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 Post subject: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2001 3:03 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 53
I've been told that my spine sticks out a LOT more than most people's. <P>In yoga, I would only do a spinal roll (rock on your back) on a 2 inch thick mat, and even that wasn't comfortable. In a Jazz warmup last year, a similar motion I only did twice (on marley) seemed to have bruised or otherwise hurt my spine, which bothered me for several days.<P>My modern teacher has added something similar to our warmup, but here it is not so easy for me to just not do it. (Integral part of a sequence which moves around as you roll on your spine, don't want to get in others' way.)<P>My teacher suggested I eat a big pizza. Image<P>Or wear a sweatshirt. I'll try a thick vest or such, but it won't be enough.<P>Other people must have this problem... any "cheats" to not roll on the spine, way to hold the spine in a bit, build large muscles Image around the spine, or something else?<P>In the meantime, I'll probably end up not doing it or try finding a cheat. Burns on my feet are ok I suppose, but I'm not willing to risk my back!


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2001 4:36 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 4753
Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
I have two vertebrae that seem to get bruised no matter what I do, but softening into the floor is one way to avoid major bruises. That means you have to really concentrate on maintaining a curve, thinking about the movement from tail to head, or vice versa so that you're involving the whole spine, not just curving part of it.<BR>Practice whatever you're being asked to do outside of class, (what is it, exactly?)breaking it down slowly so that you get used to getting into it. Flattening the spine is a killer because your vertebrae are less protected and a common problem when you're learning something. Use that contraction, and soften that sternum. Wear a sweatshirt if it helps. If you're rehearsing something over and over and over you're going to get bruises. I wish I could tell you that you'll never get them. This is why a lot of people don't become professional dancers. It's hard and it hurts sometimes. But there are payoffs. Image


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2001 5:41 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 53
"This is why a lot of people don't become professional dancers. It's hard and it hurts sometimes. But there are payoffs."<P>Am I being too concerned? I AM the only one in class wearing knee pads... I'd thought that anything which could bruise a backbone might be enough to cause more serious damage. I am perfectly willing to accept pain, but not a significant risk of permanently reduced mobility.<P>Thanks for the advice, I'm going to print it out to remind me.<P>What to you mean "soften that sternum?"<P>The motion: sit with knees bent to sides and soles of feet touching near pelvis. Lean onto your hip and side of leg. Roll quickly onto your back and do a half turn without using the arms, and sit up. You are as you started, but facing the opposite way, and have travelled a bit.<P>I'm a beginner, and have not figured out the Graham "contraction" yet.


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2001 6:05 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
No, I don't think you're being too concerned. The smart dancer asks questions instead of working in painful silence.<P>Your spine can take a little bruising, just like your other joints, without any permanent damage. You're smart to wear knee pads. I always have knee pads in my dance bag, you'll be glad you have them when you start doing things like the exercise on 6.<P>So now I know what you're doing (and I'm sure Trina will have some good advice for you). The contraction means that you initiate the movement from your pelvis, so you need to get your teacher to work on this with you. If you're not really contracting you are probably getting the middle of your back onto the floor first instead of rolling into the ground from the tail of the spine up. <P>By softening the sternum I mean allowing the collarbones to round while reaching the arms away from the body. This also means curving the spine slightly at your neck, so you might want to think about where your eye line is, i.e. what are you looking at. When you figure out where your focus should be this will help you move more effectively because if your head is erect your spine will flatten out and you lose the curve.<P>One thing to keep in mind with Graham work is that it requires a lot of abdominal strength, when you really engage those muscles they will allow you to move to the floor with control instead of thumping down. (Here's a visual for you, one of my former teachers who was a Graham principal used to say a contraction should be as forceful as being punched in the gut. So it should be a forceful, [but controlled] movement) Good luck! Image<P><p>[This message has been edited by Marie (edited January 31, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2001 2:26 pm 
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I just got a call that the bookstore has a Graham-ish book in, so I hope to read more about the contraction there.<P>My teacher uses imagery including your teacher's punch in the gut, and vomiting, front muscles moving up while back muscles move down, being pulled back by your waistband, and originating from the pelvis, almost sexually. Not sure about the last one, if she meant a backwards pelvic thrust, but I didn't want to press the issue at the moment. Image<P>Thanks for your advice. Trying to hold the entire spine rounded, and practicing on the soft carpet at hope did help some. When my back feels completely normal, I will practice some more, and also see if I can further develop my cheat to use my side. I am still concerned about other damage like pinching a nerve or disc. I should have titled my question differently, since if bone bruises heal fully, then that is not a big concern for me.<P>And thanks for the validation on the knee pads. As the only guy, a beginner, and a quiet person, I already feel a bit like the different/outside person. Add on being the only one in knee pads and whining to the teacher about not hurting my back.


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2001 7:31 pm 
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
I'm not a doctor so I can't say it's impossible that you will permanently hurt your spine. All I know is that I have never heard of anyone permanently hurting their spine from bruising it. The only back injuries I've ever seen were muscular or caused from a trauma induced from jumping or lifting (like a ruptured disc). It would be hard to cause that kind of injury from a seated position because you need a lot of force.<P>Your comment about the backwards pelvic thrust, and again I'm not a Graham expert, seems correct to me (although I can understand why you don't want to go there with your teacher, lol). A contraction should be so strong that it moves your pelvis (and if you are standing takes you off your legs). That's the amazing thing about Graham technique, instead of being based in moving the limbs with the body following, it's all about moving the pelvis first and then the spine and then the limbs following along. Like turns around the back: pelvis shifts, spine turns, arms and head follow. Really brilliant, and quite powerful once you can integrate it all...<P>


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 8:26 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 2708
Location: Seattle, WA USA
Michael---HI!! Is this a beginner class? It seem like you're doing quite tricky stuff for a beginner class. I mean with the rolling and eveything. The rolling thing you described is also a yoga move!! Cool! I'd forgotten that Graham technique does that!<BR>I'm not clear if the back bruising issue is strictly that you have a "bony" back, or is it a muscular pain? (By the way, I have a bony back too!!)The best way to develop strenghth and protect your back is develop abdominal or core strength. I recommend a Pilates class. Have you heard of this exercise technique? If you havent', ask your dance teacher, or get back to me..I have a national listing of teacher/schools.<BR>If it's strictly a bony problem, it sounds like you have that covered as much as you possibly can. Remember to hold your contraction..I can't remember--are you supposed to roll on your middle back, or pelvis/lower back. If it's the lower back, the bony problem shouldn't be an issue, since the lumbar spine doesn't "stick out" as much as the thoracic, because of the natural anatomical curves of the spine. If it's the thoracic, then you WILL need padding, as the thoracic vertebra curve "outward" (look at a side view of a human skeleton/spine and notice the "S" curve)slightly. ....I dont' know if any of this is making any sense...let me know if I need to clarify.<BR>Remeber, I'm not a doctor or therapist...only trying to give some dance advice!! Good luck!!


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 8:42 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 2708
Location: Seattle, WA USA
Michael..additional thought. Out of all the modern dance techniques (except for maybe contact improv), Graham does the MOST amount of floor work. You can spend up to 3/4 of the class on floorwork. If you are bony, (I used to get wicked bruises, abrasions on the tops of my feet!), bruises, abrasions will be a "given" (ouch!!)on any bony areas--lower back, pelvis, elbows...wherever you don't have any padding (body fat). The knee pads are a good idea...sweatshirts rolled up around our waist might help, but this might impede those rolls you mentioned.<BR>For foot protection, you can use moleskin (get it at drugstore, or ask your teacher)wrapped around the bony metatarsal areas; it will help with abrasions/floor burns, friction burns.<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited February 05, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 4:49 pm 
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Marie and Trina, thanks much for your posts.<P>I haven't learned yet to tell the difference between good, ok, and bad pain in the back. Unlike, for instance, where I can tell if I am on the verge of pulling a leg muscle and know to stop. Or pain on the skin of the sole of the foot when turning, which I ignore because it will heal fully if it blisters.<P>I'd thought that ALL pain in the back is bad, but am starting to see that as a bit extreme. <P>Next time I see a doctor I'll discuss my back and dancing. By the way, I'm talking about very mild pain; if it were anywhere but my back, neck, or knees I would have completely ignored it. So please nobody be concerned! <P>Marie, your paragraph on the pelvis first then the limbs follow intrigues me. I'm looking forward to really feeling this.


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 4:51 pm 
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Trina, I am a beginner but the class is unfortunately all levels combined. The teacher seems to do a surprisingly good job at not frustrating or boring many of us.<P>I do think abdominal and back strength will help me, both for injury prevention and better technique. And partnering or contact, should I ever do either. <P>I'm considering starting yoga again (did maybe 6 months) or pilates. From what I've read and heard about Pilates, I'd prefer that, except the cost. I'll ask around.<P>The move uses the center of the back on the floor. I understand your comment, Trina, about the curve of the spine, sticking out more near the middle.<P>I have some moleskin which is like felt on a sticker, and can be stuck directly onto the skin. I handn't thought about using it, but it sounds like it could be fantastic if doing the same move over and over. I wouldn't cover my foot tops with it for class in general, but will keep it in mind and in my dance bag.<BR>Or is there some other kind of moleskin you are talking about?


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 5:13 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 1689
Location: USA
Michael, please check out <A HREF="http://www.ronfletcherwork.com" TARGET=_blank>www.ronfletcherwork.com</A> Ron Fletcher is a master teacher in pilates who studied with Joe Pilates himself, and danced with Martha Graham. The web-site can let you know of people around the country that teach his method, which is very specific.<P>My understanding of a contraction, as taught by Mr. Fletcher, and as a Graham technique also is about a powerful contraction of the abdominal muscles into the body. Ultimately, this action creates flexibility in the lumbar or lower back area, meaning the lower back should have a degree of independent flexibility that doesn't affect the pelvis or thoracic except by choice. It can take a few years to get truly noticeable results, but it's worth it!<P> These first "beginner" contractions should not result in a)a tilting of the pelvis, or b) a collapsing of the thoracic. I emphasize that those movements just mentioned aren't incorrect, they are simply variations of or an addition to the initial contraction or what I am calling "beginner" contraction. That contraction initiates, or should be part of other expressive moves relative to doing a contraction. The quotes on "beginner" are mine, and are not a regular description that you would hear in class. Questions?<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited February 05, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2001 9:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 2708
Location: Seattle, WA USA
MIchael, if you do Pilates, it can be "pricey". But the"mat" classes (floor work,not done on machines) are group classes and will cost less than the private, one-on-one classes on the apparatus. Check them out. Yoga is also good. Make sure you shop around for a good teacher...ask folks you know and respect for recommendations.


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2001 4:31 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 53
Today in class I did seem to feel that I was using contractions to move... I don't think it's correct yet, but getting there. Image Image<P>I think the posts above have helped me.<P>One problem/question is that I catch myself not breathing. Holding my breath to maintain the contraction. I'm sometimes able to breathe out to initiate, but if held long, my inclination is to finish breathing out and stop breathing til the release.<BR>Do you breathe out slower if the contraction is being held long, or breathe normally once the contraction is being held firmly?<P>I have a bad habit of holding breath when concentrating, and need to dig up old posts here; I think Basheva gave specific advice for breathing in Ballet.<P>Why do I feel dizzy? Oh yeah, I forgot to breathe!<P>Thanks Maggie for the Ron Fletcher link. I plan to try it. His website shows that he's certified a teacher in Dallas, Alice Ann Dailey. Her site says she's been teaching Ron Fletcher since 1981 and Pilates since 1985, and trains Pilates instructors for certification. She does a few group classes both in Pilates and Ron Fletcher. Only $13 for about an hour. <A HREF="http://www.oasisbody.com/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.oasisbody.com/</A> <P>I've asked around locally and have a couple yoga recomendations, but not many people take Pilates. I'll try Alice Ann for now, unless I hear more first.


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 Post subject: Re: How can I avoid bruising my spine?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2001 5:48 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 1689
Location: USA
Michael, Alice will be able to help you "choreograph" your breathing with your contraction work. She will also be able to help you work to develop your contractions. I don't personally know Alice, but I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.<P>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited February 06, 2001).]<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited February 06, 2001).]


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