit, not because it is healthy but just because. Pure joy, created by you in the moment.

There is a lot of value in that, I feel. And it can help us avoid being an active couch potato as well, if we allow for little moments of joy. Dance around, when a song you love comes up. Or when you are doing the laundry or the dishes or while waiting for the kettle to boil.

Create little moments of joy, anytime, anywhere..!

Chrisa

P.S: For more ideas on how to do visit our video library.

Setting up your own practice

Practice, easier said than done!
What do we focus on? For how long? And how can make it sustainable? Are only a few of the questions that soon pop-up after we decide to set up our own practice.

Let’s say you are taking classes and you also took our workshop last week, so now you have a few things to practice on, but there is no indication of where to start.
There are so many different things you can start with, but which one should you explore first?

In this post, we are going to use the recording of our last workshop to see how you can start setting up your own practice.
So let’s get started!

A practice routine that works

We will use our latest workshop recording as an example to set up our practice routine. However, you can take materials from any of the classes you have attended.

  1. Step #1: Put it on your calendar. If it is not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. To get started you need to make time in your day for your practice or it is never going to happen. Aim for 10-15 mins if this is your first time practicing on your own or if you haven’t practiced on your own for a long time. This is not about quantity but quality. This time frame is more than enough for someone we is now starting.
  2. Step #2: Start with a dance. You might have noticed that all of our workshops start with a dance. I think it really helps to get our mind and body ready to practice. It allows us to get into the mindset of practice in an enjoyable way and at the same time we are giving ourselves the opportunity to notice where we are that day. Notice any trouble, any holdbacks, any glitches as we gently move with the music.
    If you feel that you need more than one dance, of course you can add that to your routine.
  3. Step #3: Set your element of focus. It might be something you have been working on for some time, or something you discovered through your dance (step #2). Try to be as specific as possible. For example, let’s say you are starting out with: “I need to work on my posture”.
    Ok! What about your posture? Is it to do with balance, movement, anatomy, breathing, efficiency? Try to be specific.
  4. Step #4: Start with what feels as an emergency to you at the moment. Following the example above, all of these elements may sound important and necessary. You will of course capture a few of them in one practice but not all of them. So start with what feels as an emergency to you on that day, knowing that sooner than later you will be exploring the rest.
  5. Step #5: Start where you are. Continuing with the example of posture, in the beginning of the video we are exploring flexion and extension of the spine in order to find the 0.0 posture. When we are working with the placement of the thorax you will hear me say that “you need to start where you are, not where you should be“.
    Start where you are. identify the end of range for flexion and extension. Then shift your focus to the path from one end to the other end. Lastly, notice the middle of that path. Give yourself the opportunity to identify whether your go-to position is helpful or not. And then start exploring other options to find the one that works best for you.
    There is no point trying to replace a habit by forcing a new rule on your body. The body needs time to adjust and a rule is easily forgotten if your body is not given that necessary time. Through movement our body will find way to establish that rule, without force but through understanding and ease.   
  6. Step #6: Record and celebrate your practice. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t so you can come back to it the next time.
    Mark every practice you complete on your calendar. It can be a check-mark, or a smiley face or anything that works for you. Mark though the day as a day that you practiced. And congratulate yourself for having made it. All of this is for encouragement. For when you miss a practice and feel blue. Such days will come!
    Then instead of feeling like you will never be successful in your practice, look at your calendar! You will see all the smiley faces you have there already. Acknowledge the great work and effort you have already put into your practice.
  7. Last but not least, remember “the more the better” is not quite accurate here, especially in the beginning. Start small and grow! Start maybe with 10-15 mins, that would translate to a dance and an exercise. You will see that soon you will grow your practice in time and content.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: You can find more advise such as this along with a huge list of practice videos in our book “It Takes you to Tango – The Ultimate Guide for Leaders and Followers”

Don’t forget to breathe..!

“Don’t forget to breathe!” I love the absurdity of this phrase..! 
Honestly, how did this become a cue I wonder..? haha
Have you tried to hold your breath through a pose during yoga for example..? Unless you are a very good diver, holding your breath could only last a few torturous seconds and you would definitely know! 

Can we forget to breathe?

You can’t really forget to breathe. Because you don’t need to remember to breathe, you simply, automatically do. If you are holding your breath you also know, it is very clear, intentional and obvious. So what do they mean by that cue?

My take on this is, when we are holding a position or when we are overthinking something our breathing may be inhibited, meaning it might not be as efficient as it could be. As such every action feels effortful, straining and draining.
For example, if you pull your bellybutton in then your ribcage can not expand and move upward with every inhale and so your breathing will be inhibited, your inhales will be shallow and you will feel as if you are holding your breath. 

It is not really therefore that we forget to breathe, but other movement choices may be coming in the way of efficient and effortless breathing thus creating that feeling of a hold of breath.

What can we do to change that?

With this explanation in mind, we can start looking at the movement patterns of breathing and allow for those movement patterns to inform our posture and our movement as a whole. This way our breathing will flow and we will feel supported by the renewed energy of every breath.

To support this approach our cues will also have to change. The cue “don’t forget to breathe” though it might come handy some times, reminding to pause and breathe fully, it is addressing the issue causing the inhibition. It needs therefore to be replaced by a cue addressing posture and movement options. The quality of our breathing can actually be a new cue in it of itself. As you are practicing notice your breathing; are you feeling that your breathing flows effortlessly uninhibited? If not try to find the right adjustment in your posture and movement to free the breath.

Chrisa

P.S: Interested in a breathing and posture workshop, check out this video

P.P.S: Want more posts such as this? Subscribe to join the Bautanz community.

 

I was almost right..! Is this the best way to communicate?

Communication some times can be tricky! Especially when it is in a dance where we mainly communicate in body language and not verbally.

So here is how this post came to be. It is actually a funny story though it involves a doctor, and it goes like this.
I met with a friend after her doctor had called to say that it wasn’t an emergency she needed to face after all. Only he didn’t say “I was wrong”. He actually said “I was almost right!” only he wasn’t right at all… haha
Good news for my friend and a very interesting situation for anyone working on communication skills.

Mis-communication in a dance

I am sure you have been in a similar situation, where the other person sort of admits they were wrong. Either by saying “I wasn’t entirely right” or even worse “I was wrong but you …. (fill-in the gap with something equally wrong you did)”

In dance the same verbal communication can take place sometimes but physical cues are more common. There can be a power battle between the partners. In such cases nobody enjoys the tanda even if they managed to get things to go their way.

The issue though is not to explore who is right and who is wrong in a given situation. The issue here is to see how we can communicate better.

So think of the last time, that you had this mis-communication with your dance-partner. Maybe it was a different perspective on the music, or they led something and you did something else or vice versa.
How was that expressed? And what happened next?

Where you pushing and pulling on each other for the rest of the song? Did you use some leading or back-leading trick to correct the situation? How did your partner respond? And did any of you accept responsibility? Did you let go of the tension and admitted in body language that the other was right?

It is not a very easy thing to do actually, especially as you are improvising. But maybe now, after the fact, you can explore the situation. There is actually a simple exercise you can do.
List 10 circumstances where you felt that you were wrong but instead you acted as if you were almost right. And then 10 circumstances where your partner was wrong and again they acted as if they were almost right.

It might subtle. And it could only have been for a moment and then you changed back to your ordinary sweet self..! 😉
But think back to uncomfortable or even painful dances you have had. Bring back to your memory nasty milonga nights, or frustrating practices and/ or classes. See if somewhere in there you reacted or you were faced with the attitude above.

How to communicate instead

Now as you know, I really like to share some practical advice to a problem. At least, share thoughts on options that one can explore in order to make their Tangos more enjoyable.

This is not an easy one, but I will do my best to share some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful!

If you have the “It takes You to Tango” guide, you can find in there some tips on how to handle situations in the social environment of a milonga. This specific situation was not clearly included therein. There is though a note on leaving in the middle of the tanda. Let’s start from this “extreme” option.

As you will see in the book, from my perspective, leaving someone on the dance floor is to be reserved for extreme situations. Situations where you are in pain, or you are in extreme discomfort and you feel this is harmful to you.

Though it is not the option to use all the time, have it at your back pocket for emergency situations. Still though, there is a way to do it. No need for drama!
Simply saying “thank you” will do the trick most of the times. In the rare, you might need to add a “I need to take a break”.

Now lets look at other options, that may come a bit more handy

Here are a couple, from my personal experiences on the dance floor:

  • Firstly, especially if I am dancing with friend, I simply say “sorry”. Quite obvious but an easy way to communicate that I was wrong.
  • Once I realize a mistake, I try to get where my leader wants me to be in an embellished way. Adding a gentle giggle, if you are that kind of a person, can also work.
  • In cases where the other person has messed up, I usually follow the previous pointer. Making a little moment out of the mistake always releases the tension. Plus you might actually come up with a new move after some refinement.
  • Further to the above, when a leader actually whispers “sorry”. Respond with an embellishment or make something out of the “mistake”; it shows kindness.
  • Where we are not talking about a mistake but a necessary adjustment, for example speed or orientation etc. we need to keep the dialog open through the embrace. Leaders will need to listen to followers. Followers will need to be able to communicate a message to their leaders. For example, if you are about to bump into someone behind you. Followers use the embrace to stop your leader from taking a back step. Or if the leader is going too fast for you; use the embrace and maybe even an embellishment to show that a change in speed is necessary. Leaders listen to your followers!
  • For cases where I can feel tension building, because of lack of communication, personally I choose to let it pass. I prefer not to continue the power struggle so I adjust to make it work no matter who is right. Then when the tanda ends I can decide whether or not to dance with that person again.

So those are my ways to communicate with my partners. I am sure that you have probably discovered many others that have worked for you. The main element here though is when you are wrong admit it and work with your partner to fix it. When you are right don’t hold a grudge and work with your partner to fix it. Painful or uncomfortable situations excluded of course.

Chrisa

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