Lying Down 101

I love lying down on the floor. I do it at least once every day – and no, I don’t mean sleeping! Ha!

I mean when I need a break; when I feel a headache coming on; when I feel overwhelmed; when I feel exhausted and still have 4 hours of teaching left.

I think my lying-down routine started when I was in college, trying to cure myself of my overnight jaw clenching habit and ongoing jaw pain. I had TMJ syndrome. My jaw clicked, it hurt after chewing gum for 23 seconds, and sometimes I’d wake up with headaches in the morning.

The only probable cause of the syndrome was stress, so I began accumulating relaxation practices.

Lying Down on the Floor is one of my absolute favorites. I thought it good timing to share this practice after bellies and bodies are full from Thanksgiving and the holiday rush is on its way.

I could write volumes about this simple practice, so consider this your first Lying Down Lesson:

1. Prepare the Space:

a. Identify a quiet, safe place.
b. Find one strip of floor just big enough for your body.
c. Turn off your ringers, bells, whistles, and any other distractions. Tell your loved ones you are not available.
d.If you’ll be distracted by lying directly on the floor, put out a sheet, blanket or mat. (Notice I did NOT say to CLEAN your floor first. Just clear space, put something down and get to the practice! You can clean another time).
e. Make sure the temperature is comfortable. Cover yourself with a blanket if it’s cold.

2. Set the Time: 5 minutes on a timer that will ding when you’re done.

3. Shift the Energy: Lie Down

a. Lie down on your back completely, legs extended.
b. Open your legs about a foot apart so there is space between them.
c. Let your feet flop to either side.
d. If your lower back begins to ache, bend your knees and stand your feet. Separate your feet wider than hip distance and let your knees fall in towards each other for support.
e. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.
f. Follow your breathing with your mind and your hands. Allow the breath to fill your body. Imagine all unnecessary tension draining away.

4. Return

a. When the timer dings, slowly roll to one side.
b. Sit up Slowly. Pause.
c. Stand up Slowly. Pause.

5. Reflect: Notice if anything is different.

I recommend beginning this practice as a pre-bedtime routine. You may fall asleep on the floor 2 or 3 or 10 or 52 times at first. Eventually, your body will learn that you are training it to be in the place between awake and asleep: the place of rest.

I challenge you to try this 5 nights in a row between now and the next time I write, which is Dec 14. Can you commit to that?

Not only did this practice help my jaw tension (which is practically non-existent now), it improved the quality of my sleep and helps me manage my energy on a daily basis.

IT’S FREE!!!! IT’S DIY!! Isn’t that the best this time of year?!

Try it and tell me how it goes!

PS – Know anyone who could use some rest and might like these simple instructions? Please send this blog post along!


AASHE 2012 Performance Feedback for Body-Based Experiential Change for Cultural Sustainability

I need your help! Will you share your honest feedback about your experience of my performance and presentation? Dance is my first language, and I want to learn how to best communicate with you and those the sustainability movement urgently needs to reach. This is my first experience creating and presenting work that integrates my passion for sustainability with my expertise as a dance artist. Your detailed feedback will greatly impact the improvement and success of my work. Thank you!

What were your undigested raw impressions or immediate thoughts?

What did you gain or understand?

Were there any places you felt like you were missing out?

How much do I need to translate my language of dance for it to contribute to the conversation on sustainability?

Please help me articulate what I have to offer to the conversation of sustainability.

Where do you see possibilities and potential for this kind of work? Specifics appreciated! (Names, locations, festivals, venues, other conferences, etc.)

Other thoughts, suggestions, questions?

Plie – a basic dance warm-up

On Moving Joy Studios Facebook page we introduce the plié (“plee-ay”) —a basic and universal warm-up to help strengthen the legs, core, and back, and prepare the body to move in all sorts of ways. There are many ways to do a plié—and modifications are always being created for different styles of dance and fitness—but the basics are always the same.  Ready to give it a whirl? Then stand up and try out these steps to do a basic plié:

1. First, notice your posture—is your head crunching forward? Is your back hunched or overly-arched?  Take a moment to lengthen your spine and neck toward the ceiling (a tip is to imagine someone is lightly pulling a string that is attached to the top of your head up, like a marionette). Remember, there is naturally a slight arch to your lower back, keep that natural curve, but don’t accentuate it.  Imagine your tailbone is heavy and dropping towards the floor – you may feel your deep abdominal muscles engage to accomplish this. Maintaining this posture throughout the entire exercise is important to getting the most out of your plié.

2. Stand with your legs hip-distance apart, with each leg beneath a hip joint.  Do not lock your knees!

3. Position your feet so that they are parallel, and check that all ten toes are facing forward (this may feel strange—true parallel is an unnatural position for many people).

4. Now, for the bending!  Maintaining your posture, initiate a slight bend of your knees from the pelvis.  This means that instead of just bending your knees, that you start the downward movement from your hips (if you’re still keeping your alignment nice and strong, you should be able to feel a central feeling in your pelvis). As you bend your knees slightly, let your knees track over your feet—a good way to check that you are staying in parallel. Your knees will come out in front of you, while your pelvis moves down (this is different than a squat where the knees stay over the ankles and the pelvis reaches back).

5. Straighten your legs to return to the starting position and posture with the marionette string pulling up and unlocked knees.  Then repeat!

Pliés are usually slow, steady, and rhythmic.  It’s best to take the same amount of time to bend as it does to rise each time.  A relaxing and fun way to start is to put on one of your favorite songs that has a slower beat, and bend and straighten to the beat of it.

Yes, there are a lot of elements to think about when doing a plié – who thought that just bending your legs had so many hidden details? And with so many variations of it, which use different foot and leg positions and can add arm positions and movements, mastering the plié takes a lot of effort (many professional dancers still struggle with perfecting it).  But even a basic plié, which we just went through, can contribute to toning legs, abs, and even improving your every day posture.

So turn on your iPod and plié away, and you’ll be dancing!

Beginner and Int Modern Dance Classes in June

Absolute Beginner Modern Dance Classes
Mondays June 7-28
$15/class, $13/students
$55/series, $50/series for students

Always wanted to learn how to dance? Feel like you have rhythm and inspiration yet lack skill? Learn modern dance technique, dance concepts, and choreography that help shape your talent and make you look and feel beautiful. Inspiring music, laughter, play, and, fun!

Intermediate Modern Dance Classes
Thursdays June 10-July 1 (4 class series)
$15/class, $13/students
$55/series, $50/series for students

Experienced dancers in jazz, ballet, or modern will excel in this class.  Refine your technique, challenge your body with exercises in strengthening and rhythm, move big across the floor, and learn new choreography.
Pre-registration is now open and encouraged.

To register:

  • mail a check to Moving Joy Studios, 213 N Aurora St., Ithaca NY 14850. Indicate which class(es) you are registering for
  • Pay online “Custom Payment Amount”
Maren dance reaching out
"Let's Dance!" photo by Andrea Reyolds & Alison Waldman

All classes at Studio 213, 213 N Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850

1st Floor

See you on the dance floor!

Maren Waldman
Moving Joy Studios

Practice Feature: Stretching Sessions

Stretching is a fantastic way to take care of your body on a regular basis. It is:

  • Flexible (no pun intended!): Can be done in a variety of time intervals from 2 min – 90 minutes
  • Simple: No fancy equipment needed
  • Mostly Free: Once you learn how to stretch effectively, you can do this on your own, as it fits into your schedule, for years.

What will I gain from learning how to stretch?
Streching increases flexibility and range of motion, reduces pain, prevents injury, and is relaxing. There are many ways to stretch.  Learning the most effective technique(s) for your goals will make your stretching efficient.

There are also a vast number of stretching positions that target different muscle groups and suit varying levels of flexibility.  Identifying which muscle groups to stretch, using which position, can serve to increase your progress and success.

Why do I need one-on-one help? Can’t I just use a video?
Videos are fine once you know what you are doing and are comfortable in your body.  Proper alignment is ESSENTIAL for safe and successful stretching.  An outside eye can help correct your alignment and make sure you are actually stretching the muscle groups you think you are stretching.

What does stretching with you involve?
Streching with me involves an initial one-hour consultation where we asses your goals. If you already have a stretching routine I will observe what you practice and make alignment corrections if necessary. Based on your goals we will then create a personalized, fluid stretching sequence that fits your body and your schedule. You will leave with written directions to assist you. Half-hour follow-up sessions are scheduled according to your preference and needs.