Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. Maybe not ALL of it, but… The fact that I can sit at my computer and simply communicate with thousands of people I never could have reached otherwise – it’s an introvert’s heaven, I tell ya!

It DOES however, cause an awful lot of us to neglect our bodies. Due in large to  hours spent slumped in various chairs and couches in front of screens, lower back pain is now the single leading cause of disability worldwide (according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010).

Countering the effects of work with an activity that reinforces good poise is now more important than ever. Let’s look at how ballroom dancing measures up.

Injuries are a super-bummer for anyone – and for a dancer, it could limit how long they can enjoy dancing. Since most dance-related injuries occur from a tight area being over-extended, we need to stretch these areas to improve our ‘range of motion’.

We learned that stretching is the best thing we can do as individuals to protect ourselves, and developing our body awareness helps us identify where we need it the most. But the journey doesn’t end there.

In today’s video, we cover the various kinds of stretches out there, so you can choose the best ones for you. We also look at some general tips you may not have thought of, which help improve your stretching enormously.

CAVEAT: I’m talking about stretching areas which are tight and at risk of injury. I’m NOT talking about areas that are already injured – stretching these areas could aggravate the problem. Consult a health professional for any chronic or acute pain.

Most people, especially dancers, tend to treat their bodies like they can just trade them in for a newer model when they get older. We never learned, or simply forget to pay attention to what’s happening in our bodies, and so miss warning signs that could prevent a serious injury.

Don’t get me wrong, proper technique is essential for Cuban motion. Once you have the basics down however, you might be asking yourself: How can I do more to capture the look of a Latin dancer? And a big part of that comes from increasing your hip flexibility, which gives you more range of motion on the dance floor. Here’s 6 ways to do that.

So, want to look sure of yourself on the dance floor? Reduce your chance of injury? Strike better superhero poses? Now that we’ve covered how proper posture can change your life and how to do it, time to move on with 6 common problems that play havoc with our body-lines.

So, now we know how important good posture is for your health, your confidence, and of course, your look on the dance floor. Now it’s time to tackle the secrets of achieving perfect posture. Let’s start by taking a look at what needs improving.

Checking Your Posture

To make this easier, put on something form-fitting. Not much point trying to find perfect posture if you’re sporting size 50 fishing pants on your size 35 waist.

Stand as tall as you can with a mirror showing your profile, and look for these signs of a perfect posture:

  1. Head: Is the chin parallel to the floor? Is your ear over the mid-point of your shoulder?
  2. Chest and back: Is your back straight so your shoulder blade is invisible? Are the shoulders, ribs, and hips stacked on top of each other?
  3. Pelvis and hips: Is the pelvis following the natural curve of the spine? Is it at the midpoint between tucked forward and sticking backward?
  4. Legs: Are the hips, knees, and balls of the feet stacked above each other? Can you bend your knees and still keep a neutral pelvis?
  5. Feet: Does your weight settle towards the ball of the foot, and between the second and third toes? Does your weight roll through the centre of your foot when you take a step?

Creating Perfect Posture

Developing perfect posture will feel uncomfortable at first. After all, if it felt comfortable, you wouldn’t need to change it! Eventually, it will feel easier to hold your body in this healthier way.

  1. Be a superman: Superman never had to worry about perfect posture, did he? Imagine yourself as a hero, winning a medal of honour. This will cause your body to stand tall, and puff the chest out proudly. The feeling should be of lifting the ribs, not arching the back.
  2. Weigh down the shoulders: Roll the shoulders in a semi-circle, forward-down-back, then reverse. Now, pause at the lowest point, and gently pull down further with your back muscles.
  3. Flatten the stomach: Imagine pulling in and upwards with your gut, like you’re trying to make yourself look slimmer. I think of it as pulling towards the spine and upwards toward the ribs.
  4. Rock the pelvis: As with the shoulders, rocking the pelvis back and forward, then finding the midpoint in between is a great way to line it up with the spine.
  5. Sink the hips: Strap on a weighted coin belt, or just imagine it pulling down on your hips, and gently bending the knees. At no point in ballroom dancing should the knees ever go ramrod straight, or you risk injury.

Roll with the arches:

If you can do all the above and still breathe, try walking forwards and backwards. The weight should roll through the centre of your foot. Walk facing a mirror to make sure you aren’t collapsing inward or outward with the ankles and knees.

Your spine will react to the adjustments you make, but never try to force the shape of your spine to change – adjust the coat, not the coat-rack!

While working on your perfect posture, you may sometimes get pain, stiffness, or other physical challenges as your body learns a new way to move. Next page we’ll look at some of the common posture issues and a simple fix for each.