Dancing Away the Menopause Blues
by Patricia Older
"Everyone is born with a natural talent for dance, but this natural talent gets suppressed with the
daily stresses of life," says
Pamara Perry, former soloist
with Joffrey Ballet, teacher, and choreographer.
As women, we sometimes
neglect ourselves in our busy lives. We get caught up in the daily routine
of taking care of everyone else. Our children, our
husbands, our parents, and our jobs require much of our attention and
energy so we often have difficulty committing the time and energy to
taking care of ourselves. As a consequence our female spirit and our
health begins to suffer.
to worry though, there is good news for women in menopause and the
associated transition period. Exercise, through dance, can raise endorphin
levels, strengthen bones, and help reduce the risk of heart disease. Music
and dance stimulate our lives in a natural and soothing way. Our bodies
and our minds benefit from this attention and refinement. By using some of
these classical ballet techniques suggested by Pamara Perry, we can begin
to comfortably weave exercise into our busy daily lives.
her 25 years as a dance instructor, Pamara has found adults more likely
than children to find "excuses". She suggests we first make a
commitment to ourselves. We deserve and need healthy life-styles. If we
take the time and energy to ensure we eat properly, get enough sleep,
exercise, and laugh a little, we will not only improve our health and
quality of life, but those around us will benefit as well for we will feel
better and have more energy.
find a spot in your home, (or office), with enough room to stretch. Turn
on the radio, better yet, put on a tape of music you love. The more lively
the better. "And", Pamara suggests, "it is important to
remember that it is not how many of each exercise you do, just do it! Feel
the stretch in your arms, legs, and body."
you have the spot, sit on the floor with both legs outstretched in front
of you. Keeping your back straight, while at the same time relaxing the
upper body, bend forward with your fingertips toward your pointed toes.
Straighten up and alternate flexing and pointing the toes several times.
pull your legs into a butterfly position where the soles of your feet
touch. Bend forward again, relax, then slowly sit back up. Keeping one leg
in the butterfly position, extend the other leg to the side. Flex and
point the toe of the extended leg. Raise your arms above your head,
stretch skyward, lean forward and rotate your upper body slowly to the
side. Exhaling and relaxing enables a better stretch. Sit up straight
again and stretch for the ceiling once more. Switch legs and repeat the
routine. Remember that you should not over-stretch or push further than
what is comfortable. Stretching does not mean forcing and pain is never a
that, lay flat on the floor and hug both knees to your chest. Lower them
slowly to the floor. Bring one knee back up, slightly bent at the knee and
with both hands supporting the back of the thigh, pull gently then relax.
Leaving the leg up, lay your arms out to the side, point your toes
skyward, then cross the leg over to the opposite side. You may not be able
to touch the floor, but you will get a good stretch nevertheless. Raise
your leg back skyward, bend to your chest, hug as first described, then
gently lower. Repeat this series of movements with the opposite leg.
Before getting up, take a moment to lay flat. Think of your body as a
pancake, relaxing and releasing body tensions for a few moments.
to stand and roll your shoulders, first forward, then backward,
alternating sides, then simultaneously. Keeping your feet together, bend
slightly at the knees. Do this four or five times, then straighten your
legs and raise up on your toes. Do this several times as well. Placing
your legs apart, feet pointing outwards a little, bend forward at the
waist - remember, do this gently and slowly, with no bounce. If possible,
put your hands on the floor. Stretch, straighten legs, then slowly roll
up the tempo, place your hands on your hips and lunge off to one side four
times, then the other. You will feel the pull in your thighs. Be sure to
continue to do this routine at a pace which is comfortable to you, and
remember the number is not as important as the routine of stretching and
limbering up. Next, turn your head to face the direction you are also
lunging in, as you lunge. Finally, add the arm, held at shoulder height
and bent, straightening out on the lunge. Do this for both sides. Holding
in your tummy while you lunge not only aids in the limbering process, but
also helps protect your lower back at the same time.
After these gentle lunges, begin running in place with little steps using your feet and ankles. Gradually pick your feet higher and higher, using your knees and thigh muscles. Lower as gradually as you lifted your legs up, slowing down gently. At this point your heart rate has begun to increase and you're ready to dance, so turn up the music, feel the rhythm, and feel better!
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