When people ask what I do I tell them I am a dance instructor and Anatomy in Motion practitioner.
The story about how I became a dancer is part necessity and part inspiration. I was born with ankle joints that didn’t quite align properly. My parents gave me orthotic shoes and put me in dance lessons to help me learn how to move as a human is supposed to move.
Dance and I didn’t get along right away. It felt like a punishment for being defective and it was only in my early teens that I returned to it and started to become passionate about moving again. But that’s a story for another blog episode! How I became an Anatomy in Motion practitioner is also out of necessity and inspiration.
I would describe myself as a lifelong student of movement. My curiosity about movement and the human body was piqued in high school when Irene Dowd (https://movementresearch.org/people/irene-dowd/), a preeminent dance kinesiologist, started collaborating with the physiotherapists and dance instructors at NBS in the mid-1990s when I was a student there. My curiosity with the body and movement continued through graduate school when I assisted with teaching vertebrate anatomy. That was the inspiration part of the story. Now comes the necessity portion.
I first had a taste of Anatomy in Motion when I got injured. I was training hard for a national salsa competition and suddenly I found myself injured and unable to even put weight on one leg (see my first blog post to see how I managed my downtime). I had fractured a bone in my foot and didn’t have enough time to heal enough to compete.
My injury was a pivotal moment. It showed me just how determined I was and how important dancing was to my identity, connection to others and stress relief. It also was a rude wake up call that the way I trained was going to need an overhaul.
Laid up on the couch while the rest of my team trained, I was bored, frustrated and even more determined. I asked myself: Why did this injury happen? What signs did I miss? Why was this happening to me?
In hindsight getting injured wasn’t all that surprising. I had noticed that the sides of my left hip (the same leg I injured) were often charliehorsing during or after practice and my lower back often was so tight I couldn’t take off my dance shoes after practice. I kept straining my hipflexors doing simple things like kneeling down to plug in my laptop or sneezing while sitting cross-legged!
One evening I was searching around the internet for a solution to my hip and back complaints when I discovered Monika Volkmar (www.monikavolkmar.com), a dance conditioning coach and AiM practitioner based in Toronto. Her approach to training and movement made a lot of sense to me as the traditional way of cross training and injury management seemed to make my body feel worse, not better.
Anatomy in Motion is a system of human movement that uses the natural way that bodies are wired to move and gently reminds them how to restore that movement. Using the human gait cycle it wakes up what the brain is already wired to do. No matter whether you are a tennis player, yogi, snowboarder or dancer, getting your joints to move as they were intended with more efficiency and clarity, will translate naturally into your movement as a dancer.
I read Monika’s book and took her online course and very quickly felt a change in my body. Before, I was unable to fully bear weight on the injured leg, partly due to the fear of stepping on my broken bone and partly due to old patterns I had trained into myself. It turns out I was not properly putting weight on the injured leg for years.
After a few weeks of this program I was putting weight in my leg, my charliehorses had gone, my lower back tightness was gone and I felt much more grounded and in control. I was bearing weight on my leg more than I’d been in about 20 years!
Not only that, I used to have snapping hip syndrome which I have seen in countless dancers. And that resolved itself with the program, too!
And my coaches and dance partners were noticing the difference! A year later, I attended the National competition and saw Monika for a session the morning of the first day of the competition. Having an in-person session and working on my movement refinements I was even more in control. That night our team went on to win the National team title!
I continue to work on my movements every day. A year later, through more exploration with Monika I discovered that scars from a surgery in my right torso during my late teens was the cause for my inability to transfer weight into my left foot. I corrected those inefficiencies and it improved my turns so dramatically that I was able to execute challenging turns that were inconsistent up until the day before. I went on to win a few individual National titles that weekend.
Sometimes something as simple as a new movement pattern can have profound impacts throughout the body. Today I am trained in Anatomy in Motion and I use it every day to assess and correct the movement patterns of salsa dancers at Dance Vancouver. Anatomy in Motion principles allow me to reduce or eliminate chronic pain, correct weight transfers, allow for fuller range of motion and make movements faster and more efficient. Some of my clients have thrown away their orthotics, corrected slumped upper backs, and reversed years of scoliosis. You just have to look at the Anatomy in Motion page on Facebook or Instagram to see the scores of people AiM has helped with chronic pain, reaching new movement potential and avoiding inevitable surgery.
So ask yourself. Do you have a common dancer ailment like snapping hip, lower back pain, Achilles tendonitis, frequent rolled ankles, or a chronic knee injury? Often these injuries and complaints can be resolved by something as simple as improving your basic body mechanics. Anatomy in Motion might be the solution you’ve been looking for.
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