Looking at the news today can make me feel like the world is in a downward spiral. Sometimes our individual lives feel this way as well. And maybe we’d like for things to take a turn for the better, and just continue along a linear path towards perfection.
Well, life seems to follow a more cyclical, winding, spiralic path. But the good news is that we can choose to start on an upward spiral at any time and see the potential from where we currently stand.
Upping your game in life
In his inspiring book, Launch Your Life, coach Morgan Rich states that secret #1 is that: “The journey to Meaning and Fulfillment isn’t one of great leaps and bounds. It’s one of small positive steps, each of which raises you closer to the life you want. With each step, you gain more momentum, more distinctions, and greater abilities. Believe in the Upward Spiral. Take a step forward today, another tomorrow, and then another. You may start slowly, but, no matter how small your steps, your commitment and perseverance in stepping forward will create results you want.” (p.xxii)
I agree that starting with small steps is the way to go, and starting over as often as needed to persist.
Physical & Energetic Rising
In dance and yoga, we are also concerned with changes of level, making smooth transitions, rising and sinking with ever-increasing awareness and control. We don’t necessarily have the same emotional/psychological connotations to “up” and “down,” though it can be difficult to divorce ourselves from those cultural associations.
With elevation, we think of physically and metaphorically rising toward the heavens, of enlightenment, flight, and winged creatures. Ballet in particular embodies floating and flying, soaring and fluttering. Dancers can seem to defy the laws of physics by portraying supernatural beings. Of course, it is a long and gradual path to that sort of mastery.
We don’t just levitate in order to rise, though that’s also a lovely idea, we first root down, get grounded, and from there stretch to rise.
In yogic philosophy, we have the idea of an upward flow of energy through energy centers (the chakras) and along pathways (the nadis). For example, in Kundalini yoga, we speak of serpent energy spiraling up through the spine from the base and out the top of the head, through breathing techniques (pranayama) and rhythmic movements. If prana, or energy, is blocked anywhere along the way, the whole system struggles.
Thus the movements and breath of yoga are designed to release stuck places to allow the free flow of energy through the body and the spine, opening up new possibilities for us. There are even ascending levels of enlightenment, or samadhi. Another way to balance energy flow is through nadi shodhana, or alternate-nostril breathing. You can try out both alternate-nostril breathing and kundalini spinal rotations in my YouTube video, Yogic Breathing Practice – Nadi Shodhana + Kundalini spinal rotation.
Imagery for Rising
I find a number of images helpful in capturing the sense of rising in the body, such as:
- A plant growing up from deep roots towards the sun
- A strong architecture being raised up to the sky
- A floating boat buoy, anchored to the sea floor and riding the top of the waves
- A spring-action curtain rod, filling space between floor and ceiling and beyond
- The feeling of taking up space, radiating in all directions
In her book The Ballet Companion, Eliza Gaynor Minden explains that: “Relevé means ‘raised.’ You raise yourself onto demi-pointe, or full pointe. Many schools distinguish between a rise, in which you press up with straight knees, and a relevé, in which a tiny demi-plié precedes the movement to provide a little spring…Relevés develop the leg muscles, especially the calves and inner thighs. They challenge you to maintain your turnout, your alignment, and your pull-up when your heels are off the ground; they strengthen your ankles so you can safely sustain long balances…Think of pressing down to rise up. In fifth position, squeeze the legs together as you rise to make a tighter, cleaner position. As a student I was advised to hold an imaginary quarter between my inner thighs and never let it drop.” (p.130-1)
You can see that there is a spiraling network of muscles and energetic impulses and awareness at work in dancing as well. Indeed, plier (to bend) and relever eventually also form the basis of our ability to jump and leap- truly flying through the air.
If you’re interested in starting on the upward spiral of strength in physical rising, I recommend my Have a Ball! Rises (above) or Plush Paralleleves (below) exercises on YouTube, as well as the Pre-Barre Warm Up to Whet the Appetite combination that follows.
To find that sense of stability from which to rise, you’re also invited to my FREE course on Teachable, 5 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for dance and life. It only takes about 30 minutes the first time through, with practical, repeatable exercises for feeling strongly rooted from the feet up.
Plush Parallelevés Exercise (on one leg) Video on YouTube
I always include elevés (rises without first doing a plié bend) and/or relevés (rises beginning and ending from plié) when warming up or tuning up for dance!
My favorite Pre-Barre Warm Up to Whet the Appetite sequence on YouTube includes relevés on two legs and on one leg at a time
No one does it alone. Who and what will help you rise up?
And as we rise, we are responsible to lift others up as well. Who will be positively impacted by your personal uprising?
Questions for Reflection
- How are you strengthening your ability to rise?
- Who and what helps you rise up?
- What support do you need in your buoyant journey?
- Who will be positively impacted by your personal uprising?
Soon to come will be more resources on turning, putting it all together in class, improvisation, performance, choreography, purposeful living, and more!
Meanwhile, join in on my Balletlicious Building Blocks of Dance 7-Day Free Virtual Challenge and I will walk you through each of the Basic 7 Movements of ballet, and include you in my weekly email newsletter, packed with value, insight, and love.
Blythe Stephens, MFA & Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
helping multi-passionate creatives dance through their difficulties
and take leaps of faith into fulfillment
DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.