Practicing Movement, Balance, and Spatial Awareness: Improve Your Health and Decrease Your Chance of Injury
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and understanding of dance by attending workshops and conferences associated with dance. Other than the obvious movements associated with music, the take home message of dance is the range of motion that can be achieved and how vital it is for the body to move in that space.
JumpSport Fitness Trampolines have been very clear about how trampoline training impacts vestibular health and spatial awareness, couple this training with dance fitness and one’s balance, awareness of space and ability to physically react quickly to say, a near fall or slip, is greatly enhanced.
Honestly, it’s been difficult not to get “dancey” during my JumpSport classes! Fortunately, the people that take my classes are well versed in my antics as an artist and are very open to what I bring home to them. Spatial awareness and vestibular strength were the big ones.
Spatial awareness is being able to understand your body and how it fits in space. For example, as my body morphed during my pregnancy, I was unaware of exactly how large my body was becoming. My spatial awareness of my own body was unclear and so I walked around with bruises all over my body because I constantly bumped into things. When trampoline training, there is a very specific area of which you can jump (the mat), and so you develop strong spatial awareness skills. The same thing can be said for dance especially if you play with the traveling movements not just moving forward, but backwards, and taking spins.
Which leads me to vestibular prowess. This is balance training. Its home is within the ear and it is what keeps us standing straight. If you have ever experienced vertigo, you will know when you what it feels like to have a flu attack your vestibular system; it is a constant feeling of nausea and dizziness. Trampoline training can strengthen the vestibular system, but so can dance. Once a day, spin yourself ‘round and ‘round. That feeling of being dizzy is your cue that it is time to stop and recover. You can build up your time of when your body will begin to feel dizzy.
I teach two water aerobics classes that are heavily populated by senior citizens. They are very open and candid with me about the facts of life and have become like family to me. In any event, one message that has resonated with me in relationship with vestibular prowess and spatial awareness is the following anecdote relayed to me by a woman recently. There was a man that she knew who was a very vibrant, social person who had many friends and an active life of golf, gatherings, etc. One day, however, he fell off a curb (as so many do) and broke his hip. The break was such that the man was discharged from the hospital into a full-time rehabilitation facility. For a while the man was visited by his friends and family, but as time waned on, his visitors stopped coming. The woman in my class met the man as she was visiting a friend at the rehab center. He was slumped in his wheelchair in the courtyard getting some sun. She had asked if he wanted her to wheel him inside. He told her his story.
I now share this story with the people in my class how important balance and spatial awareness are – that a hip injury, a “simple” hip injury, can be the difference between a vibrant life and the life of a shut in.
Exercise is not about pounding the body and sweating – that is just one very small piece of the pie, if you will. There is so much more to “movement” than cardiovascular training. I encourage you to close your eyes and move your hands and arms around your body, bend your knees and glide your arms up and around your body, behind, through your knees and get a feel for the size of your body, the space around it. Then play with your ability to balance through spinning, and simply by standing on one foot. In the end, it will be your ability to know your boundaries and stay balanced within these boundaries that will define your health.
As we say in la Florida,
Writer, Creative Movement and Dance Professional