Can Dancing Improve Your Memory?

memory

Usually I don’t have much of a problem remembering combinations in my ballet classes. More recently, I seem to be struggling a little bit more with remembering ballet combinations after my two month sabbatical from ballet. My brain seems to be somewhat scrambled and I seem to be struggling to remember things both in and out of the studio.

Now I know that the two probably aren’t really that connected and that my memory isn’t suffering that much from being out of class for a couple of months, but it still had me thinking–do ballerinas (and other dancers) have improved memory because of dance?

Back in September, information from a study was released that “implies that years of training can enable dancers to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear, which might otherwise make them fall over” according to a Daily Mail article. The study was printed in a journal called Cerebral Cortex. The findings could help improve patients with chronic dizziness.

So I decided to go hunting for some information about ballet dancing and whether or not it’s been linked to improving dancer’s memory. Here’s what I found:

An article on Standford University’s Social Dance website, entitled “Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter,” was published back in 2010 by Richard Powers with a simple message: frequent dancing makes you smarter.  In the article, Powers referenced a study published in the  New England Journal of Medicine which found that the only form of physical activity that offered protection against Dementia was dancing.

But why?

Powers wrote that mental acuity increases best when you have to make rapid-fire decisions and that “dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.”

So, those difficult ballet combinations you have trouble grasping after only having a few moments to learn will only help you improve both your memory and ballet dancing more.

Like my ballet teacher always says, no challenge, no change.

 

Why are dancers so clumsy?

whyaredancers

What comes up when you do a search for “why are dancers so…”

Dancers are supposed to be graceful, so why is it that so many of us seem to be so clumsy when out of the studio? Not that I’m exactly uber graceful when in the studio either–but I’m certainly a klutz outside the studio. I’ve been resting the past few days after slightly twisting my ankle while carrying stuff to my apartment on Sunday.

There are lots of different theories on why dancers are more clumsy:

The Dance Project lists a few reasons: dancers lack ankle dorisflexion (flexing their feet) and dancers tend to develop  thoracic outlet syndrome.

There’s also a popular Dance.net forum topic dedicated to different theories. My favorite is this joke:

“If a 2X4 is laying on the floor of a stage an actor will trip on it, a stagehand will step over it, and a dancer will trip on the spot where the board was long after it has been put away.”

Are you clumsy outside of dance? What do you “blame” it on?

Stretching Series: Knees and Legs

WOW! So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here. I want to start this stretching series post by apologizing for my long absence. I’ve been really sick over the past two months and it’s actually stopped me entirely from going to ballet and stretching. As you can imagine, that’s been pretty frustrating… but I plan on touching on that in another post so stay tuned for that. Unfortunately I’m still only able to do very light stretching, and when it do it it’s far from pretty so I decided that I’d continue this post in the series by using found resources and photos. Hopefully within a few weeks I’ll be able to get back into the game and get some original photos and stretches for you guys!

Today I wanted to cover leg stretches, with some emphasis on knees since I know someone requested it! 🙂 The following are some of my favorite leg stretches, some of which not only improve flexibility but strength as well. I’m all for a double whammy!

1. Triangle pose: Ok so when I first stumbled across this yoga pose I looked at it and said “PIECE OF CAKE”. Then I tried it… haha. It’s not easy, folks! It requires hamstring and groin flexibility as well as core strength to maintain balance.

  • Stand with your legs about 3.5 to 4 feet apart.
  • Turn out your right foot, and leave your left foot turned in.
  • Lift your arms straight out to your sides.
  • Tilt your upper body over your right leg, stretching your arms and legs
  • Twist at the waist, lowering your right hand to your right ankle.
  • Repeat on the other side. For an added knee stretch, bend the knee of the leg that is turned out.

2. Knee Stretch: This one is pretty straight forward. I find that it helps stretch not only my legs and knees but also my lower back. I find this one super relaxing and love doing it before bed! Just lie on your back and bring each knee up to your chest one at a time, hold for about 30 seconds (longer if you’d like), and then lower your leg back to the ground. Easy peasy, but very helpful for tight knees.

3. Forward lunge/Warrior Pose: This stretch and yoga move is helpful for stretching the knee, hamstring, and groin all depending on how deep you can take it.

  • Start with your legs about 2-4 feet about depending on how far you would like to/can stretch. Keep one foot turned in, the other turned out.
  • Rotate toward the turned out foot and bend that knee.
  • Stretch as far as you can without discomfort.
  • Repeat on the other side! (don’t forget this!)

4. Hamstring Stretch: I love this one. I do this using Therabands but it can easily be done using a strap, rolled towel, bungee cord, etc. Just lie on your back and wrap whatever youre using under or around your foot. Then, trying to keep your leg straight, pull your leg up with your arms. When you feel that you’re about to need to bend your knee, stop and hold. Over time you’ll be able to go farther but don’t push yourself too hard or you could end up in a world of pain!

5. Hurdle Stretch: This is an oldie but goodie. Sit with your legs in a V position, as far as you can open them. Bend one leg in and lean toward your straight leg. You can do this facing straight toward the leg or to the side. Make sure you don’t bounce!

Hopefully these leg stretches (with knee emphasis) can help some of you! Let me know what kind of stretches you’d like to see in the future. I apologize for the lack of new pictures, I hope that when the next post comes along I will be able to actually participate!

-Caysie.

Splits and Increasing Flexibility

There’s been a lot of talk about splits and flexibility in general on this blog, including a post on is there a such thing as too much flexibility as well as a stretching series with its first post on increasing back flexibility (and hopefully we’ll have more posts in this series soon by Caysie!).

Ballet stretch

Personally, I’ve kind of put stretching specifically for splits on the backburner, and I’ve recently adapted more of an injury prevention and working towards generally increasing my flexibility instead of stressing my splits, because things like my back tend to get ignored when I’m focused on splits. So I’ll be working on more general stretching for awhile until I get my way back to the splits.

But for when I do, I’m researching different methods to stretching. There’s a lot of different tips out there (many of which contradict others) such as stretch everyday, stretch every other day, stretch in short bursts throughout the day, etc. I even found this fairly lengthy split stretching guide–that I’m thinking about trying out.There’s just so much information out there that kind of makes my head spin.

What have you found works best for you to increase your flexibility?

 

Squats Challenge and Splits Challenge

Although I’ve loved doing challenges (ab challenges, splits challenges, you name it), I’ve been horrible at actually keeping up with them. This time I have some fellow bloggers keeping me motivated with this awesome 30 day Squat challenge, and a competition with HQ of Run Play Sleep (my boyfriend) to keep me motivated to get my splits.

30 Day Squat Challenge

Syreeta of Sincerely Syreeta started this challenge on Instagram and invited other people to join her so we could keep ourselves motivated. Today is my Day 3.

squatchallenge

I’ve split my squats between plie/sumo squats and normal body weight squats.

If you’re interested in joining us, you can learn more and connect with Syreeta on Twitter. Read more about Syreeta in my interview with her for Campus Philly.

Splits Challenge

This is more a competition than it is a challenge. Hq and I are competing by safely stretching every day to see who can get their splits first. The person who achieves them first owes the other a dinner out. I’ll be posting updates relatively frequently on this challenge.

How do you motivate yourself? Do you participate in challenges like diet bets and 30 day challenges?

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