Category Archives: Functional Training

RaqiSa Fitness: Why I Train RaqiSa Dancers for Spinal Flexibility and Trunk Stability with A Fitness Ball.

1_pKvjA6sM6OJRZJ1vbyJ0nOCzrKMz-pDcx7aFotokU,rgL7xUJaZiAnBsvdtd8bNZQ7eHe2LadCvcc7U1NrdS0
RaqiSa students love to work with the veil.  But what they may or may not realize is that there is a RaqiSa training method behind learning how to express this beautiful dance which includes trunk stabilization and spinal mobility training. Learn how belly ball training tones and sculpts as well as prepares the body to dance all RaqiSa styles, (but especially this popular veil dance), with the proper RaqiSa Posture and Grace!

I have been teaching belly dance for fitness for a long time.  What you may be surprised to know is just how rewarding my job is on several levels.  Sure, I help women get fit, and that’s just fantastic.  As the obesity epidemic in America tops the charts, I know that my job is helping tip that scale toward optimal good health and well-being in active participants.  Ask any fitness professional…I am inclined to believe that across the board each will say,  “I love my job.”

But RaqiSa Belly Dance for fitness is special.  Based on my humble observation, and the many years of teaching, women who initially participate in a belly dance for fitness class, will walk in with hesitation.  The exception may be if the participant is Middle Eastern, and they are aware of the cultural aspects of belly dance and her many traditions and roots.  Otherwise, for most, there is a certain mystic and uncertainty that ensues.  I suppose there is this projected film image, that is emblazoned in the mind, of tantalizing women in movies who wiggle and move their hips seductively during a scene filled with men, who are foaming at the mouth.  This is unfortunately a grave misconception of this timeless, elegant art form with deep cultural roots.  And, please, let me be clear: RaqiSa Dance is in actuality a beautiful, (and dare I say) respectable dance enjoyed with and for women to celebrate her beauty, to celebrate family, and even love.

In due time, women who grow in the signature RaqiSa formats, such as Belly Barre, Belly Dance, and Belly Ball often share with me three amazing things:  1) they are acutely aware of their posture throughout the day, 2) they are complimented by others as they walk with a renewed confidence, 3) they are becoming more fit and flexible, with the added benefit of noticeably more defined abdominals! Do you realize how that makes me feel as a fitness professional?  It’s pretty awesome, I can assure you.

To help speed the muscle development as well as the necessary mobility and stability required to be an effective RaqiSa dancer, I train with a fitness ball.  Seriously, who doesn’t love playing with a ball?  It’s probably the first word most children say, and it’s the one sportive equipment enjoyed at any age.  It also happens to be the perfect solution toward effective RaqiSa fitness training.  But before I offer my summation, let’s talk essential ball and fitness logistics:

Safety & Guidelines

♦  There are two standard fitness ball sizes: 55 cm & 65 cm.

♦  Standard rule: When seated on the ball the knees should be in line with the hips or slightly above the hips, this determines which ball to use for you. (Test this on a 55 cm or 65 cm ball to see which is best for you).

♦  Maintain good postural alignment by contracting abdominals and keep the chest lifted.  Note: shoulders dropped in opposition (and relaxed) if ball is over head.

♦  When learning choreography, master the foot pattern first, then add the ball.

♦  When learning seated ball exercises, beginners should hold on the ball until they are securely engaged through the core for stability. Tip: Find neutral spine and keep shoulders and hips “squared.”

Benefits 

Working with a fitness ball trains all three planes of motion which enhances overall athletic performance and serves as a method to prevent injury.  In addition, other benefits include:

♦  Improved coordination, balance, and body awareness

♦ Optimal upper body conditioning as both arms are in constant action, unlike unilateral movements performed with a    dumbbell.  (This is very much like working with a veil)

♦  An increase in muscular strength and endurance in the upper body.

♦  An improvement in deep abdominal stabilization and an increase in hip range of motion when training seated on the ball.

In SRaQuisa SM_Logo_2c-JPEG 2.11.2014 copyummation, training with a fitness ball will help prepare the body to effectively DANCE.  Of particular interest to RaqiSa enthusiasts, the upper body movement is likened to that of a veil and the seated movement enhances hip awareness as it increases hip range of motion.  Consider if you will the three dimensional upper body and hip movements one must master with balance and precision. And how about the many stretching options when working with the ball?  The possibilities are endless.  So if you see Belly Ball as a RaqiSa option, careful to not dismiss this amazing workout, (and effective dance teaching technique).  Try belly ball.  You can expect to enjoy rapid results with a bonus “fun factor” as you add “play” to your day.  Seriously.  I. LOVE. MY. JOB!

Be sure to follow me on twitter @theraqisamethod or LIKE RaqiSa Fitness on FB.  

The Belly Ball workout is currently in production, so stay tuned for this amazing RaqiSa Fitness solution!

Advertisements

RaqiSa Fitness: WHAT DOES YOUR POSTURE SAY ABOUT YOU?

soraya157

There was a time in my life I wanted to be an actress.  A professional actress. Not necessarily famous…just paid to do what I loved. So, I studied the Theatre Arts for both my BA and my MA. I did my professional internships; I learned to juggle, tap, and belt a song nearly as big and loud as Ethel Merman… Eventually I met my goal and became a “paid” actress…

But this blog is not about my theatre accomplishments.  I promise.  It is about posture.  So stay with me.

One of the the many acting forms one studies as an actor is “Improvisational Theatre.” Now with improv, you have to establish a character for your audience pretty quickly because the script is being made up the moment it is performed.  Therefore an actor needs to convey his or her character rapidly; and an instant way to convey a character “type” is to demonstrate it through POSTURE.  In essence, your posture reads a certain way which can place you in a “class” or in the theatre…it establishes your “status.”

To be sure, a leading “high” character who may be the hero would likely have a strong and confident posture. Chest lifted, sure-footed, and seemingly “anchored.” Whereas the “lowly” character would have forward rounded shoulders, their feet may shuffle, and probably their hips would be pressed forward out of natural line. Then there may be the character who has a sway back, only to add an increase to the belly. An actor may gesture as if the belly is large, just to add humorous interest. Oh, boy, did I LOVE playing a character. It was so fun! Just change your posture and instantly the audience could pick up on the “status” of the character.

So. Tough question: Right here and now. How would your posture read to an audience? Which character might you play? Which would you prefer to play? Sure, in reality, you are loved by your circle of family and friends…but a stranger – someone who has never met you. Without opening your mouth, how would YOUR posture read?

For me personally, I can say honestly that I had to work on my postural stamina. Sure I could make it appear like I had good posture…after all, I was an “actress!” But I wanted elegance in my posture even if I wasn’t “on.” I just wanted it to be me. Soraya. Soraya, the woman known to have great, elegant posture.  So, I began by planking daily and adding to my repertoire of exercises.  That was nearly 18 years ago. Over time, I noticed great progress in my postural stamina. Today, I like to think that me, Soraya, is a leading character. And I want you to share the stage with me as the leading character. To be sure, RaqiSa Fitness stresses postural alignment and works toward enhancing overall posture by training each muscle involved. I call it “RaqiSa Posture.” I like to think of “RaqiSa Women” as women who are fit, feminine, and confident.  While muscle development isn’t instant, trust that in time, with the many RaqiSa exercises, you will see progress. Please be aware, that total muscle balance is the goal. But for today, seize the moment and practice these three exercises daily toward better posture for tomorrow:

Deep Core Muscle Engagement:  You have probably been mesmerized by watching a belly dancer “roll their belly.” This deep muscle contraction begins by learning how to isolate the transverse abdominus muscle – separate from isolating the upper half of the rectus abdominus muscle. It is quite impressive, I must say. But for today, let’s just work on isolating the transverse abdominus muscle because it’s our “powerhouse” or anchor muscle which provides pelvic stability. All movement should be performed first by engaging this muscle, and it is essential to amazing posture.

Try this: Begin by placing your hand on your belly button. Without moving your hand, draw your navel in toward your spine, engaging your deep abdominal muscles. Release so your belly button returns back on your hand. Repeat engaging and releasing with a steady inhale and exhalation for a total of 3 sets of 12. Ultimately, your goal is to learn how to keep your navel drawn into your spine all day long. Especially when you are about to do a functional task such as lifting, twisting, or reaching or any single leg balance activity.

Gluteal Contractions:  You may be surprised to learn that a RaqiSa Drum Routine is quite intense and athletic. In addition to core stabilization muscles, the gluteal muscles aid in what are called “locks” as they help to bring fast hip movement to a halt. In addition, learning to recruit the gluteal muscles for stabilization is an excellent primer for balance and posture and is a great “fall prevention” technique.  Working the front and back muscles are important toward an enhanced posture.

Try This: There are two ways I suggest to train.  The first way is quite easy and can be done while you are driving. Seriously. Next time you are in your car, engage, or squeeze your gluteal muscles, then release.  Contract and release your glutes to the beat of at least three upbeat songs on the radio. The second way is to try to isolate and contract the right glute, then the left. I don’t recommend this while driving as it does take more thought and we don’t want to get into an accident…unless you are at a stop light…then it’s okay!  *To test for posture from a standing position, repeat #1 and draw you naval in, then squeeze and hold your glutes and elongate your spine upward. (Careful not to tilt backward, stay “stacked” with ears, shoulders, and hips in line. Relax those shoulders) Squeeze, then release the muscles. *Challenge – Keep knees and ankles glued and stand on your tippy toes.  When you feel as if you are going to fall or tip over, squeeze, or tighten your glutes. Observe how you can recruit your glutes to aid in balance.

Scapula Retraction Pulses – Keeping the spine sturdy and elongated is an essential part of the RaqiSa carriage. This is where the “grace” is initially observed well before there is any hip movement. With RaqiSa, it is your “presence” or your “grace” that is so captivating. As we live in a computer age world and we are seated for long periods of time, we tend to slouch. Overtime, this will cause stretched and weakened Rhomboids, as well as Trapezius muscles. (These muscles “anchor” the shoulder blades to the spinal column along the back.)  Meanwhile, our chest will cave in, causing the pectoral muscles to take on all the slack.

Try this: Begin by elongating your neck upward, as you slide your shoulders in opposition downward. Bend your arms and bring your elbows into the posterior part of your ribcage. As you pinch and release your shoulder blades together in a pulsing motion, your chest will expand and open. Keep your head level. Pinch and release 30 times daily. This works your back muscles.

In Summation.  These are just three exercises to work on as a starting point.  But be assured, in time, with RaqiSa planking and Belly Barre exercises, your posture will ripen beautifully in due time.  No, I no longer feel the need to take on a new character for a live audience.  For today, I just want to be me, Soraya – playing myself.

As for you.  Just be you, as you try this last exercise: In a natural standing position with shoulder and hips forward like “head lights”, draw in your naval as in exercise # 1 and keep this hold. Elongate your neck upward, and slide your blades downward in opposition. Expand your chest. Remember to keep thinking “up” from the crown of your head. Smile. Always smile. Smile from behind your eyes. Walk naturally. If you feel you are going to tilt or fall, well, recruit those glutes!  Be the leading character daily with these three instant RaqiSa exercises!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, or “like” RaqiSa Fitness” on Facebook for more updates.

An Ancient Solution To Our Modern Day Problems

G7fV_mQTb2IE_86m3PdMWBrxMhBypoLZno3KekGWJto,w0CChz_PAJy63P3vZbJg6cXadn_4F4OIqcF1WQB0zhw

I TRULY MARVEL. We are beautifully and wonderfully made. Consider this: each muscle is designed in delicate order to serve a purpose so we may function daily “doing life” with ease and precision. Seriously, let this sink in for a moment. Each muscle in your precious body has a purpose. But there is more. We were not only designed with a delicate balance of muscle, but our bodies are capable of moving lyrically through space and time because we are beautifully divided into upper and lower extremities; our hips and arms can abduct and adduct; our trunk can rotate, flex, and extend!  Why?  Because we are designed with the ability to move in three brilliant planes of motion, properly known as: The Saggital Plane (movement forward and backward), The Frontal Plane (movement side to side), and The Transverse Plane (movement that is rotational). But there is a catch. If we neglect these beautiful muscles, in due time they will begin to weaken or become inflexible and we risk injury…or with an aging body…we risk a serious fall. And, if we don’t train all three planes of motion, injury may ensue.

AN ANCIENT SOLUTION TO OUR MODERN DAY PROBLEMS. It occurred to me during one of my fitness workshops, as we were studying movement patterns, and the many benefits that come with “multi-planar training,” that the women who gathered in the ancient dance of the Middle East,  knew something about our need to achieve and preserve optimal health and fitness for function. While there are limited resources, and there is much debate on the true origins, oral history suggests this ancient dance was a practice originally shared with women as a means to ease child-birth.  Only later was it coined “Belly Dance” because of the cool belly tricks observed by Westerners.  Indeed, belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing, multi-planar, workout.  Envision if you will: Belly Dance is primarily a torso-driven dance, with an emphasis on articulations, mostly through the hips, (i.e. hip twists, slides, and figure eights to name a few). Add any one of these articulations to a lateral travel or a forward or backward walk (or even a lunge) and guess what? You have multi-planar movement!

Let me be clear, I didn’t make this dance up. No, it’s as ancient as it comes; but it was passed down to me at a very early age as a part of my culture. RaqiSa embraces this age-old dance, and strives to revive this “girl power” practice into the here and now, because in addition to the many health benefits, it’s good for the soul.  Belly Dance notoriously promotes a positive body image for women of all ages and all sizes.  While the RaqiSa choreography is fun & flirty, the training is a series of intense, results based formats, which will tone, sculpt, and stretch your muscles. Each workout is uniquely designed to demystify belly dance and speed the learning curve, so that you can enjoy the many benefits that come with belly dance.

IN SUMMATION.  Your motivation to stay fit may be because you want to look good. Sure, we all like that as an added benefit. But truth be told, there should be an expectation – an urgency on our part to prioritizes fitness simply because we ought to be balanced and fit so that we may “do life” physically with ease.  So why not train like the women who gathered in dance?  Belly Dancing works the body as a unit, connecting all the parts at once, relying on deep stabilizer muscles to maintain precision.  Oh…and it’s a lot of fun.

Realize your body’s potential to achieve a higher standard.  Because if we don’t train or condition our muscles evenly and on many planes, then we are doing our bodies a disservice.  So go ahead!  Marvel at how beautifully you were designed.  Walk in front of the mirror and dance around and say, “Wow!  It’s me moving in 3-D – and I’m amazing!”

RaqiSa 2015 Workouts are in production.  So please stay tuned for these RaqiSa signature formats:  Belly Barre, Belly Ball, and Belly Dance.  Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more updates.