Written By: Gabriel Blackburn

Being trained as a dancer from a young age, I’ve had years of reinforced movement pathways and body idealizations ingrained in me. Working through Somatic Asana, I’ve found much of said pathways and idealizations have actually been counter intuitive to the longevity of my body! One of the ways I’ve found this to be true are by the standards set for dancers. These standards are set by the dancers themselves, their peers/teachers, and by the culture of the dance.

Another, more subtle way movement pathways can be enforced is through the verbal cues offered by the teachers and choreographers. Within my time during Yoga TT 200 with Yoga North Duluth, I’ve come to learn that, even though I’ve been training my body for nearly two decades, I need to embrace a beginner’s mind with how I approach movement, for the longevity of my body. A couple ways I’ve embraced this is through Somatic movement cueing and pandiculation.

Take ballet for an example. There is idealization around lines, often straight ones. When I was younger, a cue I was repeatedly given was to “completely straighten your leg,” or “tighten your leg.” These instructions actually pushed my knees until they were beyond straight. Not only that, when other students or I would push ourselves to hyperextension, we were praised. It was not until highschool that I found a ballet teacher who questioned my hyperextension. He cued me to “have energy shooting out from my limbs.” He also encouraged freedom in the upper body and cued from multiple anatomical and metaphorical standpoints. Until then, I had no external reason to question my hyperextension within my ballet education.

Since then, I’ve still had ballet and contemporary teachers and choreographers that insist on the virtuosity of hyperextension. This is an outdated practice, and has led to great instability in my knees, even leading to a tear in my meniscus which I had to surgically repair after graduating from college. I’ve learned I am the one who needs to advocate for my own body. Not only that, by employing somatic reeducation, I can be my own physical therapist and add to the longevity of my physical wellness. Join me in the next Epiphanies of a Trained Dancer Studying SomaYoga for more about my discovery of my past, and a deeper look into the beginner’s mind.