The floor, whether it be a dance floor or your living room floor, is there to support you. We must learn to accept and love it. It can provide us with a sense of balance, awareness and feedback if we let it.
Try something: Stand with your feet in parallel on the floor. Close your eyes and become aware of your feet pushing down into the floor. Where is your weight centered? Is it on your heels, toes, inside or outside edge of your foot? Now switch your thinking a little- Where is the floor pushing up on your feet? We often are not aware of the body in this sense. However, it can provide a great new insight and way of correcting movement and posture with this one small change. Suddenly if I try to change where the floor is giving pressure to my feet, it opens a whole new thought process of how to change my alignment to affect my standing posture. If you are attempting to do this in real time as you are reading, you will probably notice that the rest of your body makes adjustments naturally as you play with the weight of the floor. If you are a dance teacher and have been having trouble with alignment corrections and body awareness in some of your students, this may be a helpful way to change up the language you are using and see if it gives you more of the results you are looking for. (The use of language and imagery in the dance studio is a topic I could go on forever about, so stay tuned!)
The same principles can be applied in any position. Take core work for instance. When I work with my patients one of the first things I teach them is how to lie on their backs and activate their core muscles. We then add various arm and leg movements as they improve to challenge their stability and strength. The goal with each of these progressions is to hold their trunk steady while the arms and the legs are all that move. There are times that no matter how many different ways I try to correct their core muscle activation they just cannot sense what is supposed to happen. So we flip it. Instead of trying to not move the body on the floor, we try to not move the floor on the body. Bam! Works almost every time. Try it out- lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Again, close your eyes and sense where the floor is pushing upwards on your body. Sense it at your feet, your pelvis, spine, all the way up to your head. When you try to move your arms and legs, don't let the pressure of the floor change at any of those points. Whether you want to believe it or not, your trunk and core muscles are helping to stabilize you, and you didn't even have to tell them to do it. Give it a shot next time you are working on core strengthening.
The other big piece this can help is jumping. Now I recognize that when you jump your feet actually leave the floor, but how to you get up their in the first place? If you have been paying attention , then you already know the floor has something to do with it. There are a ton a bio-mechanical principles at play with jumping that I could bore you with all day, but if we really simplify and break it down, just let the floor help you! Rather than imagining pushing off the floor to get higher, imagine digging down into the floor and allowing it to push back against you as you take off. This will make sure your entire foot stays in contact with the floor during the prep stage of your jump so that you can actually get up higher. One of my biggest pet peeves when I am working on jumping with a dancer, is that their heels never want to stay down. They pop up early almost every time, and without realizing it, this is actually limiting how high the jump can be. So next time you do a sauté, I want you to push your whole foot into the floor and feel the floor push back (yes, that means the heels too). As you take off the floor helps propel you upwards, and again accepts your weight as you land.
Learning to accept that the floor is there to help you will make all the difference in the way you think about your daily life or dance technique. I hope I got your wheels turning a bit! Try it out next time you are dancing or exercising and let me know how it goes!!
In case you were wondering, a sandy beach totally counts as the floor... especially when you are daydreaming of being on vacation :-)