A guest post by Veronika Kruta, verokrutayoga.com
Warm up before dancing with this 10-minute full-body yoga routine.
How strange that tango dancers rarely warm up their bodies before dancing! You would for other types of challenging dance.
The “warming up” I’ve seen might be dancing a low-intensity tanda (maybe a Calo or Canaro) with someone you have danced with before and know well, so as not to ruin your chances of impressing someone if they ask you to dance before you have warmed up.
Several years ago I began a practice of tuning in with myself and my body before going out to a milonga. I put on my heels at home and danced by myself for 10 minutes. I didn’t want the state of my body and mind to betray me when I got on the dance floor for that first tanda.
Often what I discovered in those 10 minutes would surprise me. Some days it seemed I had no balance whatsoever. My shoes didn’t feel right. My mind felt distracted. The clothing I was wearing was all wrong. I was being self-critical. Or the opposite would happen. I was pleased by the stability I felt, or by how expressive or creative my solo dancing seemed. How light and free I felt in my movement or how focused I was. These states of being change and can catch us unawares until we get into our bodies.
The same thing happens when I get on my yoga mat. This is often the first time of the day when I allow myself to tune in to what’s going on inside, the sensations I feel in my body, where my thoughts are, and what emotions I’m feeling. Many times I discover something I was not expecting.
Later, I started adding on to this practice of tuning in before dancing by spending a few minutes watching a video or two of some dancers who inspire me and then filling up on the excitement I felt from watching them. My dance seemed to transform. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever watched a performance at a milonga and felt like your own dance came alive after the performance, your inspiration and creative juices flowing through you and giving your dance a completely different, more raw and soulful expression.
There are many ways to get present in your body before you dance, and what a gift this is to your partner.
If you want to learn more about how presence can change your embrace, check out my blog post How Attention to Breath Can Enhance Your Tango.
Today I want to share with you a 10-minute, full body yoga warm-up you can do before dancing. You can even do this in your tango clothes. I recommend doing it barefoot or in street shoes, unless you want the added challenge of being in your dance shoes. When you don’t have time to do a full yoga practice before dancing, this is a great way to spend a few minutes to stretch, strengthen, energize, and become present in your body.
This brief sequence begins by getting grounded and warming up the joints. Then it moves into opening up the feet, spreading the toes and bringing awareness to how you distribute the weight across the whole foot.
Next, a few poses to warm up the front and back body, opening shoulders, stretching the side-body, and warming up the major muscle groups. (Similar to the purpose of Sun Salutations A and B in a Vinyasa practice.)
Then we open the hip flexors to promote a nice tango stride, and activate your twist to help torsion. Finally, we go into a deeper twist and hamstring stretch—also facilitating your stride, and finish with a little core warm-up to assist with balance, get the blood flowing, and energize the body in general.
Wrapping up, we take a few moments to bring the attention inward, focus on the breath, and tune in to our thoughts, emotions and state of being before heading out onto the dance floor.
I encourage you to use this sequence as a guideline and add or omit poses that you feel your body needs or does not need to warm up before dancing. If you are doing this sequence at home, in comfortable clothing, you may also add some floor poses, which I have not included here so that the routine can be done in your tango clothes in any space you find yourself.
For more information on how to compliment your tango dancing with a yoga practice or to try out some free yoga classes designed specifically for tango dancers please visit my website verokrutayoga.com or feel free to get in touch. I am always open to questions and feedback of any kind!
Do you ride escalators up and down instead of walking them or using stairs? Did you say you are an Argentine tango dancer?!
I know, the moving stairs are usually filled with other people riding them, letting a machine do their work instead of using their own body in a great, simple exercise. So we’re stuck.
Walking up and down stairs makes a great exercise for dancers and everyone. We lift (or lower) almost our full body weight through a good range of motion. We strengthen our ankles, the joint through which all our body weight above connects to our base of support, our feet.
In regular walking in the general population, you are going to find people ‘falling’ from one step into the next, unable to seize their axis as the hips come over the foot. Worse still, they may not even bring their hips over the foot, but stagger a little side-to-side.
Let’s face it, our bodies are lazy. They will do as little work as they can get away with. So our minds and spirits that have aspirations must assert control and demand better performance. To avoid little-by-little performance degradation, we can challenge ourselves in lots of little everyday ways.
I have a few exercises that can help.
- Walking slowly through the axis position, where the light leg swings directly under the hip and brushes past the other leg.
- Changing up forward, backward, sideways the direction of steps.
- Static heel raises. Think how often you are standing around watching something or waiting for something. Press the heels into each other, with the forefoot turned out to a comfortable degree. Rise up slowly off your heels, and lower slowly, keeping your weight forward, over the balls of the feet, so that the heels just kiss the floor.
- Harder heel raises. Pressing the heels into each other, rise up on only one foot, with the other one floating beside the working foot. Repeat on the other side.
- With each step, pretending that you are stepping up onto a short, next level plaza. We flex our ankle, pressing down through the ball of the foot to lift our entire body up to and above the next level. We can have that same feeling when walking on a constant level. With each step, I am “stepping ‘up'” and holding my weight there, in readiness for a next step or a pivot in place.
In actual dancing we don’t want to bob up and down, so we flex the ankle and use a relaxed (but not bent) knee to absorb the lifting. This will keep our head at a nearly constant height as we swing through our axis, the ‘lifting’ point of each step.
- Standing leg circles (lápiz). Standing on one leg we extend the other leg as far as it reaches to the front, then swing it in a large half-circle to the back, keeping the toe in light contact with the floor. Important: keep the size of the arc the same on the back and the front. Feel your active gluteus muscles on the back. Do five to ten times starting to the front, and then repeat starting to the back. Now repeat the whole thing on the other side.
Please give this a try and let me know if you have any questions or interesting experiences with it.