Once upon a time, I used to work as a ballerina. I loved dancing so much, that even after retiring I have continued to take classes. For me at least, it's almost like a place of worship. It's a privilage to be able to take class, and I don't take it lightly.
Somehow or other, I was able to find one particular studio where they have a daily morning class, and so many of the dancers that frequent the studio have a strong background in dance, or they started dancing as adults and almost all of them are passionate about the art. It's almost like a community or even like a family. Most are women, many are of a "certain age" and almost all have strong personalities. We do get the occasional male dancer there, and even some whippersnappers of 40 and under. All in all, it's a mostly supportive environment, and we all share the same passion. The music, the hard work, the grace, the frustrations, the sweat, the occasional satisfaction of executing a combination successfully, and, with all of that, comes injuries. Both chronic and otherwise.
Everyone, when taking a ballet class wants to be the best they can be, or at least I would hope that's true.
"As we get older" (I fucking hate that phrase), physical movement becomes more challenging. It's more than a little disturbing when you find you simply can't do things the way you used to, with such ease. We need to become more cerebral in our approach; more thoughtful and analytical. We need to find ways to dance more efficiently, giving more respect to our bodies. We could get away with it when we were younger, but now we must take greater care. And by that I also mean self-care.
Before becoming a certified Yamuna Body Rolling practitioner, I was plagued with injuries. There was always something; a pulled hamstring here, hip pain there, foot pain, I could go on and on. I'd used tennis balls to roll on painful muscles, or would go get a massage, but it was just a continuous cycle, not to mention expensive.
After discovering Yamuna Body Rolling, I found that I simply wasn't getting the injuries as often, and the more I've learned about anatomy, the more I can utilize this knowledge to analyze and resolve most physical issues. Yamuna's knowledge of the body led to her technique of rolling out muscles in a "body-friendly" way, and it really works.
This applies pretty much to every "body"; not just dancers. That is the really cool thing that I discovered! Selfishly, I just wanted to help myself, and other dancers, but this is for anyone, no matter what your age or condition.
So many of these older dancers usually arrive at the studio and discuss their injuries. Hip replacements abound. Cortisone shots, pain relief medications and other therapies. With most dancers, it's always something. What puzzles me is the profound trust they put in Western medicine to resolve their issues. It's a huge money-maker for a surgeon to replace hips and knees, and whatever else ails you, however, it is my opinion that they understand little about soft-tissue injuries. These dancers often say that their doctors tell them they have a bone-on-bone problem and need surgery. But do you really believe that bone-on-bone IS the source of your pain? Perhaps, just perhaps, with proper self-care you could re-organize your muscles to better deal with the impact of the physical demands you place on yourself. An x-ray or MRI can't really tell you that.
I'm not saying that this is always the case. I required surgery after completely breaking my 5th metatarsal and three screws were installed to repair it. (I think they are Philips head - haha) For that, I am eternally grateful, as I was able to perform afterwards. But, that foot will never be the same as it was. That's just the way it works. Once you've had a procedure, you can heal, but it's never going to be the same. That's just a fact. The human body is perfection, and once they start diddling around with your bones and joints, they cannot replicate the perfection of what you were born with. Sometimes, though, it is a necessary evil.
But when dancers completely surrender their bodies to surgeons without first investigating holistic options, it usually starts a voyage of misery. I do realize that sometimes, you must do it, but please give some thought to other options first. Words have power, and once a doctor has told you that you have no other options, it will sink into your subconscious mind, and you will believe it.
For those of you that know me, I don't much trust Western Medicine...... Yes, we need it from time to time, but I'm just saying that over the years it has become such a money-making machine that you are viewed as $$$. It's become de-personalized and corporatized.
So, I thought I'd outline some things for older dancers to do, if they do indeed want to be the best they can be, and to stay as injury-free as possible.
First of all, if you are serious about your own dancing, you must do other things to support your body. It's much more time consuming than when you were younger, but with a little time and planning, it can be worked into any busy schedule.
1. Get to the studio early. Warm up your body and give special attention to any problem areas in your body. Make sure your feet are properly warmed up. Mute your cell phone. This is your time. Too many arrive at the studio at the last minute, or even later. By doing this, you are asking for injuries.
2. Make sure you give your body enough rest. Take the time to meditate or nap with your legs propped up. This one is a biggy.
3. Drink lots of water.
4. Take some time each day for some self-care. This means stretching, and paying attention to your weaknesses. Yamuna Body Rolling is a great way to correct any muscular imbalances. If your hips are tight, do the routines for the hips. Yamuna Foot Fitness is essential for dancers, and you should be doing these routines at least twice a week. Take the time! You can even catch up on your favorite tv shows while doing them.
5. Eat well. Try to get lots of protein and vegetables into your diet, and try not to eat too many sweets.
6. Cross train. You may think that you're only working your legs and feet in dance, but the rest of your body needs attention. Do some light weight lifting, planks, sit-ups, push-ups. Your body will thank you, and you only need 15 minutes or so to accomplish this. Don't forget to stretch out the muscles you've worked afterwards.
7. Take magnesium. Before going to bed at night, take a magnesium supplement. Also trace minerals are helpful for muscle cramping.
8. Get enough sleep. Dream about dancing well.