Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dance as physical therapy?

Photo from 2008, photographer unknown
Photo on the right shows me in 2009 with shoulder length medium auburn hair, laying on the floor with my head propped on my hands with a delicate scimitar balanced on my head. I am wearing a cabaret bellydance bra and belt set in turquoise with turquoise chiffon harem pants.  Photo has about a 45 degree tilt to the left.  

So I mentioned yesterday that I was starting a new dance adventure that I called the Cyborg Dance Projekt.  I was scared because my attempts at doing some basic hip movements created some wicked pain and nerve issues (hell, a lot of non-dance physical therapy exercises would hurt me severely, like bridges and walking).  Despite my fear, I managed to go to the studio for an intermediate bellydance class that was focusing on drills (for non-dancers, that's repeating movements or combinations of movements).

I made it to the studio with a forearm crutch in tow, had a chance to talk with several folks that I hadn't seen for a while, made sure that I still had classes on an old class card, and let the instructor know how I was feeling and what limitations to expect.  Luckily for me, we were a class of two plus the instructor!

We warmed up and it gave me an opportunity to really feel my body go through it's range of motion.  The fusion site has some weird tightness and the level above the fusion is wicked flexible, so it was interesting to feel the different tensions in my torso as we loosened up.  I realized that my dance posture needs to be even more pronounced because of the competing tightness and flexibility in my lumbar spine.  What this means is I have to bend my knees even more to keep my lower back from curving into "centaur spine" (lordosis is the medical term).  I also have to focus on driving movement from my quads, my abs, and obliques to keep my glutes from driving a movement (when my glutes get involved, my sciatic nerves get pinched and it feels like I'm being stabbed in the butt with a big screwdriver).

As we got into the drilling, it was interesting to figure out what I've lost as a dancer and what my muscles will still automatically do.  Snake arms plus chest circles and slides were hard and awkward feeling, but floreos with hip movements were firmly in muscle memory.  I would imagine some of this has to do with making sure I kept movements smaller and more controlled versus using my full (pre-surgery) range of motion.

Towards the end of the class my legs were starting to spasm a bit, but I couldn't determine if it was my spine being upset or just from muscles that hadn't been used like that for so long.  Since I wasn't getting any "stop immediately" signals from my body, I gently kept going.  By the end of the class, I was so happy to have danced, even with limitations.  I didn't beat myself up about how my body used to be able to do certain things.  Even better, my instructor and fellow student seemed thrilled to be a part of my dancer rebirth.

Later last night my body gave me some grief, but it wasn't any worse than the pains that physical therapy would cause me.  I woke up today feeling like I had broken glass in my back, but that's pretty normal these days.  The happy part was waking up to dancer stiffness.  Hamstrings that are a little tight, deltoids that are sore.  Good pain to contrast with the unpleasant pain.

I'm giving myself a recovery day today, but we'll see what tomorrow may bring.  My finances are going to be a pretty solid restraint on this project as my summer pay barely pays my bills, but I am accepting donations for the project!  There's a PayPal donation button on the "About Me" section of the page or you can go directly to Twisted Dance's class package page to help me with my dance as physical therapy adventure (or come dance with support is huge right now in this rough recovery patch).

Shimmy on....

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