I have been ballroom dancing for the last 20 years. In fact, that is how I met my husband. We still dance. It’s great exercise, good for your brain (or so they say) and an important part of our relationship.
One common move in many partner dances–especially dances like rhumba, cha cha and swing–is the underarm turn.
If underarm turn is a foreign term to you, imagine standing facing your dance partner and holding hands. Imagine that your partner raises your hand up on one side so your connected hands and arms on that side are up in the air and you turn underneath your arm. That very simply, is an underarm turn.
This silhouette below illustrates an underarm turn:
When I first starting dancing I quickly developed a bad habit of scrunching down and shortening a bit when I would turn under the arm. And especially if my partner was on the shorter side. I am relatively tall and if I have any type of heel on when I dance then I am that much taller.
But there was no reason for me to scrunch down and make myself shorter to go under the arm, even with my vertically challenged partners.
And this is true in life in general.
We are often scrunching and shortening ourselves to do things when it is not necessary.
It is just a habit.
I had to work at not responding to going under the arm by shortening myself.
It took a while of consciously paying attention each time the arm went up and I was invited to go underneath, to pause and choose what not to do.
Not to scrunch and shorten.
Nowadays my response is a different one. I stand tall and go under the arm.
Besides looking better (which I do care about when I am dancing) it feels better not to scrunch and shorten. Movement is easier.
I am always looking for simple everyday activities that my students can pay attention to in order to work on their Alexander skills.
If it is something simple, they are more willing to try to pay attention to it.
One activity that a lot of us do that is very much like doing an underarm turn is putting on a cross body bag. If you have such a bag, do you ever stop to think what you do when you bring it up over your head to put it on?
Next time you do, I encourage you to be curious.
Do you stay at your full height and allow your arms to extend up and take the strap up and over your head?
Or do you scrunch, compress and shorten yourself down to put the bag on?
If you do the later, it is no different than what I used to do when I would shorten down to do the underarm turn.
It may seem like an inconsequential thing. But if it is something you do on a regular basis it is worth paying attention to if you want to work on your posture.
First it has the advantage of being a simple thing. Second if you are putting on and taking off your bag several times a day it is a consistent thing.
And it is often the simple things, done consistently, that create the most lasting change.