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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.

Not 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.

In 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.

First, 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."

Once 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.

Next, 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 gain.

After 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.

Time 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.

Picking 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! 

Write to Patricia at :

pattyolder@cisbec.net with comments or questions.

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