Category Archives: Posture

Spinal Movement and walking.

We have been looking on this theme alignment, posture and balance in the last few posts and today we will take all that work and put it into our walking exploration.

Our body is so cleverly structured! And through dance and other movement practices we get to explore it and create a more clear map of it. Going through my personal practice I started questioning some of the most common cues we hear about posture and walking not just in Tango but in every day life.

Building on posture and walking

One thing I have come to realize is that the model of “one size fits all” instruction, actually fits no one in the end.
We are all unique makes of the same “grand plan” so we are not the same.

We might all have a head, a torso, a pelvis and a spine but all of these are somehow slightly different in each of us. And so it takes some time and effort to understand how you are different from me while following a similar high-level design.

So, I invite you here, just for now, to leave all the things that all ready know to the side and try something different.
This doesn’t mean that all you know is wrong, only that we need the space and the liberty to try something new.

As you will see in our video we are starting by taking a look at Skelli. Yes, yes the skeleton has a name..! haha

So Skelli is a very good imitation of a human skeleton, of that “grand plan” so he will be our map for this video. Remember last week by the way that we were talking about comfort? Well today you have another map as a safety net, to explore in depth posture and walking, that will be the image of Skelli in our video.

A few things to notice

  • Nothing in the body is a straight line and also nothing is set on a 90 degree angle
  • We are made of curves and irregular shapes
  • Everything is somehow related and dissociation is voluntary
  • Especially side reach and rotation are coupled, meaning they always happen together
  • It is a good idea to allow rotation to show up in your side reaches and vice versa for a healthy spine and more efficient movement
  • We have more flection that extension in the spine. That is actually true for all joints.
  • Posture is not arbitrarily good or bad. So it is better to reframe that as helpful or unhelpful or healthy or unhealthy
  • Following the muscle fibres as we move, that are also curving, is less stressful and has more flow compared to following straight pathways of movement
  • Sitting to standing has a lot to teach us about walking
  • Walking is automatic, therefore trying to understand how it works is surely not an easy task.
  • At the end of the day, the more chaotic your walk the better. We have movement along all three axes when we walk so it is bound to be a complete chaos!

Questions to help you in your explorations

If you tried the exercises in the video, then maybe you are already asking some of the questions below. On the other hand if you are still unsure and haven’t gotten to it, maybe you should ask the questions below.. 😉

Do I need to use so much muscle to simply keep my body up? Why squeeze the shoulder blades together if it is opposing the curve of my thoracic spine? Or why pull my tummy in if it is opposing the lumbar curve of my spine? How come good posture seems to be working against the body structure? And what would it mean to follow the body structure? If my hips and shoulders are not square while walking then what are they doing? And how does that affect my connection with my partner when dancing?

Now I know that these might be putting a big question mark to many things that hold a certain importance for you. So to avoid any frustration, think of it as something you can try just for now. It doesn’t have to replace anything you do.

Personally, when I want to try something new, I say to myself “Give it go just for now, just once!”

So what do you say… are you gonna give it a go?

😉

Chrisa

Balance can be misunderstood

In our previous post we were talking about the Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture and as it is probably a natural progression, in this post we will talk about balance.

Balance is a term that can get misused quite a lot in everyday life and in Tango. Hopefully through our post today you will get a better definition for and understanding of balance

What do we “think” balance is

When we say balance usually the images that come to mind are of elaborate yoga poses or skilful ballet poses. You know the ones where people are standing on one foot in pointe shoes and they are holding the free leg in some intricate position while smiling and looking cool… haha

In a more real life scenario, I am sure that if you are a follower wearing heels, those first few ochos were probably tricky. If you are leader…. those first few ochos were probably tricky for you too..!

And you have probably been the receptor of cues such as squeeze your glutes or pull your bellybutton to the spine. Which certainly help to some extent if you are standing still but not so much when you are moving.

So if we can sum it up we think of balance as something that we hold or should be able to hold

And what it actually is…

So I will challenge you with a question… What are trying to balance?

So we are trying to balance ourselves over an area of the foot, and in order to do that the main 3 volumes of the body, head, torso and hips need to balanced over each other. And how would we know that they are balanced? How do we measure that?

That would be a balance of forces running through the body so the relationship between the different parts of the body is such that we don’t cause any harm.

Stillness and balance are two separate things and one can exist without the other, as I can be still but the volumes of my body may not be balanced. Let’s see the picture below, which is an exaggerated example but brings the message across. Our head, torso and hips may not be in a balanced relationship but we can be still. And believe me you can do this on one leg as well..!

posture3
Photo credit gamsiz via Foter.com CC/ BY

So lets work together looking for balance and not stillness in this video below:

Balance restored

Our goal therefore through this series of videos is to move in ways that allow for the forces to run through our body efficiently, to not overuse muscle and most importantly not to put our body in harm’s way.

So I will leave you with one last video and if you would like to hear more on balance join our community by subscribing.

Send me your thoughts and questions

Looking forward to hearing from you

Chrisa

The neutral zone and the 0.0 posture

In our previous post we focused on the milonga and the key differences it has with Tango.
One of those differences referred to posture.  Specifically we observed that in Milonga due to speed we stay in the neutral zone while in Tango we have the time to shape the movement.

So this week, we will look into what we call neutral and range of motion and what shaping looks like.

Defining range of motion to figure out neutral

I am sure that you have heard or even used the term neutral position, for example keep your back in a neutral position.
What does this mean though exactly?

To understand better what it means we need to first speak about range of motion. 
Range of motion in a joint can be simply defined how far we can move around a specific axis, for example how far can we go in extension or flexion. Range of motion differs between different joints. And in the same joint it differs between different directions and around different axes. 
So for example we have a different range of flexion/ extension in our hips compared to our knees. Also though for the hip itself we have different range of flexion/ extension than rotation and we have more flexion compared to extension.
Bottom line it is all different so proceed with caution and keep exploring! and of course it is needless to say that each of us has different ranges of motion as we are all unique makes of the same grand design.

So now what is neutral

Well once you know how much range you have in a given joint, you know the end of range of a movement around an axis. The space between, the space before you reach the end of range is neutral. Neutral is an area, a zone not a specific point. The middle of the neutral zone where we are not committing in any direction we would then be in 0.0 posture..!

What does that all mean for Tango

To make things a bit more specific let’s look at one part of the Tango posture. Let’s look at the mid-back, where your thoracic changes to lumbar.


Here we have it all, flexion-extension, rotation and side reach. We have much more flexion than extension, like we see below.

posture1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit NatBat via Foter.com CC/ BY-NCSA
posture #1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

And anywhere between the end of the flexion-extension range is the neutral zone. In the middle where the joint are not going into flexion or extension we are at 0.

Taking a step

Finding 0 posture is one thing and takes some practice and exploring. But going from that 0 posture into a simple forward step can be tough!
It is actually like we will see in the video below one of the toughest transitions to manage.

And now on top of that we have different walking options, small steps, big steps or tiny steps. Those require a different skill.
Not that we forget or put to the side what we talked about above but when we are dancing we need to be aware but not limited by our anatomy. Every step is or can be unique, responding to the constraints of the dancefloor, to the style of our partner and most importantly the music.

Let’s see how the different types of steps can match some wonderful Tango music

So you have plenty elements to practice on and if you want more subscribe to our community.
Send me any questions or thoughts! 

I would love to hear from you,

Chrisa

Milonga from scary to fun!

Milonga, the dance that can be sweet and spicy at the same time!
I had always loved the music but in the beginning couldn’t get a hang of it. I preferred to sit and enjoy listening and looking at people dancing away than dancing to it. Thankfully that has changed!

How is Milonga different from Tango

The first thing that had messed me up is treating the Milonga as a fast Tango.

Milonga is not a fast Tango, it is a different dance and different music altogether.

In this paragraph we will see the key differences between the two dances.

  • Starting with the music, we have a different structure in the Milonga, which is on 2 beats whereas the Tango is on 4
  • In terms of our position on the dance floor. When we dance Milonga we have the open side of the embrace facing the dance line, therefore the leader is facing to the outer edge of the room, whereas in Tango the leader is facing the dance line. This difference in placement allows us a double side step in the Milonga, which is very characteristic of this dance and forbidden in Tango.
  • Floor navigation is also different between the two. In Tango we don’t stay at the same spot, we cover more ground, navigate around the dance floor respecting. In the Milonga we don’t cover that much ground and staying at the same spot is generally allowed within reason of course. That is mostly because we are dancing at a faster tempo
  • To accommodate for the faster tempo, we need a different movement strategy. We don’t have time to shape the movement since we have to act fast and so we keep a more “centred” posture, arranging the head, torso and hips in the middle and moving within the neutral range of our joints instead of reaching at the edges of flexion or extension
  • Taking a look now on the embrace, in Tango we don’t see partners changing their orientation towards one another. In one of the most characteristic Milonga steps, the Zig-Zac, partners are offset to one another and switch sides during the step. Something we never see in Tango, or if we do it is only as an accent
  • Also forbidden in Tango but common in Milonga is shifting the weight as we pivot.
  • Lastly, especially in the Milonga Lisa a swing of the shoulders is a strong characteristic. In Tango we rarely see it and if we do it shows up as an accent.

Going back in history

Going back in the history we can find a relationship between the Milonga and the Cuban Habanera with the former being characterized as an excited habanera. Nestor Marconi, the famous bandoneonista, had said though that Candombe gives Milonga its edge, the strong staccato, the upbeat and the syncopation. So we have swing from the Habanera and the beat from Candombe.

There are two styles of Milonga, the Milonga Lisa and the Milonga con traspie or double time.

The difference between the two is the speed and the textures.

Milonga Lisa is slower and has more swing which allows us to play with the upper body, swinging the shoulders. The Milonga con traspie is faster and accentuating the beat.

So we need to capture and express each style to the appropriate music and not use the slower versions to dance fast and vice versa

We need to go slower and swing through the movements in Milonga Lisa. Go fast and accentuate the beat in
Milonga con traspie. Be true to the spirit of the music.

Lets talk about the BEAT!

Talking about speed; we also have 3 different characteristic speeds:

  • In the first we alternate the downbeat from the right to the left foot. So if we have 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, we would be stepping on 1 and transitioning on 2.
    It would be: Right-transition, left-transition, right- transition, left-transition. The upbeat therefore is not marked
  • For the second speed, we have the downbeat on one foot and the upbeat on the other. So we would have: right- left, right-left, if say we are marking the downbeat with the right
  • And the third speed, we have the down and the upbeat on the same foot: right-right, right-right, right-right

Of course the first speed is the slowest the third is the fastest. Take a look on how you can practice the different speeds

Get a 1hr class on Milonga by subscribing the Bautanz community.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

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 embrace – a place to yield to!

In this week’s Live tango practice, we worked on the suspension created in the embrace. It was an attempt to connect the dots, between the message received through the hands/ arms and the action taken from legs.

Taking the time to yield

I wanted to take the opportunity to explain a bit more in depth the element of suspension, pulse and yielding. These are all words used during this practice and sometimes words don’t communicate in the best of ways what we can communicate through movement.

Let’s start from the latter, yielding, because if we don’t yield we can’t efficiently suspend and create a pulse.
Yielding shouldn’t be confused with relaxing or letting go. We are reaching for the ground, the sky, our partner prior to taking action. In that state we are ready to act, but we have already established our connection, our support.

It is that connection and support that we don’t want to loose while moving. Instead we want to carry it along with us as we go.
And so the lead and follow shouldn’t be described as press and resist, but more as a coming together, as supporting each other. Therefore the frame needs to be elastic, and absorbent without collapsing though. It is that elasticity, that spring that transfers the message through the arms to the body while keeping us connected.

It is in our anatomy

All of this we see it supported by the human anatomy. Even in the most solid element of our body, the bones, there is moisture, there is fluid and elasticity. One of the contractions our muscles create is actually the elastic recoil. Our breathing has a pulse, a spring in it.
We have experience from yielding to the earth, feeling grounded, secure, calm and confident before acting. Or when we immerse ourselves in a conversation with a dear friend where there is a continuous effortless connection. 
We also have experience of things not happening not efficiently. When we try to lift something without the necessary preparation. Or when we are angry and our movement becomes rigid and out of our control. Also, when we are stressed and not breathing properly.

So we have the experience of yielding, connecting and elasticity. It is indeed  in a different context but we still there for us. We can be further explore through Tango and all other dance forms and movement practices.

Leading and Following through the arms

Speaking in Tango terms, I would encourage you to think and practice leading/ following through the arms and not with the arms.

And though it is not easy to explore partnership alone, it is essential. Practicing on your own, allows you to spend time experiencing your body moving and allowing for that experience to inform your knowing. 
In parallel practicing with a partner is equally important. It has to be though someone who is honest and able to share with you their experience. Still though that doesn’t undermine the importance of your personal practice. 
If you don’t spent time self-exploring you can’t have a discussion with your partner, you simply adjust to satisfy them. In order to progress, you need to be able to build on solid grounds, grounds of understanding and awareness. Then you can make conscious decisions on how to progress instead of adjustments on the spot. 

More resources below… 😉

So if I have inspired you to further explore the embrace here are some extra videos to do so:

  1. Finding the embrace: https://youtu.be/EOYvbesyQio
  2. The power game in the embrace: https://youtu.be/GRxD9WYMgKs
  3. Suspension in the embrace: https://youtu.be/5n6XVrUWcEU
  4. And if you would like to see more live practices visit this page: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/

Enjoy,
Chrisa