EDUCATING SAFELY AND MINDFULLY
with Cindy: BBehavSc (Psychology major), BCI (distinction), BEd (honours)
There is a growing integration of mindfulness (and how it enhances mental wellbeing) included in psychological research. Theories learnt during my Behavioural Science Degree (psychology major) really reinforced to me just how powerful the mind is. We've all heard 'mind over matter', 'if you can see it you can achieve it', and many more sayings that relate to exactly that. But in order to harnass the power of the mind, we need to ensure we take time to condition it.
When looking back at my own study of dance when I was young however, followed by a career as a dancer, I have realised traditional dance training and performance predominantly focuses on the body. We spend hours upon hours in front of the mirror looking at ourselves attempting to perfect technique. Physical conditioning classes are a regular at dance studios. Do you teach students how to condition and strengthen the mind given the competitive and comparative nature of the industry? If you answered no, or don't feel completely comfortable including this in your classes, why not book a workshop today for your students (or yourself and teachers) to discover how easy it is to condition both mind and body simultaneously!
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I am PASSIONATE about sharing with dancers tools to take care of their MENTAL WELLBEING whilst simultaneously teaching a MULTIFACETED SAFE DANCE APPROACH TO STRENGTH AND MOBILITY...
Explicit cuing of breath allows access to the parasympathetic nervous system - the 'calming' system in our bodies.
Proper DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING is also the only way to completely engage the deep inner core muscles.
In forward folding positions (e.g. touching your toes), the CORRECT ALIGNMENT OF THE PELVIS protects the sacroiliac joints simultaneously providing elongation of the spine for overall SPINAL HEALTH.
FASCIA contains the proprioceptors which determine how far our muscles/joints move. Working against this intelligent system is counter productive. WOR
Explicit instruction on these aspects along with a focus on WHOLE BODY TENSION RELEASE and strengthening the MIND BODY CONNECTION are just some of the discussions and practical explorations that occur in my classes. I take the best parts of yoga philosophy and combine them with dance conditioning to bring the BENEFITS OF YOGA to DANCERS. Students leave a class knowing how to independently achieve gains in their mobility, but best of all, give themselves mindful moments.
In essence, a Dance Connective class is about strength, mobility and MINDFULNESS through a fusion of yoga and dance.
Benefits of Yoga
Science is beginning to document the many benefits of practicing yoga. From a physical standpoint (the Asana) offers gains in strength, whole body conditioning along with improvements in flexibility and mobility. The best part of yoga however is the calmness it brings to the mind. Mindfulness can be defined as bringing one's focus to the present moment. It is an opportunity to put aside worries by quietening our thoughts.
Being mindful .... of the mind body connection
So why is it good practice to be mindful? A positive mindset like this creates a positive physical change in the body and is effective at reducing injury. This is because our minds and body are always connected; our posture and how we stand is often an outwardly reflection of our thoughts and emotions. By purposefully and mindfully moving our bodies through specific chest openers, we can utilise this mind body connection to affect our emotions and create an uplifting emotional state.
My classes are a dance conditioning class with the addition of specialised mindfulness instruction. This offers a '2 for 1' scenario ...conditioning the body whilst simultaneously having positive effects on the mind.
Theoretical concepts are covered with a brief anatomy overview so students understand the benefits/importance of practicing mindfulness and the 'why' of safe dance (in terms of strength/mobility exercises). Once the practical aspect of the class starts, the beginning and end of the session see students spend a few minutes in calming postures that access the 'rest and digest' parasympathetic nervous system. Props such as yoga mats and blocks may be used to provide an individualised approach and most importantly, maintain safe dance principles. Similarly during the class, specific 'chest openers' are performed to enhance the emotional state and utilise the mind body connection. Such postures along with additional breath cues during stretches and flow sequences allow students to work towards 'mindfulness' whilst simultaneously developing strength.
Ahimsa (meaning non-violence) is a yogic philosophy introduced through cues of 'close your eyes, listen to your body' rather than 'look' at your body. Students are also encouraged to practice Santosha (or contentment) within their own dance journey whilst finding a balance with Tapas (discipline).
A DANCE CONNECTIVE class is not a performance, it a time for students to BUILD STRENGTH not just physically, but MENTALLY from the INSIDE out.