Mapping the Internal Realms
Belly dance is akin to yoga, pilates and tai chi, in that the slow concentrated movements of the dance bring greater awareness of the mind-body connection rather than aimless, repetitive exercises. You should proceed slowly and without distraction. In other words, do not watch TV, talk with a friend on the phone, or listen to a book on tape while doing your exercises if you want to experience the full benefits. A little concentrated exercise goes much further than miles of distracted jogging. You also get deeper results if you give your movements the kind of attention they would get if it were the first time you did them rather than operating on automatic pilot. Stay present to the moment at hand by making observations about your active experience as you perform the moves.
Work out and Music: Once you have learned the exercises below, they can make for a nice 20-35 minute work out. Put on some slow, tranquil or hypnotic music or drum rhythm and do the movement patterns on each level of your body. It will sharpen your mind's eye, as well as your physical internal awareness to identify and control small movements from your core.
ALSO "Mapping the Internal Realms" is featured as a 35 minute work out on DVD or Video
Transaxial Method: The object of using the transaxial pattern pieces in each exercise is to help people really visualize how the moves are working. Even the simplest moves will become more defined in your mind and body by exploring with the transaxial pattern pieces. . . And of course put it in your body.
Movements used in this exercise:
Center - Front
Goal: Assert basic alignment and begin with the hip level. We are going to slide this level out of core alignment, parallel to the floor (PTF). The goal is to keep the other levels lined up on the core pole as much as possible when doing the exercises.
Mapping Exercise #1 Center slides
Line up the core over center, then move 3, 5, or 8 inches in each direction; front, center, back 8 times, followed by center, left, center, right 8 times, then combine the two. . . as directed by the movement sequence above. Repeat sequence 8 to 12 times. The addition of inches defines how large your hip circle will be in the next exercise. Try to keep it consistent, so its round.
Bend your knees and you will increase your hip reach. Keep your hips level and facing forward, navel facing forward, and your knees bent. Proceed slowly.
See the Wedge exercise. It will be helpful in the application of the perfect hip slide.
Mapping Exercise #2 Clock Face Circle
Now, imagine a clock face circle. Front becomes 12:00 and as you travel clockwise, the right side becomes 3:00, back becomes 6:00 and left becomes 9:00 (imagine the hours in between). Place your core point on the circle and trace the circumference of the circle. As you draw your hips into a circle, really see each of the numbers on the clock face in your minds eye as you pass by them. Draw your hip circle slowly and articulately, and trace the circle parallel to the ground (keeping your navel forward).
This concentrated attention is an important ingredient to instilling this as a solid beneficial exercise and making a strong mind- body connection, as opposed to just mindlessly rushing through it with little conscious awareness.Another approach to add to the mental focus would be to colorize the movements pathway in your mind .
Trace the circle 8 times and then 8 times in the reverse direction (counterclockwise).
* Special note on Feet
Lets use this exercise to build confidence in the role of our feet placement. In belly dance the feet are secret propellants in the dance. They are not leading the movement like in other dances. They support hip articulation and follow naturally. As you keep your ribcage and head lined up on the core pole and slide your hips to the side, notice how the weight exchanges gradually to the other foot as you pass the median line. When you move your hips forward, notice the weight shift to the front of the foot. When the hips move behind the side seam line, the weight subtly shifts to the back of the foot. As the hips trace a circle you should feel a circular exchange of weight revolving through your feet.
Next we are going to do the same thing at the belly level. However, this will not be an easy exercise for many people, basically because they have never been asked to do this before, unless they are an experienced yogini. This is the hardest belly roll there is, but the directions are the same as for the basic hip circle. If we begin with the most difficult, all other belly roll exercises will seem easier.
Assert basic alignment, Find center and internally grip it with your belly muscles. This is a subtle experience in awareness, so dont look for big results.
Keep your hips still. Push out your belly from center 2-3 inches along a linefrom center to front, PTF. Then pull back in to center with a squeeze.
From center, pull back with your stomach muscles toward your spine by sucking in. (You will not be able to breath for the few instants that you hold this position, so dont hold it too long.) With practice you will get better at this, but as noted, it may be difficult if you have never done this before. Snap back to center.
Repeat this sequence 8 times; center, front, center, back
Return to center and this time attempt to press your stomach muscles to the right side. It will feel slightly forward and it may not look like anything at first. Pull into center again and try the left side. Do not worry about what it looks like, its a very subtle internal awareness. Keep everything else still. Depending what shape you are in, it will look different. That is not what we are concerned with at first. Its bringing conscious awareness to this area that is beneficial in your pursuit of belly dance. Do not look down at your belly because it will destabilize your basic alignment. Use a mirror if you want to.
Repeat Center, Right ,Center, Left 8 times.
Now combine these two combinations, Center, Front, Center, Back, Center, Right, Center, Left, Center and repeat 8 times.
Now we are ready for the clock face exercise as directed above. We are going to isolate just the belly area, so keep those hips and ribs as still as possible!
From center push out to 12:00 and begin to trace a clockwise circle.
The numbers on the clock face from 9:00 to 12:00 to 3:00 will all be increments of expansion. The back half of the circle from 3: 00 to 6:00 to 9:00 will all be divisions of contraction. The incremental degrees of expansion and contraction, along with a concentrated effort are molded into a circle, parallel to the floor. Remember to assert basic alignment, lie the palms of your hands on the top of your thighs and press into your thighs, keeping your elbows facing in. This will help you stabilize your hips and rib cage and isolate the belly.
The challenge is keeping the ribs and hips still.
Whew! That's not easy, I assure you!
For the rib cage we will focus on the sternum level, right at the center of your ribs. Find your center point at your core. Translate the crossroad slide and the clock face circle exercises as you did with your hips PTF at the rib level. Be sure you slide your rib cage parallel to the floor (avoid lifting forward or dropping back) and keep your hips and head lined up over the core pole. The difficult point will be center back if you have not been asked to move in this position before. Resist lifting your shoulders up. Make the movements smaller if you have to and proceed slowly and with clear focus.
Relax your shoulders, they are attached of course, so there will be some movement, but you are striving to move the ribcage independently rather than dragging the ribs around by the shoulders.
Repeat each sequence 8 times.
Same thing here. Find your center core point at jaw level. Keep your eyes looking straight ahead and your crown level with the floor. Imagine you are balancing a book on your head, proceed with the crossroads and clock face circle exercises described above.
Dont rotate your head to the side. Keep both eyes PTW in front.
Do 4 to 6 repetitions only. Do not over do it because this is stressful if you havent done it before; it can be challenging.
Shoulders can be stiff in many people. To increase the conscious awareness and flexibility of the shoulders, we can do the same thing with great therapeutic benefit.
Move your mental perspective to a plane lined up with the side wall PTSW. Let your arms hang down to the side. Implement the crossroads and the clock face circle exercises as directed above for each shoulder individually, then in unison. Center, front, center, back, center, up, center, down,
After you have opened up the awareness of your shoulders, try these movements.
Exotic Shoulder Roll
Now that youve learned the clock face circles, try them in opposition. Hold your arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Keep your hands locked in place and try drawing the circles in opposition.
Slowly move your shoulders front to back PTSW in opposition in short strokes, then increase speed.
With your arms held straight out to the sides PTF you can do the crossroads and clock face circle exercises with your elbows. It will be very subtle and very small, but this movement is good for awareness and flexibility. Rotate your elbow in a small circle, similar to the shoulders while trying to keep your hand and shoulders stable in the air space. Then try it with your wrists while keeping your elbow and fingertips in place as best you can.
You can do the same 2 mapping exercises with your fingertips, keeping your wrist still. This is a good exercise to increase flexibility.
For a more exotic hand rotation, image your wrist is at the center of the clock, your fingers become the hands of the clock beginning at 12:00, fingertips and palm facing out. And as you rotate your right hand around the clock, to 11:00 your finger tips will naturally rotate around to be facing you and you will have to turn them out again at 11:00 to begin another rotation. The same goes for the left hand except in reference to the clock's face, your hand will turn between 12:00 and 1:00. The turning back to begin again should be played up to create an extra exotic flare rather than being disguised.
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