In my never-ending goal to improve my technique, I've been inclined to believe the only way to achieve this lofty task is by giving it every thing I have. My idea of giving it my all meant piling pressure on myself, refusing to cut any slack or allowing for excuses, and most of all, straining every part of my body and forcing it to bend and move the way I wanted it to.
Slowly, over the past few months I've changed my way of thinking. Little by little, I've started to see the wisdom of letting go a bit. I still understand the value of hard work, but there's a difference between adequate effort and killing myself with no regard to my physical or emotional well-being.
My family tried to warn me of what they were seeing. I was being too hard on myself, and grasping too tightly to what I wanted would squeeze it right out of my hands. A few months ago I decided to listen to them, since my way wasn't working. Old habits die hard though. Every time I made progress in this new way of thinking, I would backslide not a day later.
Everything clicked when I found a valuable treasure trove of information in a book I purchased a few weeks ago. It was the last push I needed. The result of a desperate search for a strength training program geared towards dancers lead me to this book called, “Conditioning for Dance.” I had owned it for less than an hour and was already being enlightened of the many things I was doing wrong.
This book does give strengthening exercises for specific technique problems, as well as a twenty minute whole body conditioning program. But it also teaches how to retrain the nervous system. Often a dancer doesn't lack strength, just an understanding of proper coordination for the movement. Because the dancer isn't aware of this, they hold other muscles tighter to try and fix their technique. That's my problem big time. But tensing those muscles wastes precious energy and cuts off the flow needed to succeed in the attempted step or movement. This book also shares my family's ideas about trying too hard, and states that ceasing to worry about technique will immediatly improve it. What a relief to hear!
The only problem with the book was that I had to purchase a new Thera-Band to perform the exercises. My old one was too short. It also helps to have a few rolling balls. They aren't needed for the conditioning program, but they are used to roll over your body to find tense spots. The resources list at the back of the book gives information on where to buy them.
The Thera-Bands come in different colors, and the level of resistance vaires with each color. The book advises to start with green or red and gradually increase the amount of resistance as you gain more strength.