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Pelvic Alignment and its effects


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#1 ami1436

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 03:20 PM

:firedevil:

For the mods here... some of this may be better for health and nutrition? I'm not sure. But, first some background:

I spend a lot of time at a desk that is too big for me, in chair that is too big for me (back doesn't hit the back of the chair, feet don't hit the ground). Over time, I started to have a lot of back pain. Spurred on by that and by a discussion of my fouettes (here: http://dancers.invis...mp;hl=fouettes) I finally started PT. PT has been amazing -- my back no longer hurts daily, and I feel much stronger.

While most of the work I've been doing with PT has been to correct some muscular imbalances, as well as get more ergonomic work space, I now also have a stronger core, and this is helping to lengthen my hip flexors, which are naturally very tight (my pelvis naturally tips back, swayback style). I think this lengthening is improving my alignment overall (what Clara calls lift-off, yes?), but I think there are some related issues that I wanted to ask about; I've been noticing most of these for about 1-3 months. (Also -- my PT is wonderful, but does not have a specific knowledge of ballet/what's asked of us in class, and thus I'm asking here).

1. Am I crazy, or would that new alignment improve my line en pointe as well? I compared recent photos to older ones, and it seems previously that my ankles were not fully stretched, but rather pulled back a bit. I will never have great feet, but man, the other day I saw them in the mirror and was like "Whoa!" (minor moment of pride there, I admit). It's like I'm much more extended in the ankle when standing en pointe. This makes it, however, harder to balance right now, as I feel so much more 'over' and it's a little scary! -- my teacher and I have been working on it because he's noticed the change in my balance in pelvic placement, and has been trying to think about how to keep that area open/stretched. When I'm coming out of a balance these days, I'm not falling, but just coming off pointe, staying in position -- this is true of pirouettes en pointe too. Am I imagining things?

2. Would there be any effect on the IT band? My quads are also naturally tight (I have stretches to do for my quads and hip flexors, and my own foam roller). However, my IT band on my left side, the side which had the back pain and which has 'opened up' the most, is often achy now, and occasionally very painful. Most of my activities have not changed, although I do a bit more on the Treadmill now (mainly fast walking. Maybe once a week or less I'll add in two 3 minute intervals of jogging into my walking).

3. I always hoped that if I could get my pelvis to stretch out, my extension would get better as there would be more room for the leg to move. Not so, for now. My PT regime asked me to cut back on hamstring stretching for a while, in order to focus more on stretching my quads, but I am allowed stretch again now and have been trying to do sore more often. I guess I don't have a question about this... (maybe I'm just complaining). I guess I need to continue to stretch and to work on strength. Sigh.

4. As I continue to work on this alignment, is it normal for the hip flexors to feel a little 'tired' in the interim? Is there anything I should do to 'help' them? It's mainly my left flexor, as well. I'm doing ab work and gentle stretching of the flexors. They feel great and loose and open in the last hour/hour-15 of class, but the left one tends to feel sore as the muscles cool down, or if I've sat a lot. Are there any gentle stretches that I should do? Is it okay to ice the flexor/top of the IT band?

Thanks -- I know these are a lot of questions. I've felt a pretty dramatic change over the last few months, in a good way... now I just gotta get in control ove it!

#2 Miss Persistent

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 01:27 AM

Wow ami1436! Good on you for persisting and not letting it get the better of you. You've got a lot going on there but it sounds like you're really body aware and working hard which is great to see.

First off - No, I don't think you're imagining things. A forward tilt in the pelvis leads to all sorts of alignment gremlins, and rectifying the tilt will generally fix a lot of gremlins. I'm guessing you probably feel a little more 'on-top' of your legs now? The pelvic bones are pretty heavy bones, and when they're not able to be placed right on-top of our legs, the body has to compensate with the slightly uneven weight distribution. Now with the extra lenght in you hip felxors you are probably able to get that pelvis sitting right inline with the centre of your weight distribution, and hey presto! No more need for the body to compensate for weight imbalance! Keep working really hard with your teacher on your posture and weight placement and you should notice a lot of things getting easier.

As for the rest of your back pain and tightness, not seeing you I can't really comment, but it might be worthwhile getting your PT to check a few more things. I would ask them to check your psoas mucles, illacus and pevlic ring for tightness and imbalance (and to make sure your psoas is working). Also could be worth looking at your adductors and your glutes & piriformus. If you can, get them to check that both sides of your pevlis are actually level also (ie. one side is not sitting higher than the other). All of us have a favourite side, and sometimes if we love it TOO much, we can actually build up muscles imbalances that then start to have an effect on the bodys alignment.

Let us know what you find!

#3 Miss Persistent

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 07:51 AM

http://dancers.invis...showtopic=35504

Have a read of Clara 76's post on alignment with the link above for more info on the effects of pelvic alignment

#4 ami1436

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 10:43 AM

Thank you for your response. I am aware of Clara's alignment post, and the importance of alignment overall. I'm working closely with my PT, but she wasn't able to translate the general changes I was seeing into some of the specific questions I have about its implications for my dancing. I find that the older I get, the more that the physiological understanding is helpful to me.

The PT is on break for a bit, so I'll definitely keep asking her, and I think I'll even take in my pointe shoes next time. The other half's sister is a PT as well, so I'll talk to her when I see her next weekend. In any case, we are definitely working on the pelvic area -- my musculo-skeletal imbalances were pulling my pelvis in weird ways, and between the PT and a great massage therapist I'm getting more 'balanced'. I think the biggest difference is that the changes I'm feeling are constant -- i.e., I'm not just trying to aim for the best alignment possible in dance class, but the muscular changes instead affect everything. I feel like its these changes that result in the new point of balance, as well as residual aches (which I should note, aren't constant).

I realize these are specific questions and concerns that are hard to answer, and may not be appropriate for this board. Nonetheless, I'm always appreciative of any ideas to investigate -- if nothing else, they provide me with ideas of what to discuss with the PT, and perhaps the vocabulary that I'm not aimed with. If any of the teacher-mods have any further comments or thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

#5 olddude

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 07:03 PM

Your situation, and your journey, sound quite a lot like mine. I don't have much to add, sounds like you are doing the right things and they are working.

I have found that using the correct muscles and alignment makes many things worse at first - you have given up your work-around and the new muscles are not strong or trained yet. Often the first thing that happens to me is a (short-lived, thankfully) loss of balance as my body re-learns how to stand up. Then I get the sore muscles - the ones that are now doing their job, after too many years of taking it easy! Those are the ones you need to get into the game, so some degree of soreness for a few weeks is a good sign. But my turns have gotten better, and lately I can do quite a lot of the barre with both hands off the barre itself. That was not conceivable before I got my hips better placed.

For extension, a recent insight from a different teacher led me to feel how much better turnout helps. I have some serious stretching to do before I can make good use of that insight, but knowing where to go is a big help in getting there. Try a small plie of the supporting leg while pushing turnout; it often gets you a bit more turnout and extension at the same time. Holding it while coming back up is easier said than done!

#6 Clara 76

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 09:49 AM

Excellent answers so far!!!!!!!! I have very little to add except to reassure you that this is perfectly normal. I love the way Miss P put it- "alignment gremlins"-Perfect!!! :thumbsup: :lol: The re-adjustment process will lead to all sorts of strange temporary quirks and aches. They shouldn't lead to actual pain, though, so definitely stay with the PT idea until you're feeling more confidence with placement and balance.

Now I'll go sort through your pointe shoe post!

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"- (Currently poking Poseidon in the netherworld with his trident)

"Christian Louboutins are uncomfortable, but I screamed the first time I put on a pointe shoe." Mila Kunis


#7 ami1436

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:33 AM

Great, thanks Clara! Sometimes it's hard to know whather you are imagining things/making excuses. I'm no Tamara Rojo with my balances, but this degree of uncertainty about them is new for me. Would it be normal that I'm also trying to rediscover where to place my weight on flat?

#8 Clara 76

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:35 AM

Oh, yes! Everything will be affected! The muscles have adapted for years to the way the bones were, so now that you're changing it, they are having to readjust. It will all get better soon!

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"- (Currently poking Poseidon in the netherworld with his trident)

"Christian Louboutins are uncomfortable, but I screamed the first time I put on a pointe shoe." Mila Kunis


#9 ami1436

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:45 AM

Slow and steady slow and steady slow and steady... :thumbsup:

Despite the frustration, it's great to see real, consistent improvement on this -- as you know, I've been struggling with my pelvis/lower back placement for years. Hopefully once I'm through this phase.... it'll be awesome! :lol:

#10 Clara 76

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:51 AM

It will be!

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"- (Currently poking Poseidon in the netherworld with his trident)

"Christian Louboutins are uncomfortable, but I screamed the first time I put on a pointe shoe." Mila Kunis


#11 Miss Persistent

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 07:03 PM

Slow and steady slow and steady slow and steady... :thumbsup:

Despite the frustration, it's great to see real, consistent improvement on this -- as you know, I've been struggling with my pelvis/lower back placement for years. Hopefully once I'm through this phase.... it'll be awesome! :grinning:


I have one word for you... P-e-r-s-i-s-t!!!!!! :)

Celebrate the victories, and look at the new challenges as a sign on your progression. The good news is that none of us ever "get there" it's all about the journey so keep enjoying it!

#12 ami1436

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 10:26 AM

Thanks. I had great training all through my youth, but some... questionable training (eupemism) in my mid-20s, so there's a bit of frustration with a sense of going backwards/unlearning bad habits, etc.

#13 ami1436

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:31 AM

Okay, so I went to a class last night where I could really focus on placement, and talked to the teacher beforehand about what I was feeling (she sometimes sees me during the year, usually when we are taking the same class, but my teaching schedule this past semester didn't allow me to get to her class... so glad the semester is over!). She's got a great eye. I'm posting this here as an update, and as a way to remind myself what to work on in the upcoming weeks. Also, I think Clara could help me with part of this (q's at end).

She watched for my weight placement on flat, and noted that she could tell that I was super conscious of it an adjusting it, and that the adjustments I was making were good and to keep working on it.

On demi (didn't do pointe last night), she noted that my weight was wobbling between being nice and forward over my big toe, and being around my second/third toe. We looked at my bare feet -- I do think my ankle articulation is better, so I'm up on a higher demi, and I have those toe joints that are on a diagonal, so on a high demi the weight is just on my big toe. Working a bit on strengthening the ankle in that position would help.

The main part of my core placement was good (really? HUZZAH!!!!). It's not 100% consistent, but good. She said that she felt that I was focusing so much on that part that the upper body (say, mid-torso upwards), was not always fully connected into that, in part using it to compensate for the changes in weight placement. So, now, sew the upper abs bag in, preventing the ribs from overly lifting.

Finally, there's some imbalance in my pelvis (this is exactly what my PT and Massage therapist say!), so that when I lift my leg the pelvis sometimes moves with it, especially on the one side that's more messed up.

This feels like a lot, especially the last part which is going to be hardest for me, but if the main part of the core is looking that much better, I'm psyched. Made an appt with the PT and massage therapist to keep working on the imbalance.

Here are the questions --

First, for the movement of the leg in the joint -- I have to say that with my pelvis swayed it's easier for me to feel the 'disconnect' -- as in, to feel where the joint is and to move the leg more independently. In this new posture I can't quite feel where that 'break in the joint' (as one of my teachers puts it) is...

Second, for the ankle stuff -- this totally makes sense right now -- she noted it near the beginning of class and I worked on it throughout... definitely feel the difference. It's just a few millimeters but feels very different. Clara -- I'm guessing the eleves with the tennis ball between the ankles should be good? Wrap theraband on outside of foot, and push it away?

A lot to work on, but nice to have something concrete. And with all this, for now, I'll stick to stock shoes for a bit.

Thanks again for everyone's help... and to my studio. I take from 2-4 different teachers depending on the time of year, and it's awesome!

#14 Clara 76

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:36 PM

Ok so now it's time for rotator strengthening!!! Now that you've learned lift-off your lower body has the freedom to work correctly. Your hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs need to be reminded of their jobs in all of this.

To identify inner thighs:
1. Major Chords- This one needs a partner.
Dancer sits on the floor facing partner. Partner stands in front of her with legs apart, roughly in a wide seconde. Partner does not need to be turned out. Partner offers dancer her hands.
Dancer places the inside of the lowest part of her calves on the outside of partner's lower legs, with her legs as rotated as she can manage, ankles and feet flexed. Dancer holds partners hands, and stretches the upper part of her body straight and engages abs. dancer is in a V on it's side shape.

Now, dancer squeezes in on partners legs with the insides of her thighs thinking of her goal being to close partner's legs. Partner fights this remaining in seconde. Dancer must focus on only using inner thighs. Quads will engage to the degree they must, but inner thighs should do the work. Hold position until inner thighs begin to shake. Release, and try again.

Now, dancer stands up and using no muscles, rotates one leg to first, then the other leg to first. Engage inner thighs. Hold position concentrating on inner thighs. Quads will engage to the degree that they must, but focus is on inner thighs. Try in all 5 foot/leg positions.

This one is called major chords because the inner thighs are kind of like strings and they are majorly responsible for turnout! Also, once dancers find them, it hurts so they "sing" ouch in a major chord....

2. Inner thigh boot camp-
Dancer lies down on right side, body in straight line, head resting on outstretched right arm, left hand opposite chest, plam on the floor for balance.
Dancer takes left leg and places left foot flat on the floor in front of right thigh avoiding right knee. Foot should be touching right thigh.

Dancer turns out right leg, flexes right foot, keeps leg straight with energy going out heel, and lifts right leg a tiny bit off floor. Dancer should be thinking of directing her heel towards the ceiling, and only the pinky toe with touch the floor with each lift. I usually do "Lift up 2,3,4, touch down, 6,7,8" something like that about 32 times per leg. I walk around and make sure that the inner thigh is being used and that the leg doing the lifting is both rotated and straight. I make sure that their heels are directed towards the ceiling.

Again, stand up and try different positions utilizing the newfound shaky muscles.

3. Tiny little circles-
Dancer lies down on her stomach chin resting on backs of hands which are on top of each other, palms down.
Dancer turns legs out to 1st position, flexes feet, and keeps hip bones touching the floor. Lift right leg up a few inches off ground and hold, energy going out heel, leg straight. Hold for 10 counts. Release. Do other leg. Alternate until legs are shaky. For this one, we are looking at the upper back part of the thigh to engage- right under the buttocks. You can see it well when a dancer is in tights. There is a crease in the upper hamstring.

Once a dancer has found that muscle, she can further challenge herself by doing the same exercise, but this time, adding a pointed foot, and doing 32 tiny circles with the entire leg, thinking about tracing the edge of a quarter with her big toe. Alternate legs maintaining hipbones to floor, straight legs.

Now she stands up and tries arabesque a terre and en l'air utilizing that upper thigh muscle. Every time she works her pliés/tendus/rond de jambe's/etc. from this point forward, she is thinking about these other muscles that she has just identified. The quads will then do their job without being asked!

4. Bridge-
This one's for the glutes!
Lie on your back with your knees bent, placing your heels in line with your sitz bones, feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms at your sides with palms down. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the floor to get into the bridge position – you’ll form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Count to 100 and then slowly lower your hips back down. You may not feel anything while you are up in bridge, but you'll likely find your butt muscles as soon as you release!!! :D

For the ankles/feet-
I would try the relevé exercise in 6th position, facing the barre, and simply try to keep your ankle bones together. Maybe use a piece of paper or something small to hold. If that doesn't work, try the tennis ball one.

Also, when doing class, think of shaping your feet when you pointe and as you pointe, so that they are pointed in the same way as when you are in sur le cou-de-pied wrapped position, ankles fully articulated, heels forward, toes back etc.

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor"- (Currently poking Poseidon in the netherworld with his trident)

"Christian Louboutins are uncomfortable, but I screamed the first time I put on a pointe shoe." Mila Kunis


#15 ami1436

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:56 PM

Thanks so much! Some awesome synergies here -- my PT now wants to work on the rotators, and the muscles you mentioned in #3 are SO SORE today. :D I'll print these out to keep with me. I'm working on keeping that extra-nice shape in my feet, obviously much harder with weight on them. Thanks again. I'll be back in a few weeks to report on progress.

I have a question on #2. If it's the bottom leg that's turned out, should we want the big toe then to touch the floor theoretically, when we lower the leg? For number 3, I know that my quads and hip flexors are so tight that it's likely the hip bones will pop off the floor. The PT is helping with that, so I'll add it in slowly. Working in a desk all day sure can mess up your body.