Street Fit Instructors are trained to pay close attention to their students’ bodily alignment. Beginner dancers, as you would expect, often struggle to adopt the correct posture as they try to master the choreography. Since prolonged periods of poor alignment can lead to discomfort and injury, it is important that students are corrected.
Of course, posture is not only relevant while dancing: it is a fundamental part of who we are and the effects of poor bodily alignment can profoundly affect our health, manifesting in all sorts of symptoms, from indigestion to headaches. But what is good posture and how can we best help ourselves and others to maintain it?
Proprioception: the body’s sense of alignment
Proprioception is one of the body’s less well-known senses (yes, we have way more than five!). It is how the brain keeps track of where each body part is in relation to the others, so is clearly the key factor in posture. Unfortunately, this sense is far from infallible: when we spend prolonged periods with poor alignment, the brain accepts this as the new norm, despite the fact we are holding incredible amounts of tension in the muscles. When the norm is challenged (e.g. you actively try to stand straighter), the proprioceptors signal that something is wrong and we feel uncomfortable. Without a huge effort of will, we can soon slump back into old ways.
Tension + Tension=More Tension!
If you are attempting to help a student with their alignment, pay close attention to the effect your correction has on other muscles. Although a dance fitness instructor can’t be expected to notice all signs of residual tension, it may be obvious that your student is, for example, clenching their jaw or restricting the natural movement of their diaphragm. Try to remind them to relax as much as they are able to, since chronic tension can lead to a phenomenon known as ‘dancer’s grip’, where the body appears superficially aligned but is riddled with muscular stiffness. Sadly, this does little to promote enjoyment and impairs the fluidity and grace that is the soul of dance.
The Alexander Technique, pioneered by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the 1890s, is a well-known system that attempts to undo the habitual patterns of poor posture and stimulate greater awareness of body alignment. Advocates report that the Alexander Technique can greatly improve overall health and natural movement which, if true, can only be good for dance.
Disclaimer: This blog is for information only and does not constitute professional health advice. Students should be advised to consult their GP if they are concerned about symptoms and before embarking on any new health or fitness program.