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  1. #1
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    Default Tightness in Shoulders

    Since I'm new here, first some background to help you see where I'm coming from as a dancer.

    I studied ballet as a child, jazz and modern as a teen, yoga in my early twenties, and then after a brief love affair with jogging and spinning during my mid-twenties that went against everything I learned in dance and yoga that if it doesn't feel good, don't do it, I stopped working out regularly. Over the past several years I've focused on my job and social life instead of my health, so I've lost touch with my body, but now that I'm in my early thirties and starting to see and feel the aging process begin and the fat accumulate, I know I have to live a more balanced life and take care of my body. Belly dance seems to be the perfect fit for me for both health and personal reasons. I'm very new to this dance form and have been learning on my own. Unfortunately, working with a teacher isn't an option for me at this present time, so I'm hoping I can get some good advice here until I can get some face to face instruction.

    When dancing, practicing yoga, exercising, or doing something where I am 100% focused on my body, I have good posture. However, I have fairly large and heavy breasts, so when I'm not thinking about it, I tend to slouch. The weight of my chest pulls my shoulders forward. My shoulders are very rounded, as a result. Carrying myself like this for so long has caused a lot of tightness in my shoulders, upper back, and upper arms, even when I have good posture.

    Upper body moves that originate from the core like rib shifting and undulations don't give me any problems, but moves that originate from the shoulders or upper back do. I know it's because of the tightness.

    Two very simple things, a shoulder shimmy and a snake arm, are a challenge to me.

    With the shimmy, I look either very stiff or very sloppy, depending on how I approach the movement. I can do a very sharp, definite shoulder isolation, but as soon as I try to shimmy, it all stiffens up. If I just completely relax, I can feel the action moving down my spine, and I can feel the muscles in my waist wanting to do the work instead. I stop and try it again in the shoulders, and it just looks sloppy. (Less like a belly dancer, more like a lap dancer). It's a completely new way to move since there's nothing quite like a shoulder shimmy in ballet, jazz, or modern where the shoulders remain relatively still and are used mainly as support for the arms and head. Such a basic move shouldn't be holding me back like this, though.

    Secondly, but probably more importantly, snake arms are uncomfortable for me. I know that if it hurts, don't do it, but this is a very basic move, and I want to make it work since I can make my arms look very pretty. When I get to the point where the shoulder reverses from the upward to the downward movement, I hear snap, crackle, pop in my shoulder. It doesn't hurt as much as it's just really uncomfortable. I know this may sound silly, but how I know this is a problem from the tightness in my shoulders is because if I take a shower right after I get out of bed in the morning when I'm still stiff, I have the same problem when I lift my arms to shampoo my hair. If I shower after I work out and all my muscles are loose and limber, there's no snap, crackle, pop when I'm washing my hair. I've tried approaching snake arms as a ballet dancer by really extending the arms from deep inside the shoulder all the way out to the finger tips. I can move them up and down with ease and can do little snake arms (a la Swan Lake) and there's no problem, but as soon as I try to round out the motion and make it bigger, the discomfort returns.

    My lower body and core work is progressing quite well, but it seems like arms and shoulders are going to be what I need to spend extra time on.

    Has anyone else experienced something similar? What can I do to loosen the shoulder area? Any advice, suggestions, or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by Heatherlynn; 08-28-2008 at 01:24 AM.

  2. #2
    Junior Member Nalini Akal's Avatar
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    Default suggestion? nalini from Trinidad

    I read about your problem-strangely enough, i've had students with similar complaints, before i even suggest how to fix the move- might i suggest- 1) a doctor if you experience sharp pains or unusual discomfort 2) your work habits can also be a part of it , in that sometimes stress is held in the shoulders thereby tightening muscles- there are some excellent stretches online by NASA that they use for aiding people with shoulder complaints. unfortunately my 1st computer with the bookmark is under repairs but you can google it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    I have chronic shoulder problems too, not as bad though.

    As a beginner, it is normal to have problems with shoulder shimmies and snake arms they can be some of the most difficult moves. This is where a live teacher really is important. Why do you say that right now you really can't work with a live teacher? A couple of private classes might be just the thing to help.

    What videos are you using? Some are better than others for instruction.
    I really like Cassandra Shore's method of shoulder shimmy instruction.

    Snake arms can be generated a number of different ways. Try using shoulder rolls and see how that works. It is also not required that your arms be lifted over your head to have beautiful arm undulations. I actually prefer the more subtle moves.

    For loosening up your shoulders I imagine you know some yoga moves that will help.

    I also wanted to recommend Elaine Petrone's Miracle Ball method. Just google her and look at her web site.

    I own several of her CDs and DVDs and balls and they really do exactly what she says they will do. My shoulders feel wonderful after I get through her routine with the balls. Not to mention my back and hips.

    Marya

  4. #4
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Practice!!
    Your problem is quite common with people who have danced ballet/jazz etc...
    One set of muscles that often gets weak (esp if you have a desk job) are the rhomboids. These hold your scapula flat against your back, and if they're weak once you start doing shimmies (which use your rhomboids for some of the movement) they'll tire and so your trapezius muscle (which is the biggest one) tries to help - the problem is the trapezius also pulls the scapula up towards the neck, and so the whole lot tends to stiffen up.
    Attachment 1725
    For shoulder shimmies start with isolating forward and back movements - first one shoulder forward, the other in neutral, then reverse, then try moving the shoulder back with the other in neutral, then one forward, the other back and reverse. Slowly first, then faster.

    Snake arms are not easy because you do have to reverse the ballet tendency to want to keep the upper arm slightly in external rotation while the shoulder is being pulled down. The whole shoulder area has to be really relaxed to do this movement, and ballet trains you to hold the area very tight and controlled with shoulders down so the neck is elongated.

    You actually have to allow the shoulder to protract (roll forward) a little, so that your elbow is facing the ceiling (which means the upper arm is actually internally rotated) for the first part of this movement. Not easy to describe!! Your elbow is flexed in this position, but as you lift the elbow, you slowly extend it, while bringing the shoulder back to neutral and allowing the upper arm to rotate outward. And at the same time you're bringing your wrist up and opening fingers out - and smiling!!
    I simply can't describe this without doing it and trying to type and I'm ending up thinking - how on earth DO I do it!!!

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Hello, As one with large assets, I understand your concern. I will add (to the other great advice) is the sometimes we have psychological barrers that are very ingrained. My first attempt at shoulder shimmies had the girls flying! and I really tried hard to reign them in...as soon as I began to focus on 'taming the girls' it was at this point that I saw the problems the you describe. Also, in our everyday life..we wear the wrong size bra. As far fetched as this may be..get sized for a bra that will provide support not only to your breasts but also encourage your upper back muscles to re-align themselves. You will be amazed at the benefit of a good fitting bra can have on your posture

    I agree with Adiemus assessment, in terms of muscular alignment. I've found that Yoga and Pilates, gently and gradually will correct these problems and loosen up both the muscle and tendons.
    Yasmine

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yasmine Bint Al Nubia View Post
    Hello, As one with large assets, I understand your concern. I will add (to the other great advice) is the sometimes we have psychological barrers that are very ingrained. My first attempt at shoulder shimmies had the girls flying! and I really tried hard to reign them in...as soon as I began to focus on 'taming the girls' it was at this point that I saw the problems the you describe. Also, in our everyday life..we wear the wrong size bra. As far fetched as this may be..get sized for a bra that will provide support not only to your breasts but also encourage your upper back muscles to re-align themselves. You will be amazed at the benefit of a good fitting bra can have on your posture

    I agree with Adiemus assessment, in terms of muscular alignment. I've found that Yoga and Pilates, gently and gradually will correct these problems and loosen up both the muscle and tendons.
    Yasmine

    Yes, I definitely have some psychological barriers to cross, too. I can't relax when I'm trying so hard to keep everything else still. I'm afraid to jiggle too much. I guess that's why I can do a shoulder thrust, but not a shimmy. Technically speaking, is a shimmy just a really fast shoulder thrust, or is it different?

    Adiemus You described the technique perfectly. It's the rotation that's bothering me the most (never had a shoulder socket injury but something seems to be going on there, and deltoid work has always made me uncomfortable, perhaps I need more strength and flexibility there). I'm going to just have to start out small and increase my range of motion through practice. I also think I may be rotating too much and keeping my arms too parallel to the verticle plane of motion.

    Marya I'll google Cassandra Shore and Elaine Petrone. Thank you for the recommendations.


    Nalini Akal Is the link you were referring to? RehabWorks - Basic Shoulder Rehabilitation They are good stretches.

    Thank you to everyone. This really helps!

  7. #7
    Senior Member AngelaJP's Avatar
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    Heatherlynn, this is a timely post! Although I could shoulder shimmy for a long period and there is no pain, my shoulder shimmies look so unwomanly and I think, really stiff too. Whenever I do it, my neck bones just seem so excited to pop out and my upper arm muscles seem to throb as I shimmy, eeek monster! I have stopped doing push-ups so my upper body will look more feminine and less like Pop-eye when I shimmy. I might be doing the move wrong, I might not be relaxed, my arms might be so stiff, I don't know, grrrr! Okay, lots of slow practice, smiling and relaxing are the keys and I'm going to do it.

    Adiemus,thank you for the precious nugget of advice. Tarik has the same advice too. Hope you can check my shimmy when I'm there

    Maria and Nalini, thank you for the very helpful info!

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