Happy International Dance Day!
That’s right – it’s a real and official occasion - the day that every UN member state, dancers, schools, theatres and communities worldwide celebrate dance!
It’s also a day that reminds me of my own love of dance, and my passion for it to be used more for fitness and health.
Here are 7 reasons why I love dance:
1. It makes me ridiculously happy!
What’s not to love about jumping around, throwing your arms up, getting energised, even being silly, with awesome music?
Dance is exercise in an enjoyable form, in fact until I became a Soft Tissue Therapist I never even realised all that dancing I was doing was exercise – I was just doing what I loved.
Doing something you enjoy means you are more likely to stick to it, and you’re happy to do it for longer each session, so feel those gains!
Dancing doesn’t just look fun; it actually releases ‘feel-good’ hormones, like Serotonin and Endorphins. So, have a go, and your smiling face can thank me later.
2. All of my bridesmaids are dancers…
I say this for two reasons: one because I am still over-the-moon to be getting married to my soul mate, but two (and more relevantly) as proof that dancing is a fantastic social activity. Trying out something new can be very scary, but it’s useful to remember that everyone else trying out that class or event will probably be nervous too. Dancing really boosts your confidence, as well as providing you with a place to speak, move and interact with interesting and like-minded people.
3. I am still clumsy, but I dread to think how bad I would be without dance.
As we get older, maintaining and improving our balance becomes more important.
Unless you are working with specific balance-orientated goals, most regular sports and exercise activities do little to improve your balance. A study led by Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld (from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg, Germany.) showed
“it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioural changes in terms of improved balance.”
If you, like me, want to keep fit and healthy (maybe even have daydreams about getting that 6-pack one day…) but the thought of running on grey, rainy days or sharing weights with sweaty bodybuilders is not your cup of tea, then give dance a go! No matter what music you are into, what fashion, or even what your physical capabilities are, there will be a dance group or class out there for you…Swing, Hip Hop, Ballroom, Aerial, Ballet, Contemporary, Latin, Pole, Jazz, the list goes on and on….
Here are some really interesting groups that I love:
Inclusive Contemporary (Greenwich Dance)
Swing Patrol (Lots of London locations) my fiancé and I have started learning Swing here, and we LOVE it.
Ballet Fusion (The Factory)
World Dance (Danceworks)
Pole Dance (Kelechnekoff Fitness)
Sounds obvious, that’s because it’s true – dance is an all-rounder when it comes to fitness.
6. No more Lower Back Pain!
Dance gave me the gift of a pain-free back! And I know a lot of my clients would love that too.
When I was only 15 years old, I had a lower back spasm, that left me unable to walk or dance properly for months, at the time doctors advised I should not dance again, as my test results had shown that I had the spine of a 50 year old, with lots of spinal disc degeneration. Luckily, I was a stubborn teenager, with amazing parents, so I went back to dance (with the help of Pilates and pain killers) – but I went back smarter than before. I now actually listened to the teachers when they taught me how to use my core, focus on alignment and that I should stretch every day. Slowly, without me noticing, my back pain decreased, until one day I could dance for 8 hours straight feeling nothing but euphoria.
I am not promising the same level of success, but I know that dancing gave my core muscles the strength to support my back, and the flexibility to reduce pulling and misalignment on my spine.
Remember, stretching is essential for everyone, as it improves muscular balance and posture by realigning tissue and thereby reducing the effort it takes to maintain good posture throughout the day, whether you dance or not.
7. Dancing lowers the risk of dementia.
Finally, for those of us who are a little older, or are already future proofing your minds, I wanted to pass on that dance is currently the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Please read more about it here.
Thank you for reading, and have fun putting on those dancing shoes…
Read the International Dance Day Message 2018, by Salia Sanou, Burkina Faso
BA (Hons) STT Dip LSSM, IHM, TFM, NLFM, Meditation Teacher, Baby Massage
The most common question I get asked is “What is Soft Tissue Therapy?”
The main reason for confusion amongst my patients appears when trying to discern the difference between Soft Tissue Therapy (STT) and other massage therapies. The simplest response is that STT uses a large variety of treatments, one of which is massage, hence they are non-comparative. Instead, it is useful to see that massage is simply part of the larger spectrum of STT.
OK. But, is Soft Tissue Therapy Soft?
No. Soft Tissue does not mean soft as in gentle – but refers to body structures that are not hard, like bone. Soft tissues include: all levels of muscle (from superficial to deep), tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, nerves and blood vessels.
So, what can STT help me with?
The treatment and/or alleviation of musculoskeletal pain, sporting and non-sporting injuries, chronic and acute tension, as well as improving body flexibility, strength and wellness. All this has the additional benefit of improving your mental well-being too. 
It is important to remember to also seek guidance from your GP for chronic and/or complex issues, and to see a Physiotherapist first if your issue has not been diagnosed or seen to before.
Can you give me some examples of issues you have helped with?
So, what techniques are used in Soft Tissue Therapy?
Soft Tissue Release (STR)
Good for: treating tendonitis! Because it takes pressure off your problem muscles point of origin, which is where the inflammation occurs in tendonitis.
Method: I apply pressure on your affected muscle to create a temporary attachment point, and then move your muscle into a pain-free stretch to untangle the muscle fibres.
Improves: range of movement, repair of injury.
Works because: Stretching can help ease muscle tension and realign muscle fibres and structures. STR targets specific areas of tension within a muscle, making it useful for targeting muscles that are difficult to stretch actively (yourself) and for isolating a muscle within a group of muscles that would normally stretch together. 
Post isometric relaxation (PIR)
Good for: Tight hamstrings, which can contribute to back pain.
Method: I very gently stretch your hamstrings passively, to the point of first resistance, so you should only feel a very mild stretch, if at all. You would then resist my push very lightly – with about 10-20% of your force, for 10 seconds. You would then relax, and I would use this to gently stretch your hamstring a little further, until the next point of resistance. We would repeat this together 3 to 5 times. 
Improves: Relaxation of tight muscles.
Reduces: muscle spasms.
Myofascial Release (MFR)
Wait…what is Fascia!? Fascia is a connective tissue that wraps around and in between every structure in our body, including our muscles – it is very thin, elastic, but tough.
OK, so what is MFR good for: Headaches
Method: I will apply a sustained and gentle pressure into the problem fascia. This can take a long time, up to 15 minutes on one area alone. This technique is used without oils/creams, as I need to be able to detect minute fascial adhesions. 
Improves: circulation and helps restore and hydrate fascia
Reduces: fascia tension
Works because: The amount of time I spend means we are utlising the ‘plezoelectirc phenomenon’ (don’t let the word put you off!) – all it means is the gentle pressure I am applying, if done slowly, allows the fascia to elongate – as fascia is a viscoelastic medium. 
Trigger Point Therapy (TPT)
A trigger point may be that area you have been referring to as a ‘knot’.
TPT is unfortunately not that relaxing, but it is very effective. A trigger point is an area that when pressed on causes pain somewhere else – for instance, a TP on your shoulder may transfer pain up your neck and into your head, like a tension headache. 
Good for: Shoulder & neck pain, and chronic conditions.
Method: I apply specific and direct pressure on to your trigger point with my thumb or a tool, I will increase the pressure as your trigger point softens and releases.
Improves: injuries and aches from overuse, poor posture, and everyday wear and tear.
Reduces: Pain and helps combat chronic pain conditions
There are many more techniques that can be utilised, but the one that most of my patients love, of course, is general/relaxing/deep MASSAGE!
The main reason I believe that massage works in reducing your pain, or speeding up your recovery, is because it feels GOOD!
I have realised and learnt that simply having a chance to lie back, have an hour to yourself, and let someone else help you, can do wonders for your healing process! I recommend that even in a injury orientated Soft Tissue Therapy session you ask for 5 minutes at the end to receive some relaxing massage – it can go a long way to making you feel better!
 Soft Tissue Release: A Practical Handbook for Physical Therapists. 28 Aug 2012, by Mary Sanderson
BA (Hons) STT Dip LSSM, IHM, TFM, NLFM, Meditation Teacher
For me, hula-hoop is an enchanted object, which inevitably brings people together, while setting a very definite boundary between the outside world and me. It's something of an invisible shield, which attracts the eyes of the audience, but keeps its driving force safely protected.
EVERYONE can hoop. If you can tap your foot in time with music, you can hoop. A common mistake is for people to pick up a kiddie 50-gram hoop, squeeze it over their waist and proclaim - "SEE? I told you I couldn’t do it!” That's not the kind of hooping I am talking about. I am talking about a plastic ring, with a 40" diameter and almost a kilo of weight - the most suitable hoop for beginners. Something slightly less bulky for those, who can keep it on their waist and plenty of kiddie ones to taste the difference.
I won’t bore you with self-evident benefits, which derive from hooping, but I will mention two, which in my opinion don't get half as much attention as they deserve.
1. Hooping is good for your brain. Hula hooping, as well as poi and other variations of flow arts, are not far from juggling. In fact, you can use hoops to juggle, and juggling, as science has proven, positively affects your brain and promotes the formation of new pathways within it (read more here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2009-10-12-juggling-enhances-connections-brain).
2. Hooping benefits the sex drive. Unfortunately, Oxford hasn't done a study on this particular subject, but take my word for it - many others have confirmed the same.
What will we do?
We will hoop on our waist and learn to move around while doing so. We will attempt to chest hoop and learn tricks to help that process. We will discover the "off-body concept" and the variety of movement it offers.
Finally, and this has been my dream since I've started hooping, we will host a Hoopstacle Challenge - a friendly team competition in getting through an obstacle course with a hula-hoop!
My hooping background
I met my first hula-hoop, the night I met my future husband, which is the only reason why I know that I've been hooping since October 2009. It was a big and heavy hoop, which despite my best efforts, I could not keep up. My bruised ego went home and found my son's 50g kiddie hoop, which, naturally only made matters worse. Then someone's casual remark about learning from YouTube led me to discover the hula-underground. I quickly acquired my first 40 inches of plastic hoop goodness and continued to cover myself in bruises, this time a lot more palpable. To say that I became obsessed would not be an understatement. I hooped for two hours, almost every day for over a year. If I went outside, the hoop went with me, so much, that in our little East London homestead, I became known as the "hula-girl".
I went on hooping retreats and diligently learned new tricks, to finally face the BIG question - do I want to be a performer? It sounded like great fun, so I went on to stomp on stages at Freekuency festival and Indigo at the O2, as well as a few other small gigs. Except I didn't like it. I hated the "big deal" that went along with being on stage as well as the idea of having a set routine and not being able to go with the flow. So, I bowed out, and since then have kept hooping as my preferred method of exercise.
If any part of my hooping journey sounds interesting to you, I'll be happy to share more of my experience and suggest some useful resources to get you going.
I look forward to hooping together in October 2017.
Works at The Body & Sound Retreat.
Marvellous mother to AK. Owner of Lucy. Lives at Magnesia.
My mini crusade to rescue the ITB from the foam roller!
Trying to relieve ITB pain can be very difficult, as well as a long process, so I understand why using a simple solution like rolling it out on a foam roller is tempting. A lot of us are also told by our personal trainers, gym buddies or even physical therapists that this can help release the ITB and reduce pain and tightness. However, it does not!
Let me explain…
Firstly, what is the ITB?
ITB means iliotibial band. The ITB is simply connective tissue running down the outside edge of the thigh, it originates from the Tensor Fascia Latae (not a fancy coffee!) and attaches to the tibial condyle (just below the outside of the knee). So, it’s a tough strip of tissue along the outside of your upper leg.
Did you notice that I never called the ITB a muscle, but connective tissue (like tendons and ligaments, which are inherently firmer and stronger than muscle)?
Foam rollers are designed to massage muscles only…
The ITB is meant to be tight, it stabilises the leg, and prevents the knee from moving too far laterally (sideways) and causing an injury. It transfers the contractile force of the muscles working into it (TFL, gluteus medius and maximus) – it doesn’t do any contracting itself, like a muscle does.
Wait…if the ITB is meant to be tight, why is it hurting you?
ITBS or Iliotibial band syndrome, is recognised as pain in the lateral side of your knee. This occurs from friction of the ITB on the lateral femoral condyle (outside of the knee). It is often part of an over-use injury seen in runners and cyclists mostly. The friction, causes inflammation and microtrauma, thus causing pain.
Why is this friction occurring?
Most commonly it is often due to anterior hip inflexibility and poor rotational control of the lower limb. Over pronation or poor foot biomechanics may also increase the risk of ITBS. If the foot rolls in or the arch flattens, the lower leg rotates inwards, so does the knee, increasing the chance of friction on the IT band.
What can you do to alleviate your ITB pain?
1. Help the IT band get unstuck from the underlying muscle and fascia, through Soft Tissue Therapy.
2. Release your glutes and TFL with massage or…foam rolling! Now that we’re working with muscles – please go ahead and use that foam roller.
3. Rest – when the pain is very severe, the area may be inflamed, so rest will give it time to heal.
4. Physiotherapy – to assess, diagnose and treat your ITBS, as well as give you a personalised program to rehab and keep that pain away.
5. Running and/or cycling assessment – misalignment or poor technique may be the cause of your pain, so get this checked and then sorted.
6. Very regular stretching of the muscles attaching to the ITB…
What stretches should you be doing?
Channel 4 stretch
Please stay curious, and look up stretches and exercises for ITBS relief yourself from reliable Physio websites.
It is very important to do these stretches very regularly initially after your ITB injury, and continue to do them regularly to prevent further pain.
So, to surmise, foam rolling the ITB just squashes it into the muscle and fascia beneath, making it more stuck and tight than before!!!
Have a go at the above alternatives :)
Thank you and good luck my new ITB saviours!
Soft Tissue Therapist & Massage Therapist