Tips and Principles of an Effective Warm up

The Bones image shutter pdAn effective warm-up is a group of exercises performed immediately before an activity that provides the body with a transition from rest to exercise. It provides the body with an adequate adjustment period in order to move effectively without over straining at the beginning of a workout, a game, a movement class or a performance whether artistic or athletic.  An effective warm up is an opportunity to awaken the body/mind towards inner kinesthetic listening, towards dynamic alignment, and a progression to warm core body temperature without fatiguing the system. Each body often needs a unique series of preparatory movements to prepare for exertion and action. It is important to identify your specific needs, and follow some general guidelines as well.

FA Warm-up Tips 

  1. tripod footHeighten kinesthetic awareness to improve proprioception:

    Take a quiet moment to come into the practice of listening to your body. Release unnecessary tension. For example, whether you begin standing or lying down, let your feet contact the floor. Consider the tripod of balance of the feet to restore balance.
  1. Bring attention to breathing to facilitate breath support in action:Integrating a meditative or controlled breathing practice into your warm allows the respiratory system of the heart and lungs to awaken and support the actions needed in full activity. Shallow or tidal breathing does not always fully support the rigors of dance or athletic activity. Inhale through the nose with an audible exhale through the mouth into your beginning movements to begin to integrate the breathing system with the neuromuscular requirements of your work out.
  1. Slowly increase joint range of movement to develop elasticity in the muscular & myofascial systems:
    To increase in the resiliency of the muscles and tendons, begin with easeful action. Avoid doing movements that demand maximum rage of movement in the warm up. Practice a smaller or slower version of your intended activity to warm up the joint actions progressively.
  1. Warm up the spine. Begin with a gentle sequence through the motions of the spine/trunk:
    The motions of the trunk are flexion, extension, lateral flexion right, lateral flexion left, rotation right and rotation left. In other words, gentle fold forward and then arch back, bend easily to the right and then left followed by spiraling by looking and rotating around to the right and then to the left.
  1. Increase your heart rate:
    This delivers more oxygen and glucose to the muscles for energy production, leads to more efficient transmission of signals along motor nerves, so the muscles can react in a more coordinated manner. For example, modern dancer/choreographer Murray Lewis would suggest begin walking and then move into easy running in the studio for 2-5 minutes.  You can move your arms through a swimming crawl movement then run backwards and do the back stroke with your arms, run forward doing the breast stroke, and finish with the action of the swimming butterfly action in the arms. This whole body movement at a gentle run raises heart rate and moves most synovial joints into action.


These tips are accumulated from the many years of coaching, teaching and training dancers, actors, musicians, and athletes, as well as information and wisdom from the following sources:   

Creativity: Happenstance or Habit?

creativityIs it a skill or an innate trait? Can one train to be creative? Is the creative process more successful if it is chaotic and random or if it has a rigorous systematic approach? Neither? Both?

As a dancer, choreographer, educator, embodied anatomist, and somatics practitioner, and author, I have had a long personal investigation with creativity.  I have choreographed over 50 dances, created movement strategies for ease in action, written a book, and designed countless college courses.  In teaching a course in creative action at Towson University and reading the research and writing on creativity, the questions above came to mind.

There are some interesting articles and books out there on this topic and here are some thoughts from some of the experts. The following excerpt is from Carolyn Gregoire’s article in the Huffington Post. She suggests creativity is complex.

“In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works. And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.”

Not all creative people tend to avoid habit and routine, in fact, just the opposite. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein was a proponent of a daily routine of writing.

The internationally recognized choreographer, dancer, and director and author of The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp, describes the creative process as starting with a discipline and rigor of attention in a systematic pattern that develops into habit. In her book The Creative Habit, she writes the following about creativity:

“… I come down on the side of hard work. That’s why this book is called The Creative Habit. Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”

(Tharp, Twyla (2009-03-21). The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (p. 6). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.)

Tharp continues,

“In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative. No one can give you your subject matter, your creative content; if they could, it would be their creation and not yours. But there’s a process that generates creativity— and you can learn it. And you can make it habitual. There’s a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition. That paradox intrigues me because it occupies the place where creativity and skill rub up against each other.”

(Tharp, Twyla (2009-03-21). The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (p. 8). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.)

In speaking of Gregoire’s new book, Wired to Create, New York Times reviewer Christie Ashwanden writes,

“Contrary to the well-worn notion that creativity resides in the right side of the brain, research shows that creativity is a product of the whole brain, relying especially on what the authors call the “imagination network” — circuits devoted to tasks like making personal meaning, creating mental simulations and taking perspective.”

The physicist, the software designer, and the artist all work from a common ground of creativity, sourcing many portions of the brain. They are creating something new, involved in excavation and exploration to develop new artist works, new IT designs, new theories of scientific thought. Are the scattered thinker and/or procrastinator as likely to produce excellent creative results as the systematic, organized approach to creative endeavors?

In stimulating the creative parts of the brain into action, I am aware that individual difference is key and honoring, honing and supporting people to own their creative process can generate innovative cultural, educational and artist ideas, actions, and results in which we as a society can all benefit.

To create a single creative contribution can be a serendipitous, to achieve a body of creative work requires developing a creative habit.

Feel free express your views in the comment section below.

Cross Training for Dancers: Constructing an Individualized Program for Balancing Exertion and Recuperation, Exercise/Fitness and Restoration Practices

cross trainingIn professional sports, athletes may spend as much time in cross training models as they do on the practice fields. Dancers are artists, yet the rigor of physical training also requires training as an athlete. Cross training in sports and dance can improve performance, reduce injury, and provide greater longevity of participation.

As discussed in Honoring Individual Differences in Human Anatomy and Physiology in Dance Training we each have a unique skeletomuscular structure. As such there are some innate talents and assets we bring to the art form of movement expression. It is important to honor and maximize our assets as we address, improve, or accommodate to challenges in technical training. Functional Awareness®: Anatomy in Action is a practice for working both in the dance training space and outside the studio. FA® teaches a sequence to release unnecessary tension, recruit for efficient muscle action, to restore the body towards balance. This path can be different for each individual.

If we have these differences how do we decide the best fitness and whole health strategy for our body?

There are several key elements to body wellness and developing strategies to encourage maximum potential for both mobility and stability in the body.

  1. Release unnecessary tension; learn somatic approaches. Cross training is not just about progressive overload. Many times unnecessary tension is a factor limiting progress in training. Sensory awareness practices develop skills to enhance body awareness, inner listening and embodied mindfulness. I am a passionate advocate for somatic practice work. It changed my life both physically and emotionally. I was in chronic back pain for most of my professional performing career in NYC. Massage and chiropractors were temporarily very helpful, but the pain returned. Somatic practice work changed my approach to training in profound ways and allowed exploration into new ways of moving and being in order to move out of pain and discomfort towards balance and stronger dance technique. I have studied Bartenieff Fundamentals, Feldenkrais Method®, Body/Mind Centering, Authentic Movement, Dance Therapy and for over 30 years, I have been certified to teach and practice the Alexander Technique. Somatic skills are the reason I can dance, perform, and teach today. Read this article by internationally recognized physical therapist/Alexander Technique teacher/Dance Science writer extraordinaire Glenna Batson for an introduction into somatic practices.
  1. Recruit for efficient action; learn fitness strategies. Learn about current fitness components that can be addressed to maintain a healthy body for dance. Here is an excellent link for an introduction on fitness strategies to recruit for efficient action.
  1. Collect quantitative data on your body health and fitness. Use the technology available to enhance an understanding of individual movement function abilities, to listen to the body and move towards whole health. Physical Therapy assessments tools for fitness can be a good starting point. At Towson University we use the DanceFit Program designed by Andrea Lasner and the Johns Hopkins Medicine team to assess dance majors annually through their four years and provide quantitative measurements using a combination of FMS system assessments and measurements for functional and active turnout. If you do not have access to these tools or you prefer to receive more regular data on your fitness, individualized data collecting gadgets such as Fitbit or Misfit can help define starting points and track progress. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself in reference to this information. It is one measure on one day. It is not telling the whole story of how your body works. It is providing some information for you to collect, think about, and consider within the whole picture of your training and instruction from your teachers and trainers. 
  1. Attain an anatomical framework to understand your body. Learn a basic understanding of how the body functions to help provide a frame work or scaffolding in which to build a safe and effective health and conditioning model. Once source for anatomical information is Dance Anatomy by Jacqui Greene Haas. Also, look for Functional Awareness: Anatomy in Action: A Practical Guide to the Body by Romita and Romita to be released by Oxford University Press in 2016.
  1. Improvise, explore, and play. As artists we know the value of exploration and play to discover and invent movement and generate creative ideas. Todd Hargrove in his book A Guide to Better Movement suggests these skills develop a healthier neurological and neuromuscular system for whole health. For dancers this can mean more tools to improve technique and greater expressivity in movement.

Restore Towards Balance: A unique combination of all of these strategies help to create a balance between exertion and recuperation, recruitment and restoration.

Nancy Romita, MFA, MAmSAT, RSME
Senior Lecturer Towson University

Honoring Individual Differences in Human Anatomy when Training in the Studio, at the Gym, or on the Mat

Each human is different, we have different personality traits, some are reserved and shy while other people are exuberantly outgoing. Each trait can provide assets and challenges as we navigate through our environment of work, home life, recreation and rest. We are psycho-physically unique. The emotional lens in which someone experiences the world varies from person to person. Discovering the most effective model to discover maximum movement potential must also be a unique journey.

Each human body has individual skeletal and neuromuscular differences. We all have 206 bones in the body, yet the number does vary from person to person. For example only 5-15% percent of people have an os trigonum bone in the foot. There is also variety on how each of the bones is shaped. Some people have wide hipbones or ilium, forming a wide bowl-like pelvic structure, while others have a shape that is more narrow and higher ilium resembling a more vertical vase.  The image below demonstrates this as a gender difference but both men and women can portray these characteristics in bone shape. It is more common for women to exhibit the bowl-like shape of the pelvis, but it is not exhibited in all women.


Some people have an elongated tuber calncanei or posterior heel bone while others have shorter posterior tuber calcanei. This skeletal difference can be one factor in the dorsi flexion of the foot or depth of demi plié. People can be born with more elastic ligaments, referred to as hypermobility, while in others the ligament fibers connecting bone to bone can be shorter and less mobile or hypo-mobile. The following is an article describing individual differences in regard to squats, whether it is in physical training or primitive squat in Horton Technique.

 Because we all have the same structure, yet there are infinite variations within the human skeletomuscular system, each person must design their own plan to maximize their movement potential.

Functional Awareness® (FA) is a practical approach to understanding the body. FA utilizes basic anatomical information to deepen this understanding as it applies to improve dynamic alignment and movement skills. Functional Awareness® is a process to release unnecessary tension and then recruit muscular effort for more efficient action. The information is founded on over 35,000 hours of experience teaching and training in dance technique, Vinyassa yoga, embodied anatomy, Thai massage, and Alexander Technique.  It allows one to generate efficient exertion and allow for appropriate recuperation.

Throughout these posts, you can investigate different approaches to conditioning, quantitative measurement and physical therapy assessments, embodied anatomy explorations, movement improvisation and investigation, as well as somatic inner listening and moving practices.

Is sitting the New Smoking?

Considerations for Sitting in a Chair and Computer use

By Nancy Romita & Allegra Romita

This article provides documentation that sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to one’s health.

Tools for developing a functional awareness for balanced sitting

Considerations when sitting at a desk or table:

1. Pause to ask yourself to release unnecessary tension and come into posture awareness

a. Balance the ischial bones (sitz bones) equally left and right.
– Leaning on one hip more can cause hip or low back pain

b. Consider the tripod of balance at your feet on the floor
– Tucking one foot underneath you can strain the knee and ankle/foot
– Sitting cross legged in a chair can cause low back distress

c. Let your left and right shoulder blade have equal contact with the back of the chair
– Sitting with one shoulder forward spirals the spine and creates uneven demand on the posture muscles while sitting

d. The distance between your upper arm and lower arm is a right angle or greater

2. Sitting and standing options

a. When sitting in a chair, the distance between your torso and thigh is also a right angle or 100 degrees.

3. You do not see the screen more clearly by pulling your face to it an inch or so. Let what you see on the screen come to you.

You do not have to sit in proper posture at all times.  This is friendly advice to remind your body to release, recruit, re-balance, and recuperate to prevent discomfort and potential health issues.

Take short breaks

  1. Get up for a brief moment to stretch or walk around your chair
  2. Drink plenty of fluids. This will ensure that you will stay hydrated, and get up to use the bathroom help you recover from sitting at the same time!
  3. Constructive rest: If you spend long periods sitting, this is a useful recuperative tool to let the spine naturally recover from the stress of deskwork. 15 minutes daily facilitates a shift in the relaxed resting length of the striated muscle fibers and more glide in the myofascial tissue.

Rest on a carpet, on your back. Rest your feet on a chair or keep your knees bent and feet on the floor (in semi-supine position). Allow yourself to relax, notice your breathing for 10 minutes.

Work standing up

  1. Use your laptop at your kitchen counter or high top table
  2. Use a standing desk


This material is copyright protected Functional Awareness® Anatomy in Action.

starting conversations on Functional Awareness

I am hoping this blog will be a place where you can check an have a daily thought about how the body/mind functions, and provide sources to consider mindfulness in daily actions.

At Towson University’s Sci Bi class we are examining the anatomical function of the pelvis and it’s relationship to pelvic weight shift, and how tension in the head/neck spine affect range in hip flexion for battement.  Check out this website for an interesting experiement on the relationship of neck tension to hip flexibility.

In the ATMidatlantic Teacher Training, we are considering ATs principles of the means whereby while exploring monkey and deep squat. Here is an interesting web article on individual  anatomical factors affecting a squat position.  They also affect turnout for dancers.

Tell me what you think.  Offer some other links.