On Practice

Things have been quiet here on the OmChantress blog because I've mostly been keeping my head down and focusing on my own work.  Last weekend I was in Ocean City at Art of the Belly.  I performed with Transcendence Tribal and Verve Tribal (video coming soon).  While I was there I took some belly dance workshops with Jill Parker and for the first time in a long while I was able to see some clear benefits to my regular practice.

As part of my preparation for the next phase of 8 Elements dance intensive with Rachel Brice, I have been tirelessly drilling fundamental hipwork.  A basic standing shimmy, hips on the up and on the down, 3/4 shimmy on the up and the down, plus at least additional one isolation with a simple foot pattern.  Now if you're not a belly dancer, that probably means nothing to you, but the point is, it's the very basics.  Simple. Easy. It takes fifteen minutes. Every day.  I had gotten to the point recently where I was starting to wonder: is this doing anything for me?  But I kept at it because I trust my teacher to tell me what's good for me.  When I was at the workshops this weekend, I had to speed up my hipwork, add variations, and learn more complex combinations and I was able to learn way faster than I ever had before.  It was remarkable!  I have always felt like a "slow learner" when it comes to new movements, but I was totally on it this weekend!  What a great feeling.  I have finally gotten to a point where I have a vocabulary of fundamental movements so engrained in my body and brain that they come automatically.  I don't have to think about that stuff, and so when I'm learning something new, I can just focus on what's new and build on the foundation I've already established through practice.

Many people, even at the beginning, get hung up on "advancing" to the next thing, and I'm certainly guilty of this myself in many, many ways.  I'm sharing this experience with you so that you have an example of why the fundamentals are important, not just in dance, but in yoga too.  I'm not trying to hold anyone back from advancing, whatever that might mean, to you. I'm just suggesting that you also keep up your practice of the basics.  If you continue to revisit basic movement patterns, even for only fifteen minutes at a time, you will be able to engrain healthy, effective habits that will build the foundation of a more advanced practice.  If this seems boring to you, give what you are doing even more attention.  Get super interested in the details of what you are experiencing.  Where are you feeling the work? How is your breathing? Your energy level? Does it feel any different than yesterday?  If you can stay curious about your practice, it will never get boring.  Same with meditation.  The more you do it, it will come with greater ease, even if on a day-to-day basis it may feel like you're not making any progress.  You are.  Stick with it.

Kallisti at Moonlight Tribal Lounge, February 9th


A new monthly event that showcases fusion and experimental styles of belly dance as well as American Tribal style.

Saturday, February 9th

Doors open at 8pm

$10, plus American cuisine from the menu

Loafers Bar and Grill

6518 Baltimore National Pike 

Catonsville, MD 21228

This month features:
Kallisti Tribal
and Alyssum Pohl

The show will be from 9pm-11pm but the restaurant remains open until 2am so come party with us and experience live performances from some of the area's finest.

RSVP at the Facebook Event

Flissy at DC Tribal Cafe January 27th

I'm pleased (and admittedly, a bit terrified) to share that I'm performing a solo set at DC Tribal Cafe on Sunday, January 27th!  This monthly event is the best place to see Tribal and Fusion bellydance in the DC area.  I promise you will have fun.  This show also features Hot Ink and Mavi!


DC Tribal Cafe

Saturday, January 27th

Doors 5pm, Show 6pm


The Reef

2446 18th St. NW, Washington, DC

Platypus Water Bottle


I just got back from traveling over the holidays and wanted to share a new travel goodie with you.  It's a Platypus collapsible water bottle.  I have the .5L/17oz. size., and as you can see, when it's full of water, it is (roughly) the shape of a normal water bottle.  When it's empty, it's completely flat and can be folded or rolled up on itself to stash in a pocket or a handbag.

One thing I was afraid of is that it would be easy to squeeze the bottle too hard and spill water all over the place.  That doesn't happen because, apparently, the plastic is some magically perfect balance of rugged and supple. It will hold it's shape when you're drinking out of it, yet it will squish around to fit whatever space is available in your bag.  It hasn't leaked a drop, and will stand up like a normal bottle even if it's only partially filled with water.

I'm used to carrying a larger (27 ounce) bottle as my everyday water bottle, so it does seem a bit on the small side.  Still, 17 ounces is plenty to get you from one water fountain to the next if you're just running around town or in and out of airports.  Water is actually pretty heavy to carry, so if you're really trying to cut down on how much you're dragging around, it's worth the extra refill stops.  Overall, it's a good size for traveling, and a real bargain at only $8!

Yang Yoga Practice for SI joint dysfunction


As I have mentioned previously in this blog, I’ve had chronic issues with my sacroiliac joint.  When I had my most recent flare up, I couldn’t manage on my own and went to a physical therapist, and I also saw a yoga therapist/structural integration therapist (AKA Rolfer).  One of the things I learned that I had suspected for quite some time is that I am more flexible than I am strong.  My yoga therapist recommended that I avoid yin yoga and hot yoga.  Guess what kind of yoga I teach?  Oops.  I had to dramatically change how I practice and how I teach.  I still teach both hot vinyasa and yin, but I am a lot more careful about it.  I avoid demonstrating complex or advanced poses and I no longer hold poses with my students when I teach my yin classes.  Is it kind of a drag? Yes.  But as this article articulates beautifully, the goal is balance in asana practice, not the most flexibility ever.  It’s become more important in my yoga classes, especially for people new to yoga, to teach them to create more functional movement patterns. Often that means limiting range of motion and doing “easier” variations of poses so that there is no way to cheat your way into making the shape of a pose without using the muscles I want you to learn to use.  I’m sneaky like that.

I still recommend my yin practice for SI issues, and I find the forward folding to backward bending sequence helpful for adjusting any misalignments.  One of the funny things about my SI issues is that my IT band and glutes would be really tight feeling so pigeon-family poses feel awesome on my tweaked out side.  But I learned from my PT that the tension was those muscles hanging on for dear life and not really operating in a functional way.  I had to retrain those deep core musces to work properly.  It’s still OK for me to do those super-satisfying yin style poses but they must balanced with strengthening excercises, otherwise there’s no way the sacrum is going to stay where it’s supposed to be. 

Here’s a complementary therapeutic “yang” practice that is a mashup of physical therapy, viniyoga, and pilates that I’ve found helpful for stabilizing the SI joint.  I might do this after a short yin practice or before dancing when I know my sacrum and low back is likely to take a beating.  I also will use a sampling of these poses and variations before a vinyasa practice to wake up the psoas and other deep core muscles so they will support me throughout a vigorous practice.  Like many injuries and conditions, one solution isn’t going to work for everyone.  This is just what has worked for me.  Hope you find some things in here that work for you, too.

Therapeutic Yang Yoga(ish) Sequence for SI Joint Happiness

  • Apanasana: Startign on your back.  With hands on knees, exhale knees to chest, inhale knees press away.  8 times.
  • Hip Flexor Thing: Keep hugging one knee to chest.   Inhale free leg extends straight and low an inch from the floor.  Exhale leg reaches straight and high.  Inhale straight and low.  Exhale knee to chest.  5 times on each side.
  • Heel Taps: Knees over hips, shins parallel to floor.  Inhale tap heel to floor.  Exhale back to starting position.  20 times, alternating legs.
  • Supine Marching: Knees over hips, shins parallel to floor. Inhale, extend one leg straight and low an inch from the floor.  Exhale back to starting position.  20 times, alternating legs.
  • Apanasana: 8 times.
  • One Leg Bridge Lifts:  Feet on floor close to hips.  Hug one knee to chest.  On inhale, press other foot into floor and lift hips.  Hold 5 seconds and lower on the exhale.  5 times on each side.
  • Viminasana:  On belly, hands close to lower ribs.  Inhale lift chest and lift legs, spreading legs wide.  Exhale lower halfway and squeeze knees together.  Inhale lift and legs wide again.  Exhale squeeze legs and lower all the way down.  Note: Squeeze your inner thighs like your going to crack a walnut! Fierce! Make sure your knees rotate to face towards the floor as you lower back down.
  • Chakravakasana: From hands and knees.  On exhale, pull in your low belly and press your hips back TOWARDS your heels but don’t go all the way back.  Inhale back to hands and knees, lifting chest.  Viminiasana is super stabilizing for the sacrum, so we don’t want to wreck any nice adjustment that happened by pulling it out of alignment again for the satisfaction of pressing all the way back to child’s pose.
  • Clamshell:  Lie on your side, knees bent. Inhale, lift top knee up without tilting your hips.  Err on the side of keeping it small and stabilize your core.  Exhale lower. 30 times each side.
  • Bridge Lifts:  On your back, heels close to hips, feet parallel.  On inhale, press into feet and lift hips, low back, upper back.  Exhale, lower upper back, lower back, hips down.  Try to isolate each part of spine as much as possible.  Four times, then widen feet about two inches.  Repeat two more times, widening feet a little each time.
  • Apanasana: 8 times.
  • Supta Baddha Konasana:  On your back, heels close to hips, let knees fall open.  Take 5-10 breaths to close them again.  5 times.
  • Supported Savasana: Bolster or blanket under knees for at least five minutes.