Tag Archives: RaqiSa Pilates

RaqiSa Fitness: WHAT DOES YOUR POSTURE SAY ABOUT YOU?

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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!

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RaqiSa Fitness: The Trained Belly Dancer V.S. The Fitness Professional. Who is More Qualified?

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The featured image is my friend Oreet.  Oreet is an award-winning professional belly dancer.  She is also, the accomplished creator and President of SharQui, The Belly Dance Workout: A heart pumping belly dance cardio workout seen in clubs across America, (www.sharqui.com).  I met Oreet at a fitness conference in California years ago.  We hit it off instantly as we both love belly dance as an art form, AND we also 100% believe that there is room for belly dance as a fitness solution in the competitive market of Health and Wellness.  In contrast to Oreet’s amazing cardio workout; I created Belly-Barre.  In fact, I created it not just for you, but also for ME.  I wanted to tone and sculpt; I wanted to enhance my posture; I wanted to perfect my dance technique; I wanted to encourage other women to be healthy and fit as well as see themselves as beautiful.  Belly-Barre as well as the whole “Belly” series combines my passion for Belly Dance as a legit dance and my passion and talents as a fitness professional.  Both are results based workouts, both celebrate and respect the cultural aspects of belly dance.

As you can probably tell, I have great respect for Oreet and I consider it a great honor to have presented workshops for Certified SharQui Instructors.  Many of my offered workshops were in support of the belly dance fitness movement.  Together, we desire to bring a fresh approach to belly dance fitness.  But there hangs from the heavens  a question that  Oreet and I have grappled with:  Just Who is More Qualifed to Teach in a Group Exercise Setting?  The Trained Belly Dancer or the Certified Fitness Professional?  I wrote this article originally simply to flesh out my thinking.  I went on to share this with Oreet to extend to her audience as I believe together we have different audiences who may gain from this.   So read on and feel free to weigh in on this discussion:

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The Belly Dancer V.S. The Fitness Professional

There is an interesting consideration to address in regard to who is better suited to teach a belly dance class in a group exercise setting. Certainly, trained belly dance professionals who have committed years perfecting technique may feel that they are the more qualified candidate. And interestedly, while the Group Exercise professional who has a keen understanding of the anatomy and is trained to cue and present in a group exercise setting, may feel in actuality, incapable (or unworthy) to teach this ancient art as it is indeed seeped in solid technique with many intricacies. The dance professionals many years of dedication and determination with respect to the dance itself is to be respected and is indeed impressive. Equally, the art of a perfectly formatted group exercise experience with the talent to cue for form and technique whilst keeping the group exercise experience alive is also impressive. There is room for both professionals to learn from the other.

For those who have spent years as students of belly dance, it is almost offensive to hear of someone who is “self-taught” declare themselves as a belly dance instructor. A trained eye sees the error of poor posture and improper technique. To be sure, those who have years of training in Belly Dance have a certain ease and finesse with the dance itself; they have a deep-rooted understanding of the music and the rhythms and they will likely see it as impossible to learn the dance in a one-day training. They are right.

On the other hand, Group Exercise instructors spend years perfecting the “art of transition” as it relates to a perfectly formatted group class using music in a very different way. Their expertise, is quite different — keeping the flow and the fitness aspect alive throughout the duration of an hour-long workout is also a perfected talent which qualifies the group instructor as a “professional.” Group exercise professionals are required to keep up with the latest research and science as it relates to injury prevention, regression and progression options for all body types, and over all health and fitness information. Years of study and hours of learning contribute to their expertise. To be sure, their contribution regarding safe and effective technique is relevant and should be noted.

RaqiSa Fitness (& SharQui) brings together the belly dance professional and the group exercise professional and bridges the gap. We believe that the group exercise professional should feel fully capable and worthy to learn this ancient art; but this doesn’t happen in one day. Likewise, the Belly Dance Professional will need to learn safe and effective cueing and science, which also, does not happen overnight. Both professionals will need additional practice and support from each other.

Whatever your background, preparing to teach any format will take time, practice, and commitment. In addition, it takes a lot of heart and courage to teach. But what I think all can agree upon is that the love of the dance expressed professionally and through proper technique promotes the beautiful RaqiSa (& SharQui) message that women are beautiful, capable, strong, yet elegant.

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In Summation:  “RaqiSa” means “female dancer” and to me; it’s about preparing the body to “do life” easier.  It’s about capturing, through dance and fitness “a confident woman.” “SharQui” is the authentic name for the Dance of the East.  And to be sure, you will burn incredible calories as you “Shake Your Beauty!” with SharQui!  So, whether you are a legit dancer, a fitness instructor, or a participant who is seeking a fitness solution, know that if you are interested enough you CAN become amazing in all areas, as long as you humbly accept that you may need to learn from another expert.  I suppose the lesson learned should be more about being gracious.  Graciously give and graciously receive.  Indeed, I know both Oreet and I subscribe to this whole-heartedly.