Painters use paint and a canvas. Authors use pen and paper (or keyboard and screen). Musicians use sheet music and their instrument. Dancers? Our tool is our body and mind (and music and costumes and…). We need to take care of our physical and mental selves in order to produce our art.
You’ve gotten yourself into something of a groove with your daily 5-minute practice session
and your quick journal entry
, which is awesome! You’ve been working with these pieces for up to 2 weeks – a total of 14 days so far – and are on your way to creating a strong practice habit. Before we go too much further it’s time to talk about warming up.
Doing a warm-up can either be a good trigger for practice or, for some, can feel like a barrier to getting to the good stuff. Many dancers resist the warm-up. Yes, they do it as a part of every class or workshop they take. Yes, they’ve read the articles talking about the benefits of warming up. What it often comes down to is time and feeling like there isn’t enough of it.
You have the time.
Doing even a 5-minute warm up can have a HUGE impact on how much you’re able to do with your practice session and how much progress you can make AND how visible that progress is in the moment. Humor me on this for just a moment:
Wherever you are right now – RIGHT NOW – as you’re reading this, stand up. Set a timer for 3 minutes and do a knee shimmy until the timer sounds.
Now, do this abbreviated warm-up:
– Do 3 times: 1. Inhale your arms up overhead. 2. Exhale fold forward and place your arms behind your calves. 3. Inhale come up half-way leading with your chest. 4. Exhale fold forward. 5. Inhale bend your knees and stand up with your arms sweeping out to the sides and up overhead, exhale arms down to your hips.
– Do 1 time: 1. Inhale arms up overhead and clasp your hands gently. 2. Exhale lift your torso up and over to one side. 3. Inhale arms up overhead. 4. Exhale lift your torso up and over to the other side. 5. Inhale arms up overhead, exhale arms down to your hips.
That whole sequence should take about 1 minute. Set your timer again for 2 minutes and do your knee shimmy again.
Can you feel it? The difference that 1-mintue warm up had on how much movement you get out of your hips when you shimmy? THAT’S why we warm up!
Adding a warm-up to your practice session does more than prime your body – it helps your brain prepare for the work that is about to happen. It also seems to “legitimize” your practice session and make it more official. I find that I’m doing a bit of mental rehearsing during my warm-up, too, by going over what I have planned for my practice session. To my brain, that makes it almost like I’m practicing twice!
I do recommend you do more than 1 minute of warming up, of course! The above exercise was just to illustrate how much could change with even a little work. To get started with this habit, commit to adding in a 5-minute warm up to your daily practice. Here’s what your schedule will look like this week:
Warm-up: 5 minutes
Practice: 5 minutes
Journaling: 1-5 minutes
At most, you’ll be carving out 15 minutes of your day, and only 10 of those need to happen all at once. If you’re really pressed for time you can wait to do your journaling until later (as long as you remember to do it).
At the end of this week we’ll be at 21 days – the number some experts (though not all) say it takes for something to become a habit. I hope you’ll work with me these next 7 days and beyond while we craft a strong practice habit together.