Super easy way to condition your body for dance while at work!

When you don’t do much physical activity during work or study, and then start belly dancing, you are at a bigger risk of injury than someone who is more physical. Worse yet, Dr. James Levine did research showing that for every hour you sit down, your life expectancy decreases by two hours! (Mercola, J., 2017)

Ouch!

Now that seems like a bit of a high estimate to me but never-the-less, it is clear that excessive sitting is  doing no favours to your body and by extension, your dance. Another study indicated ‘Sitting time was responsible for 3.8% of all-cause mortality (about 433,000 deaths/year) among those 54 countries’. (Rezende, L et al., 2016).

The majority of people these days have desk jobs or jobs that require a significant amount of sitting and a whole lot of belly dancers keep day jobs as well as their dancing. The fact you are dancing is more than likely helping you avoid many of the more serious issues faced by office work but what if making a few simple changes in your office job could help out your dance too?

It is reported that anything more than sitting for 3 hours per day is detrimental, however, sitting cross-legged (lotus position), squatting and standing are said to contribute to better outcomes. Outcomes such as weight loss, younger bodies and stronger joints for example. All common aspirations among belly dancers.

young happy student. over white background

Even sitting on the ground is said to be better than sitting in a chair.

According to author Kelly Starrett, starting off by swapping 20 minutes sitting for standing at work, will help condition your muscles and reduce injury for activities you do outside of work. YAY! Easy done. After a week or 2 you can increase it. If you want to read more about his suggestions, he has written a whole book about it called “Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World.” Which sounds like it would be very valuable for anyone doing a lot of desk work. I also thought his YouTube channel MobilityWOD looked pretty good as he has divided his videos into sections like Shoulder Pain, Exercises, and Stretches and Ankle Pain, Exercise, and Stretches.

So according to Dr Mercola (2017), stand up and … be younger and fitter and stronger. I was so impressed by what I read that I am seriously thinking about getting a sit-stand desk or maybe just doing more reading and researching on my iPad. I love that this simple change doesn’t involve some complicated routine or time out of my schedule, I just stand up whenever I can complete a task that way. It makes sense!

What do you think? If you have a desk job, will you try to stand up a bit more?

 

 

References

Mercola, J. (2017). Sitting Too Much Ages You by 8 Years. Retrieved from http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2017/02/03/too-much-sitting-makes-you-age-faster.aspx

Rezende, L et al. (2016). All-Cause Mortality Attributable to Sitting Time. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 51 , Issue 2 , 253 – 263

(This is post is not to be taken as medical advice. It is intended for discussion purposes only)

Teaching Belly Dance to Students with Autism. Guest blog post by Arlechina Verdigris

Not too long ago I was on a dance forum where one teacher was begging for tips as her dance class now had 50% of students on the autistic spectrum. A few teachers gave suggestions but overall, not a lot of information was forthcoming. Coincidentally, a few weeks later I was on a belly dance forum and someone else asked about teaching people with autism but this time I was struck by how thorough the answers were. I was so impressed with Arlechina Verdigris’s suggestions I asked if I could turn her response into a short blog post but she went one better and wrote an entire piece on this very relevant topic and here it is – full of fantastic tips to help any dance teacher. Thank you so much Arlechina! ❤ Jade

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological condition that changes the communication and sensory pathways of the human mind. It makes it very difficult for children to learn to speak and interact with others in the ways that we have come to take for granted. By the time an autistic child becomes an adult they may be able to speak and go about life solo or they may be dependent upon caretakers. In going out into the world, many are forced to either participate with no adjustments made to accommodate their uniqueness or simply not partake in most activities because the sensory input can be too painful. Autism affects 1 out of every 68 children born in 2016, a number that has more than doubled since the early 1990’s. Some might be tempted to think that this is because we’ve become more aware of it and are actually catching it more frequently but that is not entirely the case. There really are more persons being born on the spectrum now than ever before and as they age up they will need to find acceptance. For us, that means we need to make a safe and inclusive environment in our classes and shows for them to participate and attend performances. Everyone knows someone on the spectrum, everyone has either a friend or a relative affected by autism and many reading this now are probably on the spectrum too. These are your students and fans, the children of your students, the siblings of your students, they are your audience. Autism may present unique challenges but these are nothing that cannot be overcome with a little creativity and patience–two fundamental principles of being an artist.  Promo mix (78).jpg

 

How to be an inclusive dance teacher!

If you are a dance instructor and you want to be inclusive of people who are on the spectrum but do not know where to begin, I have some suggestions! Many may feel that they want to be inclusive but don’t feel like it is their place to try to teach people who have a neurological condition that they don’t personally understand. Please abandon that thought process. Inclusivity is not segregation. Everyone can be an ally and those who have the patience and creativity to teach can also learn how to provide with an open mind.
What you need to understand foremost about Autism is that people on the spectrum experience the world differently. You cannot see, hear, smell, taste or feel half of what they are taking in at any given moment. To be a good dance instructor you will need to learn to control the environment and isolate the senses as much as you would isolate and layer parts of the body. Do not ask your students and audience to do this for themselves, they do not have nearly the control over the environment that you do. Their sensory input is not a switch that can be dimmed or turned off or on. You can make the biggest impact here and the actions you take will make the difference between participating and not.
  • Try to limit the sensory input of the environment by reducing sound (cymbals, clapping, ululating), lights (mixing natural and unnatural light, flashing lights, bright lights), and smells (perfumes, incense or oils, using scented cleaners). These are the simplest micro-changes that you can make to the landscape and they make a big difference all together.

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  • If you usually have your students face a mirror, make sure that you are also facing it. This makes it easier to isolate where the student needs to be looking. Consider asking students to wear basic black in class while you wear blue or some other contrasting color. This reduces “background” color input and directs the focus towards the instructor.
  • Try teaching by choreography rather than allowing just any music to play in the background. This connects a specific movement to a specific sound. It is easier for many to learn by pattern than by improvisation. ATS and ITS formats (without cymbals) can be really good for this if your student has an affinity for cues. Some will and some will not but it is an idea to try.
  • Count! 1-8, 1-6 or whatever the beat might be. Reinforcing a numeric pattern is a fantastic mnemonic device. Ask your students to count silently with tongue clicks rather than counting with their lips as it can be very difficult to reprogram the body once that lesson has taken hold.

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  • Every student should be provided with the opportunity to succeed gloriously by playing to their natural strengths and interests and autistic students are no different. Some aspects of dance are better suited than others. A taxim set to to a singular slow instrument may be easier to follow than an orchestra. Whirling and spinning may provide a positive sensory experience by shifting the student’s balance in the inner ear. Working with fun sensory items such as wings and silky veils may be soothing and interesting to both participate in as well as watch.
  • Do not expect or demand eye contact or physical contact in your instructional environment. No matter where your student is looking, they are probably paying attention the best way they are able. Invite the student to touch you if you feel that you need a tactile example but limit your touching with them unless you are invited.You may also suggest your students wear earplugs or sunglasses in your classes if they need them. They may have other adaptive or assistance gear that they prefer but it is good to initiate the conversation and let them know that such things are okay. Make sure your other students know why these items are being used and don’t allow them to make comments about their use. Let it be so normal that nobody thinks twice about it. (One of my students uses gum. Consider it a necessary therapy).

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  • Involve your other students and audience members by making them an active part of inclusion. Respect them by giving them the tools they need to be a good teammate. Show them how to be inclusive. Lead by example and don’t expect anything to be common knowledge. If you hear your students using inappropriate language (example: “That’s retarded.”), don’t let it continue. Nobody needs that.
  • If you have a place in your studio that you can designate as a sensory calming area it would greatly help. These places are a retreat where students who are overstimulated can go and decompress for a little bit. Think “quiet, soft lit and comfortable.” Add a perpetual movement toy or something similar for those who need something to focus on for a little while. It can help to drown out painful stimuli.
  • Remember to always listen to your Autistic students and peers and take their word above anything you read online or in a book. Trust that they know their own bodies. Be supportive and always reinforce supportive language. Be patient and always stay positive. Most of all, get ready to learn from them because they will change how you see and understand the world.
    Things To Try:
    **Blacklight dance party.
    **Color themed dance parties.
    **Waving excitedly or jazz hands instead of clapping and cheering.
    **Spotlight solos (to watch and maybe participate in).
    **Encouraging self-massage to get the body to move.
    **Breathing exercises (with counting) as part of every cool down.
Good luck! 
Arlechina Verdigris
Professionally, Arlechina Verdigris is a historical dance ethnologist, choreographer, percussionist, author and vocalist who specializes in the arts and oral traditions from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Privately, she is the mother of two autistic children and the caretaker of a third autistic adult. Her daily life is structured around reshaping activities and instruction for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She has been a guest speaker at the “Day of Dance for Autism” charity event benefitting the Tidewater Autism Society. She teaches music and dance to children both on and off the spectrum and has worked with autistic families to provide an inclusive
and cooperative dance environment where they can feel safe and participate fully.

You can find more of her writing in the following titles available on amazon.com:


The Ancient & Martial Dances

https://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Martial-Dances-Arlechina-Verdigris/dp/0983069093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467130708&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ancient+and+martial+dances

The Symbol Maker’s Companion

https://www.amazon.com/Symbol-Makers-Companion-Arlechina-Verdigris/dp/069258093X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467130741&sr=1-4

The Choreographer’s Notebook
https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Choreographers-Notebook-Urban-Primitive/dp/0692503331/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467130741&sr=1-6

Natural tooth whitening. Does oil pulling work?

I was delighted to read a recent article about Alicia Keys and her #nomakeup position. As someone who is a belly dancer that wears make up and blogs about make up that may seem strange. I love make up but there is a time and place for it. The thing is, there is a lot of pressure on women to be something else, not just on stage, but all the time. I can relate to her comments about wearing masks and hiding. There was a time in my life when my skin was often red and angry and I never left the house without a full face of make-up. Thankfully after many years of work with natural therapies and deeper self-development that problem  passed. I now feel I have a healthier relationship to myself. I can accept and love how I look without make up and do the same with it.  So despite me vowing to publish all the half written make up reviews I have been accumulating on my computer I will jump this piece forward. This is about trialling oil pulling as a tooth whitener – something natural, easy to do, cheap and looks good, with or without make up.

When I first heard about oil pulling, I was like “Yuck, seriously?”.

Purple veil eye close up

One way to pose if you want to draw attention away from your teeth!

After I heard it mentioned many times, I decided to look into it a bit. From the numerous websites and forums I looked at, oil pulling has been claimed to cure everything from ingrown hairs to arthritis. I can’t attest to its curative abilities but the one thing everyone agreed on was it does make your teeth whiter so I decided to try it. It was super cheap compared with the $400 chemical shit storm the dentist offered to whiten my teeth.

So what is OIL PULLING?

It is putting a spoonful of oil in your mouth and swishing it for about 20mins or so and spitting it out.

It is said to draw out toxins (hence its claimed healing benefits). It may or may not help with health issues but in accordance with what every one else said online, it did make my teeth whiter. You do this on a daily basis for 2 weeks. I was a bit sporadic with it so my results were not as strong as my son’s. He tried it and was much more disciplined and his teeth became super white, my daughter tried it too and it temporary fixed an enamel discolouration she has on one tooth (it stayed white for many months and goes white again when she does the oil pulling, her dentist was impressed with the results).

What oil do you use?

Well the first articles I read about it in years ago recommended organic sunflower oil which I tried and did not really like. The next site said sesame oil was the ancient way, so I tried that too. I preferred the taste but it was strong. The oil of choice for most modern oil pullers is organic coconut oil. This was the best flavour in my opinion. If yours is solid just scrape out a spoonful, it melts really quickly in your mouth.

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What is it like?

I won’t lie to you, I don’t like the texture of that oil in my mouth. It took me many attempts before I could tolerate it for the full-time frame but you do get used to it and some people don’t mind it at all.

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Results

Whiter teeth! It really worked for me, my friends and family. Some people do it in the shower (just remember to not spit it into your drains), some while reading, doing yoga or meditating.

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My summary: 5/5

Product: Organic Coconut oil (various brands)
Effectiveness: 5
Packaging: n/a
Safety: 5
(Effect) Suitable for day wear: Yes
(Effect) Suitable for stage: Yes
Price: varies but you can get start for less than $10 and that jar should last you for a long time!

Where to get it

Everyone is crazy about coconut oil in Australia these days and you can buy this stuff at woolworths, coles, go-vita and probably any health food shop you go to. For locals – it is also stocked in Kombu in Bellingen.

I would love to hear form my overseas readers if organic coconut oil is easily available where you live too.

Have you tried it? How did it go for you? Comment below.

 

 

Disclaimer:

The information contained here is for information purposes only. You should always seek advice from a qualified health care professional before you change, start or stop any part of your healthcare plan including physical activity and exercise.

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