Tango Cross-Training: Lumbar Spine and Posture

Exercising and stretching can help your tango.

We have been talking a lot lately about our cross-training and body conditioning efforts and how they impact our dance. This post is about conditioning your body, in which we explore various posture or movement issues and the exercises that will help correct them.

sometimes our bodies actually inhibit our good posture

While we are always finding ways to correct our posture, many times a day, everyday, we realize that sometimes our bodies actually inhibit our good posture, because they are weak in some places, too tight in others, and maybe even too flexible. Today we are going to look specifically at the lumbar spine (that’s the low back), since it is often the source of spinal postural problems and for many of us, pain.

So here is the region considered the lumbar spine, which naturally has about a 30-35% angle extending from the sacrum:

posture of the lumbar spine

The natural inward curvature of our low back is technically called lordosis. Often, the lordosis is exaggerated, in which case, it is referred to as hyperlordosis. Most lumbar spine problems come from either a natural hyperlordosis, a deliberately exaggerated one, the over correction of lordosis, and pelvic misalignment. We’ll look at all of these more closely below.

Do you have any of the following problems?

Posture: Lumbar hyperlordosis:

Women, generally, have a tendency to let their pelvis tilt anteriorly, creating hyperlordosis, but men also possess this inclination. We see exaggerated hyperlordosis  very commonly in Argentine tango followers, as they seek the connection with their partner by displacing their ribcage forward and sticking their bottoms out to maintain their “axis.” Some followers even pursue and develop this look as a stylistic element. However, creating an exaggerated curvature in the spine is likely to create back, sacral, and knee problems, also reducing our ability to maintain core strength over time.

Causes of hyperlordosis can vary, but common ones include weak abdominal muscles and tight hip flexors.

Cross-training for hyperlordosis:

You will need to assess your body for reasons you might have hyperlordosis. Sometimes, all you need is to become aware of it, and correct it by lengthening your spine and adjusting your sacrum.

If doing this feels strained, you can do abdominal crunches (but not flat-back sit-ups, which can actually strengthen and tighten your hip flexors, rather than your abdominals) and stretch your lower back. Cat-cow stretches are good and relatively safe for stretching both your lower back and your abdominals. On a daily basis, find moments to make sure that you are toning your abdominals so you contain your organs (rather than letting your tummy hang out), but be careful of over contracting these. There is an important balance to finding stability and release, as always.

Stretching your hamstrings and your hip flexors can also be beneficial if they seem tight.

Posture: Flatback

Over correction or flat back:

Sometimes, we focus so much on having a straight spine, especially if we are highly tense, we will unnaturally reduce the lordosis in our lumbar spine. Since our spine sits at a slight angle on our sacrum, over straightening our back can be just as damaging to our intervetebral disks as lordosis.

Fatigue posture or hips forward.

Causes and exercises to fix fatigue posture:

(Medical disclaimer at end)

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