About Me

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Wednesday

And I can't sleep.  I often get like this when I am very active and it's hard to calm down.  Well, I did get back to the gym in time to eat a steak sandwich and go to yoga class.  This class was nice and slow, with lots of shavasanas in between poses, which consisted of the basics:  downward dog, warrior, tree, leg stretches, shoulder stand, plow, horse, triangle.  The teacher interestingly told us to bring our arms way back as we got up from the sun salutations, which felt nice on my back.  I learned from this class that I need to increase the arch in my spine, especially in my mid-back area.

Then I went to the pool but since the water was freezing cold and it was a cold day, I just did some leg exercises and went to Pilates class.  There was free coffee and veggies at the club today, so I munched on pineapple, oranges and broccoli after Pilates, which was good, especially using the magic circle to squeeze against.  We did oblique exercises, roll ups, the side series with leg circles, plank and some arms stretches.  Then I bought some bananas.  They were on sale at the grocery store, so I think I will make a banana pie.  So, in a few hours I have another complimentary Pilates session.  Pilates and yoga are doing wonders for me -- I walked home in the cold and felt like a teenager.  Now for a little rest...

"You need to move,"  the Pilates teacher said, "I danced with Atlanta Ballet and became a New York dancer and was taught Pilates by dancers who used it to turn out more and have extensions, but it was all superficial and external.  Then I discovered the natural anatomical positions and could do more because I had a core."  "It's like Crispy Creme doughnuts," I said, "Nice on the inside but no substance inside."  We discussed babies, how they moved their arms and legs and bodies, which are neuro-muscular connections which we lose when we start to "edit" our movements.

When you work correctly, the pain is gone.  On the recliner, I learned about pushing my tailbone into it to find my natural arch.  It's okay to arch the spine, like a proud bullfighter or flamenco dancer.  They are sucking their stomach in and up but not tucking, which ruins the back and hips.  The instructor said I have overworked pecs, periformis, psoas and weak glutes, hamstrings and QL (quadratum lumborum).  It's hard to find the inner muscles but the instructor said, think of a tree and, with no base, the branches will not grow flowers.  The more you extend, the more rooted you must become, especially in the abs.  I have weak abs, too.

On the reformer, I moved my legs up and down cables while keeping my tailbone down.  It felt like I was sticking out in the back, but that is because I am so used to tucking that the normal position feels strange.  It was hard at first and I didn't want to crease in my hips, but I finally felt the release of all my painful tightness.  Then I had my arms in straps and tried to do the Pilates arms, finding how much I underuse the muscles behind my shoulders, which should be down and held.  Lastly, leaning against a wall with my knees just slightly bent, I breathed into my diaphragm, which wraps around your front and attaches to the back like a dome (I thought of the pregnant woman I had seen on the train this morning) and it was also difficult to press my ribs into the wall and breathe deeply and correctly.

Joseph Pilates was a very smart man, I thought, because it is true that when you distort body positions, as in dance and sports, you will hurt.  It is then that you must find the normal movements you were created with and go inside yourself and find your inner strength.

Despite the children and the general commotion of the holiday season, it was nice to get into the heated Lakeview pool for my first swim in two days, and it was nice to apply my Pilates principles while swimming, engaging my stomach and core and keeping the backs of my shoulder blades pressed down, too.  Now to dry off and head for ballet class...

Wow!  Ballet class is nothing like the gym.  The gym is more relaxing and forgiving whereas with ballet your body is under constant scutiny.  Not only must you execute the movements properly, you must also look charming while doing them and this is not easy for me, tomboy that I am, alas.  My bones did not want to move today, but after Pilates, my execution was much better, except that I stuck my back out and couldn't maintain my turnout during pirouettes.

How to turn out and still keep a neutral spine.  That is why there is nothing like ballet, because ballet engages turnout, which nobody seems to understand.  Class tonight was great with a great dancer who always looks good and is always charming and makes the class fun.  He was explaining that when you plie before the pirouette to another student who struggles with the turnout concept, you are already getting ready to spring up.  Aha, I thought, the reason for this turned out position where your legs look like old French furniture is that it sets up a corkscrew effect that enables a rotated movement such as a turn.  Think about it, if you were parallel as in a jazz turn, you would spin around but not create this circular motion which is what is so pretty about a pirouette.  Pretty but hard!

Similarly, with jumps, you must point your feet and keep your legs straight.  It is not easy to have the strength to become so taut, I thought.  Even squeezing your legs coming out of a pirouette is hard, which is why I probably stick out in plie.  You must use your inner muscles to squeeze your legs together and that is precisely what the teacher said as we left the studio, squeeze the hell out of your behind.  Also, he reminded me to push from the floor in jumps and mentioned that a friend of his said the secret of pirouettes or releves is to feel the inner muscles behind the calves.  Yes, I believe it, it's the inner muscles.

Everyone says ballet is bad for your body, even the Pilates teacher today, but I think it's bad when you do it incorrectly or try to move too extremely.  Certainly the teacher tonight is working correctly and although I'm sure he has pains, he is not ruining his body because he knows how to work.  The class went like this:

Warmup, swing legs in attitude front and back, stretch forward in parallel, stretch back; repeat.
1.  Demi plies, plies, port de bras.
2.  Tendus from 1st position with demi plies.
3.  Degage legs 2x front, 3x side, 2x back.
4.  Degage from 5th, demi plie passe flat to back, degage back, demi plie passe flat to front.
5.  From 5th position, fondu and extend leg forward, fondu and extend leg back in arabesque, ronde
     jambes.
     [STRETCH BREAK]
6.  Developpe leg seconde, ronde jambes en 'lair, tendu second.  Also, turn from second to barre, leg in
     arabesque, releve and balance, then bring extended leg to passe and turn to other side.  There were
     lots of balances in passe which I could not do because my arms were not supporting me (!).
7.  Two grand battements en croix.

Center:  8 tendus from 5th travelling back; 8 to front; 8 degages same way.  I can never fully extend my leg going out in tendus (!)  Then we practiced pirouettes: passe to 4th position, pirouette(s) to 5th -- I found that doing them over and over helped me feel the movement more than just doing one or two and stopping.  It's hard to stop a pirouette and this, I believe, is where turnout comes into play, because when you maintain turnout you will stop.  Still, my head felt stiff because it seems like when I am using my muscles so precisely, I don't have the freedom to move my head.  But, there must be freedom in the movement, no matter how hard.  The body must breathe, I have learned from gym classes.

Adagio was developpe seconde, turn to arabesque, turn back to seconde.  Here, I saw that I must use my sides better.  So, then we jumped -- changements with sissonnes, then sissonnes sideways with two sissonnes in arabesque.  Then we did changements with pirouettes, something this teacher always likes to do, and, finally chainne turns in diagonal across the floor.  These were easy tonight because I have a sense of moving my sides around now.  The chasse plie in between was hard because of the turnout element.  Then the teacher played some soothing jazzy music and told us not to go out into the cold night until we stretched.

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