Take care of your instruments of Praise!
In this I blog I would like to focus on the care of our instruments of praise. As Sacred Dancers we use our limbs and feet to minister the gospel message. It is important that we properly care for them so that we can continue to be used by God in this ministry.
Protect yourself against bad floors!
In most of our churches, rehearsal studios/rooms, or the building where we minister there are floors that are uneven, cemented with carpet over it, tile over concrete, lumpy and etc. There is no doubt that an uneven floor and concrete floors can have quite an impact on our bodies. Our nervous system prepares our muscles to respond as if the ground is stable – and when it isn’t, our nervous system has to do some quick responding in order to keep us balanced and our joints in alignment. Dancing on tile over concrete floors isn’t uncommon. We know that when we run our foot it takes an impact that is 2.5 times the weight of your body. Runners wear shoes that help to cushion their impact. Every year the material they use for increasing shock absorption gets better and better. Dance sneakers come closest in addressing the hardness of the floor.
If you dance with ballet shoes it may be possible to experiment with using an inexpensive gel insole, either just a heel cushion, or a full foot insole that you could shorten at the base of the toes. You may claim that the Lord told you to dance bare foot. If you are having problems with your back, hips and feet I suggest that you seek Him again concerning this matter. God is not unreasonable and He knows how best to take care of us. I am certain that He does not want His servant ministering in pain. If you feel there is just no way around dancing barefoot or you don’t want to try putting heel cushions in your ballet shoes (if you ware them), then I would focus on the time spent on your feet outside of ministering and class and make sure that you are in the best shoes that you can find. No flip-flops, no heeled fashion shoes.
Do your feet hurt?
When you dance do your feet hurt. Do you feel a pull in your arch, pain in between your toes, pain in your heel or on the ball of your foot? Cramping up in the arch of your feet usually has to do with weak intrinsic muscles. These are the layers of muscles that begin and end on the foot itself. There are other foot muscles that go from the calf to the tips of the toes. These are called the extrinsic foot muscles.
There are some very good exercises for the feet that can help relieve the pain. We realize when getting a foot rub how good it feels to lessen the tension of the feet. In Chinese medicine they believe that the foot holds all the points in the body and in reflexology they work with deep pressure on the feet/ankles and calf muscles.
Most of us in this ministry have not been trained professionally so we bear the brunt of the changes in untrained muscles. For example, when using ballet as our foundational technique we may grip and hold onto the floor with our toes with great intensity. We are not taught that the toes are used for balancing and when in first position should not have weight on them. The weight of the body should rest evenly between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel. Of course, when rising to relevé the toes should stay long to increase the base to balance on. If you don’t use ballet techniques or are unaware that you are in fact doing so, you can still injure yourself or put intense pressure on different muscles and parts of the body. My advice is if it is uncomfortable don’t incorporate it into your dance. But if you must it is my opinion that you get professional help so that you will not permanently or temporarily injure yourself.
As you strengthen the muscles of your feet, they may cramp, but if you continue to watch how you are using your muscles and position your feet and body properly they will strengthen. Your feet will cramp less and less, and you will develop beautiful strong feet.
One more note on gripping toes and cramping arches. Sometimes it is caused by the dancer standing in more turn out than what they have up at the hip. What happens is they are turned out at the feet and have to pronate the feet in order to put their toes out to the side. Now they are pronated and they work very hard at lifting their arch, which asks for both the extrinsic and the intrinsic foot muscles to be working overtime. It’s like being at war in your feet – or the equivalent of using a bull dozer to move a pea.
When you are standing with the weight evenly balanced between the three points, the muscles don’t need to work to hold you in that position, but will contract and release as you ask the foot/ankle to move. If a dancer is activating umpteen muscles just to stand, their muscles will tire more quickly. Remember, our skeleton carries our weight and our muscles move the bones. The more we can work from anatomical alignment then the more efficiently we can move.
Remember education is the key to injury prevention!