Category Archives: body awareness

Posture and Mindfulness

Following this theme that we have been exploring, for some time now, mindfulness, we shift our focus towards posture; posture and mindfulness

We have talked and explored posture in many different ways however this time, our focus is not on the shape(s) that the body creates that we can characterize as efficient posture.

Our focus is more on becoming aware of our spine, our breath, our back and front body and the space there is between them.
Our goal would be to achieve the desired alignment without though creating unnecessary tension, by pulling on the muscle to achieve a specific position.

So how do we do it?

As you will see in the video above we are starting with breathing. Muscles of the back are also called breathing muscles and not by chance. You can do a simple test yourselves; inhale and exhale and notice how your body moves.

By deepening our inhales and exhales, we make all those movements associated with the breath and posture bigger. And so this way we come into a posture without inhibiting our breath and without using more muscle than what is necessary for us to get there.

One thing that I would like to take the opportunity to stress out here, is allowing yourselves to start where YOU are. This is a very important part of the process. We spend so much time trying to look like someone else, that we forget to acknowledge our starting point. However, that is something that will have a major impact on how we get to our goal and how long it will take.

So physically we are all of the same make but we are also different, maybe you have a more extended or arched back, maybe your breathing pattern is shallower, maybe you are stressed… a thousand maybes! So take some time to notice where you are without any judgement, just being a witness to your own experience and allow yourselves to start from there.

Being respectful and loving to your body will not only have physiological benefits but it will also be the first step towards mindfulness.

The benefits of a mindful posture

Talking about benefits, lets see a couple of more…

So continuing the conversation, acknowledgment without judgement doesn’t mean acceptance, but more realizing, identifying where you are and how that feels. So you go through a body scan, noticing where things are and how things are feeling. The labels of good and bad should be dropped for this one, as there is no good and bad, it just is what it is.

Once you have informed your knowing, then you can start the exploration of your other options of alignment

Other options will then offer a series of benefits, such as:

  • efficiency of movement, so you are not using more energy than what you need
  • following the above, you have better use of muscle
  • better balance of forces within the joints so there are no shear forces going through your joints, pulling them off center
  • following the above you can avoid overuse of ligaments and muscle impingement
  • you will have a comfortable breath while standing and moving
  • your diaphragms can work properly, at the appropriate pace with the necessary movement pattern
  • and generally your organs will be aligned and able to maintain their tone and relationships to one another
  • going to the Tango side of things, you can have more freedom in movement as you won’t need to hold as much
  • movements will feel more connected in your bodies
  • you will be able to dance for longer as you won’t be wasting energy and
  • last but not least we will be able to enjoy our dances more

We had to close this list at some point but in reality once you start with such explorations the benefits are more and more and some more..! (haha)

What if I don’t know where to start, with posture and mindfulness

I think our video above can be an excellent start and also our video from last week. They make a good match and can help slowly deepen your understanding of how the different parts of our upper body interact.

Now if you need more guidance we have our regular classes and workshops starting next week and we will be spending some time on such themes. It would be a great pleasure to have you in one of our groups. Help you and me learn and grow together

So if you want to give that a look check out our regular classes here: Online Tango Classes- Live and here are our Mindfulness Workshops

Hope to see you there and then

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you want to get started with some body scanning here you go!

The mindful embrace

Following our Tango and Mindfulness workshop right at the end of this challenging year, I put an exercise together titled “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace”. With the Holidays and all you might not have had the chance to try it out so here it is:

The mindful embrace

Through this video we are creating, we are becoming, the embrace. We are creating that shape and we become aware of what an integral part we are in shaping the embrace. Creating a mindful embrace is a space where we can share support, feelings, sensations, thoughts with our partners.

The idea therefore here is to create opportunities to really connect better and at a deeper level. Once we wake up the skin, the muscles, the fascia, the bones, the organs, the fluids, our whole body becomes part of the shape, part of a mindful embrace.

What we usually learn and practice in Tango is the position, the frame of the embrace; which of course are very valuable and important. We are also taught how to efficiently create the frame and how to lead and follow our partner. However, the awareness of ourselves in that shape, as well as that shape surrounding us is very important. This way we won’t feel disconnected from that sharing, the actual dance, happening in that space.

In our video above we are exploring our breath, the ribs, the arms and the relationships between them. We are also exploring the shape and space and so we become co-creators of the embrace.

Tango and mindfulness

Tango as we were discussing in a previous article allows us to explore mindfulness at different layers and so it can be an excellent option as a movement practice for mindfulness. This does not mean that other practices cannot be good options. I actually think any movement practice should be done mindfully. However, sometimes we need to start with something that can be a little bit slower, like Tango. We might need the option to explore being still and moving. And there is the need to explore ourselves in space and the space surrounding us. Add to that the possibility of doing all of that with other people and we have our sweet Tango.

And this exactly isour intention for our upcoming Pay from the Heart workshops. We will explore all Tango fundamentals and at the same time they will explore mindfulness on many different stages. So we will work on posture, walking, rhythm and expressivity and qualities of movement; we will therefore become aware of our feelings/ sensations during stillness and movement.

I’m not quite sure if this falls under the category of mindfulness, to be honest with you (haha). I am pretty sure though that it can elevate our spirits, energy and give us an extra boost for 2021. The schedule of our Pay from the Heart workshops:

  • Workshop #1: Posture and Mindfulness; We will explore the movement of the spine and specifically the movement centres along the spine. Movement centres are areas where we have the most options for movement as well as the greatest range of movement
  • Workshop #2: Walking and Mindfulness; Many of the movements of the spine are involved in walking. The action of walking will enhance our focus and awareness but it is also a good progression from workshop #1
  • Workshop #3: Music and Rhythm; Our body has its own rhythm; which becomes apparent through breathing, pulse,  walking etc. Explorations such as this will help us get in touch with our inner music and relate better to the music and rhythm of our environment
  • Workshop #4: Expressivity and music; Naturally, after sensing and feeling it is time to take action! This is not a musicality class so we won’t be learning musical patterns on the rhythm. This has more to do with helping us express our personality, feelings and thoughts on the music
  • Workshop #5: Qualities of movement; And we will close with a workshop exploring the qualities of movement that occur during Workshop #4. The same movement can and should feel different on different songs and with different partners. 

I really hope to see you all there! And then and if you looking for more classes you can check our our Online Class schedule

Enjoy,

P.S: if you went through the “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace” and you want some more information you can also visit this Body Mind Centering exploration about the relationship of the ribs and the arms

Improvise to feel

Especially at this time where most places are facing another lockdown, we might be finding ourselves wondering why and whether we need to improvise and practice?

Why improvise here and now?

There are some very good reasons to list on why to improvise. To just name a few; we can practice sequences and leading-following, get comfortable with music and our technique and possibly become more expressive. All of that someone might feel are of little importance at the moment though, since we can’t really attend milongas. And I am saying “really” because now where there are milongas there is no partner change, there are restrictions in the number of people attending etc so we don’t really have much of a surprise… We know very well what to expect due to limited shift in partners.

So I get it, it makes perfect practical sense not to improvise, as it relates with the here and now. There is though more, which will lead us to why we need to improvise.

There is a psychological impact from all of this. Connecting through the web is great but not nearly enough. Trying to maintain relationships, friendships and interests is extremely difficult through the web. At the same time despite the fact that some of us have more time, if we don’t commute to work for example, that gets eaten up by stress and worry that is related to with being informed 24/7 by a machine and we need to step away… An endless cycle..!

I won’t therefore argue with anyone who would say that there is not much point in improvising here and now… For all practical and psychological reasons going on hike, doing fitness, yoga or meditation might actually be a better option. What I will do though is ask you to consider why improvise in general?

Why improvise in general?

I would like to suggest to you one other reason to improvise, to dance. And that would be to feel.

Yes, yes to feel! Not to express, not share but to feel! To feel our body moving, our temperature rising, our breath changing. Every part of our body, big or small, moves and has a voice can we feel it? Can we explore this magnificent body deeper, feel more, understand further? And then also look outward feel ourselves in space, and the space around us. Feel US in a totality!

Honestly, the video below is my first ever improvisational video with such context. All others, were made with other motives and reasons. This video it was part of an online class where we were exploring the role of fascia and the connective tissue network of our body. There are some qualities that this network has, that of continuity, fluidity, elasticity, tensegrity, qualities we all look for in our dance, or better said in our movement. Do we explore them though? Hardly ever unless we are in pain and we are forced to.

Going into this song, it was a mind shift though. It felt as everything was falling in place. Every part of my body had its own voice but all singing together in unison. There was even a moment where my arms were asking me to lift them and we actually had to have this conversation:
Arms: Let’s go up!
Mind: You want to go up? Up where?
Arms: Up and out, like about to hug someone or like in a sirtaki dance…
Mind: Are you out of your mind???
hahaha

Only half joking…it really happened and you can see how I slightly give in there and raise the arms. But that is when this idea popped into my mind, improvise to feel what it means to move, to be.

Something unrelated but extremely important for the here and now!

Take good care and DANCE!

Chrisa

P.S: You want some more on the matter, take a look here: https://www.gq.com/story/ido-portal-make-yourself-uncomfortable

P.P.S: We will have a new session of classes starting January 2021, subscribe to find out more

“Movement can change your brain, too!”

For years and years we have a debate between body and brain. With different groups having strong opinions over ones power over the other; however more and more studies come to show an intimate connection between the two and bring movement to the stage!

Obvious findings through experience now backed up by science

We have all been in situation where we were feeling a bit blue, went out dancing and felt wonderful afterwards. Or where we have been feeling stressed and went to the gym to let some steam off.

Now there are numerous studies that show that movement, in different forms, aerobic exercise, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises, Yoga, Qigong and Dance have an effect in the function of our brain. It “modulates stress reactivity and anxiety in humans.” , “increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain” , “boosts mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that helps nerve fibers grow.”

Specifically for movement practices where one is required to pay close attention to bodily sensations, position in space and feelings research has shown that such practices are useful adjunctive components to other treatment as they create the alleviation of depressive symptoms. See for example this interesting paper on Yoga practice and PTSD

Dance as a movement practice can have surprising benefits

The above links can surely give you an idea of what scientists mean when they say that change of posture, breathing and rhythm can have a positive change to your brain in various ways.

Dance, which is movement in synchrony with others can have further surprising benefits to “an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner.” The results of this study came to show that “individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner.”

This for many of us might come as no surprise. I am sure we all have experienced the both ends of this spectrum of synchrony and asychnony. When in full synchrony with our partner we feel great. When fighting for synchrony for 12mins of a tanda we feel just terrible

In the same paper previous literature is referenced to have noted that “bouts of synchronous activity have been shown to increase cooperation , encourage compliance and conformist behaviour, boost trust, facilitate joint-action capabilities, enhance person memory, and promote compassion and altruism.(…) synchronous action can lead to perceptions of connectedness and the blurring of self-other boundaries between interaction partners. In general, experiencing interpersonal synchrony is seen to establish the common ground on which effective social interactions unfold.”

What I think we all might find interesting here is that communities around the world knew about this already; an experiential knowing that created folk dances, rituals and various other community activities that involve moving together.

Also, movers from various disciplines have described all of the above as firstly our movement informing our knowing. Secondly through discovering ourselves we discover more the other and the world and become more compassionate towards them, towards us.

Moving together is what I am missing

A friend asked me the other day: “Don’t you miss dancing?”
I was torn to tell you the truth… I couldn’t quite tell if I missed it or not.

On one hand I am now used to not having a milonga to go to…And I certainly don’t miss the action of dancing, of moving…

We have the Mid-week Tango practice and Online classes, plus my personal fitness schedule. So I am moving and dancing… What I do miss though is dancing with someone. Synchronizing my movement with other people.

Interestingly enough though all hope is not lost even in this crazy world we live in. In the experiment conducted as part of the research paper linked above, participants had to connect through a video link and perform arm-curls with their partner over the screen. Some were asked to synchronize their movement and some to avoid synchronization. The group of people who synchronized after the experiment reported a higher self-esteem and better connected to their partner.

People who live alone at this time isolation have suffered mentally much more than the rest of us. Can we virtually replace a hug? Surely not!
But maybe there are better ways to connect that we haven’t found yet, that we haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are ways to make these platforms and virtual environments more welcoming, more real…

Who knows..! I guess if we keep on moving and we will see what we can discover!

😉

Chrisa

The ocean of movement practices and Tango

I see movement as an ocean where we can’t see the end in length, in width or in depth. We choose one or more movement practices and we start exploring, be it dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, you decide.

Tango is my chosen way of exploring movement and in understanding my body. Fitness for me comes next and by adding the perspective of strengthening is a strong component in this system of body awareness. I know many people who feel this way for Yoga and Tango, or Tai -Chi and Tango for example with different added perspectives of course.

Movement the connecting thread

The connecting thread between all movement practices is movement itself, movement technique, movement understanding and then body, self and human understanding. With the latter being for me the greatest achievement… but we will get back to that a bit later..!

So movement technique, not Tango technique. Tango is a dance style and as all dance styles has multiple styles itself with some common elements but many different characteristics. To teach therefore all the characteristics that make Tango…Tango… I dive into biomechanics to see how our body is built to move and create these characteristics. To this very thing Fitness comes in to help.

Let’s see posture for example; but lets look at posture not as a pose but as a movement. I bet you can see the common thread with Tango in the pictures below..? 😉

posture #1
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
posture
http://www.mommyish.com/2015/04/15/cloth-diapers-are-the-worst/

What does all that mean for our practice

My suggestion which of course you have probably seen it in our Online Tango Practice and our Argentine Tango Technique– You don’t have to leave the gym..! is that we look deeper and beyond the end result; the end result being how we want to look, what style we want to dance. And that we connect the dots between the different movement practices each of us like to follow.

I would like to share with you, the latest Live Tango practice as well as the latest Exercise of the Week as examples of Fitness and Tango!

As you will see it is not some crazy hybrid of the two…haha… on the contrary the two practices keep their grounds and are clearly distinct but the common thread is revealed as well! 😉

And I am sure that if there are any two movement practices you follow, you can find, with some exploration and some digging, the common ground. Then you will feel great power, a force revealing so much more to you about your movement, about your body and human nature and therefore about the other.

This is something I had felt myself but recently one of the members of the Bautanz community shared with me as well as their experience. After a certain time of digging wider and deeper comes a deeper understanding about our partners and other people we share the dance floor with. We listen and observe more but also show more compassion for the other. Through understanding ourselves we understand our partner, we understand our fellow dancers, we understand the world.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: We have a similar schedule set up for our Online Classes, if you are interested click here: Online Tango Classes- Live

Practicing alone-together!

So when I starting practicing alone aka without a partner it was because I could feel that something was missing, that I could be a more active and expressive dancer but I didn’t quite know how to do that.

After some time things settle and I found my ways and Bautanz was born but this is not an article about Bautanz but about one great question I got from a member of our community, Mandy: “Do you have any suggestions for incorporating these ideas [on balance, alignment etc] into a partnership?

Is individual practice the problem?

Mandy explained that though while practicing without her partner everything is great but once they come together to dance things start falling apart.

One of the things, amongst others of course, that causes these off-balance moments is that each partner is working on figuring things out in his/her body and fails to pay attention to what the other person is doing. It is not on purpose that we are ignoring our partner but there are so many other things we need to focus on from one step to the next, that we fail to pay enough attention to our partner.

Many people say point exactly to that in fact to prove that one shouldn’t be practicing alone. That argument however can be defeated when we see soccer players, tennis players, ballerinas you name it training on their own.

Individual practice is not what causes the problem in connection, it is what reveals it! Once you start exploring further a creative process of change starts to happen and that is when start to realize trouble with moving with another person.

Also, as with any change, change in movement habits takes time! For us to realize what we are doing wrong, to explore the suggested other options, to understand how each suits our bodies and then to replace what we don’t need anymore with a new habit; This is a lengthy process, very creative but also lengthy! So it will take some time for things to settle, for new habits to get established so we can then focus more on our connection and how our movement affects our partner.

That is in fact why I created Bautanz and an online course called Intelligent Tango PROGRAMS & COURSES–INTELLIGENT TANGO, to speed the process of creating new habits through an individual practice.

Practicing on how to listen

You are probably wondering if I am actually suggesting that you just keep at it and hope for the best..! haha
Thankfully not, as there is a way to get more connected to your partner and explore movement at the same time and that is through touch, observation and feedback. And that could happen in two ways

Let’s use the above video as an example, if you are not practicing with a partner, during your individual practices you can get feedback from surfaces you can possibly lie down on or lean against. Once on the ground as in the video above you can get bodily feedback on how your head, back, hips and feet are moving on the floor.

You start gathering information on how these body parts move when you move your arms. But also there is the opportunity to observe how your movement changes as you release more weight, or as you turning, if you adjust your head etc.

In this video, all of the above apply of course, but I want to use as an example when you practice with your partner. Aside from the feedback you can gather from meeting the floor you can also ask your partner to place a hand on your shoulders, back, your head or hips, and just observe how you move without affecting your movement, only observing almost like passively following. Touch will reveal to both of you how that specific spot of the body moves and how part affects the other. It will give both you more information about movement that you can then take it with you when you are leading and following. Then of course you change roles, you will be touching and observing 

Time to give feedback…

Last but not least in the process is the exchange of feedback. This is an important part of the process and a rather difficult one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of not expressing how the movement felt. So again using the video above as an example you want to go deeper and describe what your hands felt, for example: “as you were settling in the tabletop position, your shoulder blades felt like they were sliding and turning, as the spine was reorienting. You back muscles felt like they were expanding as your sides and core were condensing.”

Avoid staying on the surface with feedback such as it felt good, or strong or smooth. Try to go a deeper and describe the movement. Make sense out of what your hands felt. Then you try the exercise again focusing on each of the elements your partner noticed and guiding each other through touch. 

Could I do this with Tango drills..?

Absolutely! This process can happen with any movement, only you would probably need to move a bit slower than usual if you are doing walks or ochos. But surely your partner can place their hands on your shoulders, back, chest, stomach, head etc and go through the same process as above.

It will heighten your awareness of your own body and movement but also of your partner’s. Touch is though an excellent way to practice “listening” through touch. Tango is based on touch and the feedback we receive through it. If we are not able to listen through touch and respond then it becomes difficult and the movement has a very mechanical almost robotic quality.

Every practice session needs to be rewarded

Extra bonus… a Dance! I would to encourage you to dance one song after your practice or at a random time without the intention to practice but with the intention to dance and enjoy moving with or without a partner.

It is not however an easy task. You will be putting yourself to the test trying to put all the things “you should be working on” to the side and letting the experience of moving inform your knowing.

I wasn’t doing that for a long time. Instead every chance I got I practiced trying to get things right, trying to get better faster. It was very frustrating, and made my dances really hard to enjoy. So though being in the unknown, without an outline of what needs to be taken care of, of what you need to focus on, can be discomforting, it can also help you understand your body, your movement and your partner at a deeper level.
Plus it is a great reward to allow yourself to dance after spending time practicing!

Touch, observe, listen and don’t fear the unknown!

😉

Chrisa

P.S 3rd week of September we will be starting session of live online classes. If you are interested check it out here: Online Tango Classes- Live