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    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Exclamation The "back" part of a hip circle

    Help! I have a student who has not been able to master the basic posture, especially in the lower back. I teach a slight "tuck," really more of a gentle down with pelvis so that the lower back is somewhat flat and not arched (aka neutral). I make sure to teach them not to over tuck because that is bad for them too, and it causes too much knee bend. I know there is a lot of controversy over this, so I hope we won't get into all that...

    However, I wanted to mention it, because it is an integral part of the "back" of a hip circle. From this neutral/dropped pelvis position, I ask students to pull back with their lower abs like someone is trying to pull them back from their hips. Jillina calls it a psoas pull, I think. I use all sorts of visualizations like a tray being slid across the table, someone getting punched in the lower stomach, walking into a bar that is at pelvis level, etc. I tell them to think about their weight transferring to their heels like they are about to fall backwards. I say all sorts of things and I demonstrate it repeatedly. I also use hands-on instruction and place my hands at their hip bones and gently pull them backwards or touch the part of their lower abs that should be engaging (with permission and not too low!). I will often have students put their hands on my hip bones so that they can feel the motion. My hips do not tilt when I do this, they only slide backwards.

    So I have one student who's been studying with me for about 5-6 months now and she just can't do the back part of a hip circle no matter what I say or do! I think part of it is that she hasn't gotten the basic posture and I also think she just has no idea of how to access her lower abs. I mean it's impossible to do a pull-back correctly without a neutral pelvis, right? That's what I think.

    So what should I say or do to help her get it? I'm at a loss and I can tell she's getting frustrated. Any thoughts or tips?


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    Advanced BHUZzer Hala Jamal's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Have you studied with Hadia or do you atleast have her 4 disc DVD?
    If I'm expressing her teaching correctly, the knees are straight at the back of the large hip circle and slightly bent at the front of it specifically to protect the lower back. I don't have to think about tucking pelvis or engaging abs (which I don't do anyway - I use her open/close flow of the torso when I dance) because the knees drive the movement. Tucking or engaging would confuse me as a student.
    My intent isn't to criticize or engage in a discussion about abs and tucking (as you mentioned in your post) just to offer a different approach to help your student gain confidence by succeeding, injuring free. I hope you get some useful advice that works for you in this thread. Cheers!
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    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by Hala Jamal View Post
    Have you studied with Hadia or do you atleast have her 4 disc DVD?
    If I'm expressing her teaching correctly, the knees are straight at the back of the large hip circle and slightly bent at the front of it specifically to protect the lower back. I don't have to think about tucking pelvis or engaging abs (which I don't do anyway - I use her open/close flow of the torso when I dance) because the knees drive the movement. Tucking or engaging would confuse me as a student.
    My intent isn't to criticize or engage in a discussion about abs and tucking (as you mentioned in your post) just to offer a different approach to help your student gain confidence by succeeding, injuring free. I hope you get some useful advice that works for you in this thread. Cheers!
    I have not studied with Hadia, but plenty of people have mentioned her DVDs to me whenever I have teaching questions. I guess I should break down and get it.


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    Mega BHUZzer Lara L's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Try talking about the back instead of the front- I sometimes talk about extending the spine (since most of my problems with hip circles is students wanting to curve/crunch the lower spine) and tell them it should feel like a mini lower back massage as they go around the back half of the circle. Sometimes I call the back position "backpacker's pose" because we have a lot of back packers here in interior Alaska and they get it. If you have 80 pounds of weight on your back and you don't want to hunch your shoulders to compensate, the logical place to bend is your hips, but if you don't tuck your tail a bit (not over tuck!) you're going to be in a world of hurt. Those visualizations both work for me- hope they help!


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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    are you saying that she doesn't tuck, and her pelvis is always tilted? Couldn't figure it out -
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    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by anthea View Post
    are you saying that she doesn't tuck, and her pelvis is always tilted? Couldn't figure it out -
    Yes. Her lower back curves upwards. Even when she tries to find neutral pelvis, she just squeezes her butt and bends her knees.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    My first teacher taught a visualization where you put yourself at the center of a clock face and practiced "hitting" the numbers. There are a couple of variations of the drill (slide your hips to 12, then center, 1, center, 2, center, 3, center,... or 12, 6, 1, 7, 2, 8,... or 12, 1, 2, 3,... which leads to smoothing the move out). She was originally teaching the flat, Turkish style of circle, but there's no reason why you can't adapt the idea for the tighter, Egyptian style if that's more to your stylistic liking--I do both variations when I practice. It's a good exercise if you need help with parts of your circle being lumpy and uneven. Don't know how much it would help this particular student.

    If her problem is mostly one of being able to manipulate the tuck angle, she might try the exercise where you lie on the floor, bend your knees, and practice flattening the curve of your lower back and holding for a few seconds. This is an exercise PTs prescribe for back injuries, so it's safe. (Like the shimmy drill where you sit with your legs in front of you, the big advantage is that it's hard to do it dangerously wrong--the floor stops you from overextending.) She might also be helped by the visualization of pretending to sit on the edge of a stool at different parts of her "clock face."

    Does if help if she bends forward a little on the back part? Not that you want her going full-Dina, but maybe it would be easier for her to work up to straight posture than to figure out where "back" is.

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Jillina calls it a psoas pull, I think. I use all sorts of visualizations like a tray being slid across the table, someone getting punched in the lower stomach, walking into a bar that is at pelvis level, etc. I tell them to think about their weight transferring to their heels like they are about to fall backwards. I say all sorts of things and I demonstrate it repeatedly. I also use hands-on instruction and place my hands at their hip bones and gently pull them backwards or touch the part of their lower abs that should be engaging (with permission and not too low!). I will often have students put their hands on my hip bones so that they can feel the motion. My hips do not tilt when I do this, they only slide backwards.
    Maybe it's me (hard to tell what your explanation looks like in person based on text), but I find some of these descriptions at cross purposes. I think of a hip circle with a psoas pull as being the one where the hips tilt, not the flat style. I think of "psoas pull" as "sharp tuck," like at the end of a jewel.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Yes. Her lower back curves upwards. Even when she tries to find neutral pelvis, she just squeezes her butt and bends her knees.
    I think you're absolutely right about lack of access to lower abs. (and it's not uncommon). For this, I find the following exercise really helpful.

    Have the students lie on their backs, knees bent, feet flat, and work on pressing their lower backs toward the floor, pressing the arch out of the lower back. Some students' lower backs will touch the floor, others won't, depending on their bodies, so tell them the goal is to engage the muscles as if to touch the floor with the lower back, it doesn't matter whether they actually achieve it.

    (your problem child will be using her legs at this point to create the action, but that's OK for now, it will help her figure out what's supposed to happen)

    Then have them straighten their legs and relax them on the floor and try the same action. Give them plenty of time to 'find' the right set of muscles, just above the pubic bone, and practice it. Those who have trouble with this should practice a little each day to build strength/control in the lower abs.

    At the very end of the exercise, I tell them to try pressing their heels into the floor to boost the action, just so they can feel the muscles at the front of the hips/tops of the thighs engage. I tell them this isn't the exact same movement they'll use when standing, but that they may feel some muscles firing in that region.

    Then I have them stand and practice the same thing against the wall, tucking and untucking without engaging their glutes. They should feel their butts sliding down the wall when they tuck. Then we practice finding neutral and feel which part of the butt touches the wall when in neutral (it should be slightly higher than the part that touches when relaxed). Then we practice moving (simple hip lifts, vertical 8s if they're ready for those) while maintaining the posture.


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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Thanks Lauren and Tourbeau. Great advice. I've done the on the floor exercises before, as well as the against the wall ones and they do help. I guess I'm just not consistent enough with using them. This particular student may have gone through those exercises with me last session, but we definitely haven't so far this session. I will add it to the agenda for next week! Thanks!


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    Advanced BHUZzer MellyBelly's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Yes. Her lower back curves upwards. Even when she tries to find neutral pelvis, she just squeezes her butt and bends her knees.
    sometimes when I have students with this issue I tell them to imagine a little zipper above their belly button, and to "zipper it up" and I mimic pulling up the zipper with my hand which brings the pelvis slightly forward in to neutral - it usually causes them to engage the lower abs without squeezing the bum and bending knees. Or I tell them to imagine there is a small magnetic force that pulls their bellybutton gently towards the spine. I teach them these techniques just standing first, then once they have it in their body you can try doing the circle again and see if there is any improvement.

    I teach the same posture as you, just a gently engaged/ almost neutral pelvis (not released with a sway in the back and not tucked forward either).
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by MellyBelly View Post
    sometimes when I have students with this issue I tell them to imagine a little zipper above their belly button, and to "zipper it up" and I mimic pulling up the zipper with my hand which brings the pelvis slightly forward in to neutral - it usually causes them to engage the lower abs without squeezing the bum and bending knees. Or I tell them to imagine there is a small magnetic force that pulls their bellybutton gently towards the spine. I teach them these techniques just standing first, then once they have it in their body you can try doing the circle again and see if there is any improvement.

    I teach the same posture as you, just a gently engaged/ almost neutral pelvis (not released with a sway in the back and not tucked forward either).
    Oh yeah, I used the zipper visualization last night. I told everyone to pretend they're putting on their skinny jeans! LOL.

    I'm glad you also teach the same sort of posture. Sometimes I am hesitant to post body/movement questions on buhz because half or more of the people will tell you you're doing something wrong. ;)


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    Master BHUZzer sabrinabellydancer's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I think you're absolutely right about lack of access to lower abs. (and it's not uncommon). For this, I find the following exercise really helpful.

    Have the students lie on their backs, knees bent, feet flat, and work on pressing their lower backs toward the floor, pressing the arch out of the lower back. ...
    Yes, floor, then wall, then standing. Make it homework. Sometimes students need to be reminded of what they should practice at home
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    I've had a student with this issue in the last 2 classes I've taught. They just really consistently could not engage with the motion. We did the floor and wall exercises (and a lot of those visualizations too), but nothing ever seemed to click with them. I just don't remember having as pervasive a problem in classes in past years -- I guess I was due!


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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    I suspect the posture side may be a red herring - other than if her natural posture has her pelvis dropped she is likely to have weak lower abs.

    Before doing a circle I get them doing side slides and then back/forward slides. I get students to put their hand on their lower back - above and below their waist. I tell them as they go back (without straigthening the legs) they should not feel the lower back closing up - that is they should not be tilting their pelvis. Only when they can get some front/back movement do I move onto a diamond and then a circle.


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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    It sounds to me as if you've tried most of the most helpful explanations already. There is some good advice on here which you probably haven't tried that you should, as well. Aside from that, I think all that is needed now is patience (on both your part and her part), practice, and time.

    You should keep mentioning those visualizations and correcting her technique. You should also ask her if she understands what you are trying to convey. If she understands and is just physically unable to do it (for now), then all she needs is to keep trying... in class she can keep trying while getting those constant reminders, and then she should practice at home as well, trying to remember your corrections and make the necessary adjustments. Tell her she needs to practice on her own, in general and especially this movement.
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    So, wait, does she have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, or does she have a large curve in her lumbar vertebrae (lumbar lordosis).

    These are not the same thing! Studies have shown they are not necessarily even related in some people. The same studies showed that it was NOT possible to visually tell the difference between the two. It was only possible to distinguish between the two by palpating bones (including tailbone, and i don't think any of us are palpating our student's tailbone since you'd have to put your hand down their crack almost to their anus).

    Some people have lumbar lordosis but a neutral pelvis. If you tell these people to tuck or otherwise tilt their pelvis, you may think their posture visibly improves, but they may be straining their lower back while at the same time creating a posterior tilt to the pelvis (which would not be neutral, nor helpful to dancing).

    The fact that she cannot get herself into the configuration that you want suggests to me that she has an issue that you can't fix. She'd have to consult with a PT to figure out what is going on -- could be particular muscles that are too tight, or too weak, or strength imbalances, or even just the shape of her bones that nothing is going to completely fix.
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    Advanced BHUZzer yameyameyame's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by ssipes View Post
    These are not the same thing! Studies have shown they are not necessarily even related in some people.
    Interesting. I didn't know this. I decided to look into it, and came across this http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/67/4/512.full.pdf
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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Very interesting stuff, Sedonia, and thanks for the link, Yameyame.

    I wasn't aware of that info, BUT I always try to look directly at the pelvic position when I assess a student. I find it really hard to judge any other way, because of the wide variation in lower back curves AND the shape of the buttocks can confuse the eye as well. (funny, I just stopped myself from derailing another thread with this discussion the other day... it should really be it's own thread).

    When I'm at the front of the room watching the class in the mirror, I look at the depth of the hip crease where the thigh bone and the pelvis come together. Depending on the students' clothing, I can see a change there when they adjust their pelvis to neutral.

    When I'm assessing a student closely from the side, I look at the position of the ASIS in front and the iliac crest in back. The study Yame linked to says:
    Pelvic inclination was measured using an inclinometer† to determine the angle formed with a horizontal line drawn between the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) and the posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS) (Fig. 1).
    Obviously I don't have an inclinometer, but my eyeballs work well enough. I always ask the student to show me released, tucked and neutral so I can see the position relative to their own body & ability.

    Frankly, it's challenging & more of an art than a science. I also look at whether the student's movements are showing up correctly -- unwanted twisting, for instance, seems to be connected to a tilted pelvis and/or locked knees. If they're not achieving the proper range of motion or isolation or are experiencing any discomfort, that's obviously important.

    You can see when they're struggling to control their pelvic tilt. Like Andalee described, you can SEE when they're bending their knees and clenching their glutes instead of activating the lower abs. You can see it when their butt pushes back during a figure 8 and their hip creases deepen.

    None of that is related to lordotic curve, it's all pelvic. BUT I can see now that it may be more useful to put their focus on the pelvis rather than the lower back when practicing the tuck on the floor....


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    Mega BHUZzer kashmir's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    When I'm assessing a student closely from the side, I look at the position of the ASIS in front and the iliac crest in back. The study Yame linked to says:
    Pelvic inclination was measured using an inclinometer† to determine the angle formed with a horizontal line drawn between the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) and the posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS) (Fig. 1).
    Obviously I don't have an inclinometer, but my eyeballs work well enough. I always ask the student to show me released, tucked and neutral so I can see the position relative to their own body & ability.
    Last year I had a bunch of teachers in their undies and applied nice bright yellow dots on their ASIS & PSIS - it was informative to all those present. However, as it requires a strip down - and in may cases palpatating their bodies it isn't an option with most students But there were some suprises when you actually checked the underlying bones.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by yameyameyame View Post
    Interesting. I didn't know this. I decided to look into it, and came across this http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/67/4/512.full.pdf
    Yes, I had looked at that too. Abstract (bold emphasis mine):

    The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between measurements of lumbar lordosis, pelvic tilt, and abdominal muscle performance during normal standing. In addition, the reliability of the measurements used in this study was examined. Measurements of lumbar lordosis, pelvic tilt, and abdominal muscle performance were taken of 31 healthy adults aged 20 to 33 years. Each measurement was taken twice, and the measurements were shown to be reliable. The Spearman's rho correlation of the abdominal muscle performance measurements with pelvic tilt was .18 and with lordosis was .06. The Pearson product moment
    correlation of lordosis with pelvic tilt was .32. The results indicate that
    lumbar lordosis, pelvic tilt, and abdominal muscle function during normal standing are not related. This study demonstrates the need for a reexamination of clinical practices based on assumed relationships of abdominal muscle performance, pelvic tilt, and lordosis.
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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Here is an image I was looking for earlier but couldn't find, illustrating the independence of lumbar curve and pelvic tilt:

    Attached Images
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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by kashmir View Post
    Last year I had a bunch of teachers in their undies and applied nice bright yellow dots on their ASIS & PSIS - it was informative to all those present. However, as it requires a strip down - and in may cases palpatating their bodies it isn't an option with most students But there were some suprises when you actually checked the underlying bones.
    I try to never strip or palpate my beginners. Well, sometimes I palpate them a little, with permission.

    Like I said, it becomes more art than science. Guesswork based on best observation.


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    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by ssipes View Post
    Here is an image I was looking for earlier but couldn't find, illustrating the independence of lumbar curve and pelvic tilt:

    Is one of those correct or optimal?


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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Is one of those correct or optimal?
    I would guess the first and/or second one would be optimal.
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Yes. Her lower back curves upwards. Even when she tries to find neutral pelvis, she just squeezes her butt and bends her knees.
    oh okay, yes have had many students like that. Quite a few never "fix" their posture because it's a long-standing issue that takes time to adjust; but some do over a shorter period of time. I saw my own back change (from the opposite-curve problem) but it took a long time and I still have to readjust it ALL THE TIME. However, my "normal" position is certainly an improvement from what it was originally.

    I'm of the opinion that body issues have corresponding mental/emotional components too, so it's a mistake to approach everything only from a physical standpoint as if that's the entirety of the problem. The problem is manifesting through the body; so dealing with people's physical states takes tolerance when teaching, we have to realize that everyone can't replicate moves exactly the same way.
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by sspies
    I would guess the first and/or second one would be optimal.
    In which case for me a good visualisation would be to think of the plane of the pubic bone and the hip bones as if it had a small flat tray attached, and I've got to keep that vertical and parallel to the mirror as I take it round the circle. And it's a mirror, so I mustn't tilt it at all or it will flash signals to the evil monkeys in the trees... (I like visualisations. I think my teacher thinks I'm strange.)
    Last edited by Aniseteph; 11-03-2011 at 09:47 AM. Reason: clarify
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by andalee-oriental View Post
    Is one of those correct or optimal?
    Quote Originally Posted by ssipes View Post
    I would guess the first and/or second one would be optimal.
    The sacral angle is genetic. The first, second AND third are all optimal as they are all vertical/neutral pelvis.
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    Master BHUZzer SamiraShuruk's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Have you checked your student's hamstring flexibility? If she's really tight and/or short in the hamstrings the proper back position may be a challenge for her. Can she to a "table top" - hinging only at the hips and perfectly flat back with her legs straight (but not hyper extended of course)?


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    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Don't know how much help this will be, but I'm throwing it in just in case.

    When I started having lower back problems after 6 years of dancing (with ab exercises EVERY CLASS) I was pretty stunned to hear my PT say "You don't have any tone in your abs."

    What she meant was I had no tone in my LOWER abs. Yes, yes, I know, all one muscle, yadda yadda, but the exercises I had been doing allowed me to "get away" with engaging only the upper part of my abs, and I was fixing my posture in class with only a bare use of my lower abs.

    The physical therapist gave me the "stand against the wall and pull your abs in" exercise and had me do it progressively with my heels closer and closer to the wall, holding it for 30 seconds. Also, she had me do the floor exercise that's about 1 min into the vid here: Video: Easy Lower Abdominal Exercises | eHow.com -- in which the knees are bent at 90 degrees and the feet are alternately touched to the floor (still with flexed knees) while the lower abs are held. I STILL do this exercise, and some days I still find it quite hard. I do this instead of the class exercise of hip raises, which I can't do effectively.

    So what is my point (I can haz point?) -- your student may THINK she is following your instructions when she is not. My teacher was also a bit taken aback to find I hadn't be using my lower abs correctly when she had been telling me to do so for six years. We were both fooled, and it took a medical professional to straighten me out.
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    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: The "back" part of a hip circle

    Quote Originally Posted by tigerb View Post
    Don't know how much help this will be, but I'm throwing it in just in case.

    When I started having lower back problems after 6 years of dancing (with ab exercises EVERY CLASS) I was pretty stunned to hear my PT say "You don't have any tone in your abs."

    What she meant was I had no tone in my LOWER abs. Yes, yes, I know, all one muscle, yadda yadda, but the exercises I had been doing allowed me to "get away" with engaging only the upper part of my abs, and I was fixing my posture in class with only a bare use of my lower abs.

    The physical therapist gave me the "stand against the wall and pull your abs in" exercise and had me do it progressively with my heels closer and closer to the wall, holding it for 30 seconds. Also, she had me do the floor exercise that's about 1 min into the vid here: Video: Easy Lower Abdominal Exercises | eHow.com -- in which the knees are bent at 90 degrees and the feet are alternately touched to the floor (still with flexed knees) while the lower abs are held. I STILL do this exercise, and some days I still find it quite hard. I do this instead of the class exercise of hip raises, which I can't do effectively.

    So what is my point (I can haz point?) -- your student may THINK she is following your instructions when she is not. My teacher was also a bit taken aback to find I hadn't be using my lower abs correctly when she had been telling me to do so for six years. We were both fooled, and it took a medical professional to straighten me out.
    Oh yeah. My physical therapist taught me those exercises and I am supposed to do them exactly as JJ says in the video. I suck at keeping up with my PT exercises. She taught me those exercises when I came in for an injured neck. She told me my core and the muscles around my back (trapezius and lats) were very weak and that they weren't supporting my neck properly. Hello? I am belly dancer and I don't have strong core or back? I was shocked. Apparently, you can squeak by using the wrong set of muscles or not using muscles properly until you have a medical problem that brings them to light.


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