Every dance class and workshop should start with an effective warm-up.
Our warm up helps us make the transition from resting to dancing. A proper warm up can reduce the risk of injury and even asthma attacks for those who are prone to exercise-induced asthma. About 5-10 minutes is all it takes to prepare our bodies to do our best in dance class.
No matter what the activity, an effective warm up gets all the major muscle groups moving. Some instructors use dance isolations in the warm up, and while these can certainly work as part of the specific preparation for your style, larger, multi-joint movements that aren’t typical in belly dance are also important to really get the body prepared for the rest of class.
As I’ve said so many times before in the DBQ, this is not the time for long static stretches. If an instructor leads the class in splits at the beginning of class, the only “splitting” you should do is out the door!
Some instructors leave the students to warm up on their own before class, but I have never felt comfortable with this practice because the students often simply don’t know how. Even if they are familiar with good general warm up techniques, they don’t know what you specifically have planned for the lesson. This may include lots of shoulder, back or head movements that require extra attention to those areas of the body. In my classes, always tell my students what’s planned as we start and any specific thing we are doing to prepare our bodies to be ready for it.
What exactly does a warm up do for our bodies?
- An effective warm up routine increases our heart rate and breathing, which brings more oxygen to our muscles so they can do more than sit at a desk or in a car, which is probably what they were doing before class.
- Getting all the major muscles moving increases the internal temperature of our body. That doesn’t mean we’re hot and sweaty already. Warm muscles are more receptive to movement, especially those that use a larger range of motion that our daily activities.
- Our joints get a lube-job. When our body gets the cues that we’re picking up the pace of our day, it adjusts the fluid in our joints for better functioning. This is important for everyone, but especially those with the remnants of old injuries, arthritis or tendinitis issues.
- On a less scientific level, I believe that the warm up is also a psychological transition from my students’ work day to their “me time”. It plugs their brain back into their body so they can focus on learning and the joy of moving.
Those first 10 minutes of class set the stage for the rest of the hour. Get things off to a good start, either on your own or as the instructor. Now that you know all the good things that happen to your body in the first few minutes, make sure to get there on time so you don’t miss out!