Today we will dance. Or at least move, doing an exercise that a dance teacher taught me years ago.
This exercise is one of my favorite ways to restore my height after a long stretch sitting at the desk. Especially one of those marathon writing sessions where I’m so engrossed in my work that I don’t even notice that my rib cage has settled down on to my hip bones.
Stand comfortable in bare or stocking feet with your feet about hip width apart, arms hanging easily at your sides, and take a big, deep breath.
- As you begin to exhale, elegantly (think Mikhail Baryshnikov) curve your right hand and lower arm, fingers pointing up, and trace a path up the middle of the front of your body. The palm of your right hand faces to the right as you go up your torso and then turns toward you, then to the left, and then forward as your hand passes your head.
- Reach up with your right hand, gracefully letting your outstretched hand rise as far is possible.
- Continue exhaling and push your right heel down into the floor and push the heel of your right hand as high as you can, allowing the right side of your body to open and lengthen.
- As you complete your exhalation, picture the rest of your body hanging easily from the “pole” created the path from the heel of your right foot to your right hand.
- Release your right arm, letting it fall gracefully down to your side, inhaling as your arm drops.
- Repeat on the left side of your body.
- Repeat this sequence 3-5 times on each side, alternating sides.
- Be as effortless as possible throughout. You’re just letting your body naturally regain its normal length and height. You are relaxing, not straining, into your taller self.
- Work on your breathing as you master this exercise, timing your exhalation so that you are just finishing your out breath as you begin to let your arm drop.
- You can also reverse the breathing pattern, inhaling as you reach up and exhaling as you let your arm drop.
- Try to stretch out the “pole” part of the exercise in Step 4 and play with the tug of gravity on the rest of your body, letting it rotate and unwind as it hangs from the lengthened side like laundry flapping in the breeze.
There were several dance teachers on the faculty of the massage school I attended, and I can’t recall which of them taught this exercise. If you read this, Aaron, Helen, Emily, or whoever taught this, please drop me a line so I can properly attribute it.