Bhangra is about being big. Dancing big, dancing wide, looking tall. You essentially wanna manspread as much as possible. One huge impediment for newer dancers, sometimes more experienced dancers too, is posture.
Posture is something that just kind of yelled out there during practice, but not actually taught. “Chin up, chest out” is a common phrase, which is helpful in the moment and then goes away when you’re not thinking about it. Which is all the time. Posture isn’t something that can be solved by yelling at dancers, you have to actually correct the issues. I’ll cover one of the many postural imbalances that impact most dancers and how to fix them.
Anterior pelvic tilt isn’t commonly discussed amongst Bhangra dancers, but it’s one I see almost on 50% of every single team I judge. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Anterior pelvic tilt is when your pelvis is rotated forward too much. Think of your hip as a bucket. When you have anterior pelvic tilt, your pelvis is tilted forward so much that water is pouring out. I’ll discuss anterior pelvic tilt in more detail a bit later.
How Does Anterior Pelvic Tilt Affect My Dancing?
“Okay and?? My booty sticks out a bit more, what does that have to do with my dancing?” With Bhangra you won’t notice anterior pelvic tilt most of the time but you will notice especially on two important steps. Beitke (squats for you uncultured heathens) and Chaal. These two steps are commonly done on drops, so you’ll want to make sure that your posture is picture perfect.
Chaal is the footwork where your legs make a nice rectangle and is commonly used at drops. Beitke is that aggressive squatting bouncing step.
When you have a more aggressive anterior pelvic tilt, your hips tilt forward, your butt sticks out and now you’re in this awkward position where chest is upright but your butt is sticking out a ton. Compare the two side pictures of me doing chaal, one with anterior pelvic tilt and one with proper posture.
Notice how my back and my butt form a clean straight line while the other shows my butt sticking out and has this curved appearance. During chaal you want to actively tuck your butt in so you can create that clean straight posture.
You may say “okay cool so I won’t do chaal that shows my trash posture, problem solved”. Not quite. If you look back at the photos above you’ll notice the height difference in the first and second photo. The picture with anterior pelvic tilt has to lean forward just a bit to maintain balance thus making the person’s height shorter. The picture with the straight back because I don’t have to lean forward. In both pictures, the width of my chaal is about the same, the bent back one is slightly narrower, but I definitely look shorter with a bent back. Anterior pelvic tilt is more pronounced in the side profile, but your chaal will look objectively weaker when viewed from the front if you have an extreme anterior pelvic tilt.
What is Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
I’m a medical student so indulge me for a second while I explain the anatomy. If you don’t care, scroll a bit further to the tldr.
Anterior pelvic tilt is caused by a muscular imbalance of a few muscles, mainly rour gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, abdominus rectus muscles, and your hip flexors (iliacus, psoas major and minor, rectus femoris). Your hip flexors pull the top of your hip forward creating the anterior pelvic tilt. Your glutes will push your hips forwards correcting the anterior pelvic tilt. Your rectus abdominus is the major abdominal muscles that counteracts your hip flexors pulling the bottom of your hip forward. So when the rectus abdominis is contracted, it pulls the bottom of your hips forward. If both the hip flexors and retus abdominis pull your hips forward at the same strength, then your hips stay straight rather than tilted.
Why Do I Have an Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
The way your body adapts to anterior pelvic tilt is through general weakness of your abdomen and gluteal muscles combined with tight hip flexors. The tight hip flexors generally come about because when you’re sitting, your hips are flexed, and we spend a lot of time during the day with our hips flexed. This leads to the muscle getting shorter and tighter rather than long and flexible. Now you have these tighter hip flexors and generally they’d get counteracted by your gluteal muscles and rectus abdominis, but because those are weaker they get beaten by the hip flexors leaving you in a position where your hip is tilted more forward.
Tldr; the reason you have anterior pelvic tilt is because you sit all day, you have a flat ass, and no abs.
How Do I Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
If your hip flexor muscles are tight and your glutes and abs are weak, all you have to do is reverse it. Stretch your hip flexors and do some weight training that targets your butt and abs.
Do whatever glute and ab exercises you want to do. Squats, bridges, weighted hip thrusts, etc for your butt and whatever ab routine you like. Just do it consistently and that’ll be more than enough to train those muscles. To combat the tight hip flexors here are a few stretches you can do. They’ll take less than 5 minutes each day.
The first stretch will focus on your iliacus and psoas muscles. You’re going get into a lunging position with your knee on the ground, feel free to put something soft on the ground like a towel or pillow to cushion your knees. From there, put your hand on your butt and push it forward while also leaning forward. You should feel a stretch at the front of your hip. If you’re not feeling that stretch, first make sure that your glutes are contracted and you’re actively pushing your hip forward. From there you can increase the stretch by leaning forward more, raising the arm on the same side up, and by twisting your torso away from that leg. Hold this for 1 minute on each side.
Rectus Femoris Stretch
The second stretch is similar to the first one but targets the rectus femoris, which is the hip flexor muscle that runs down the middle of your front of your thigh. This time you’re going to prop your back leg flat against a wall. Just like the first stretch, make sure that your glutes are actively contracting and lean into the lunge. You can increase the stretch by leaning forward more, raising the arm on the same side up, and by twisting your torso away from that leg. If you start feeling a lot of pain with either of these movements, release the stretch. A little stretching feeling is good, pain is not. Hold this for 1 minute on each side.
Do this everyday and after a bit, you’ll notice that you won’t have to struggle with your posture when getting into Chaal because your butt will line up with your back easily.
Hopefully this is helpful for y’all. I’ll do a deeper dive into workouts and stretches to improve your form, but in the mean time. Drop some comments below if you’re interested in any Bhangra moves you specifically want me to cover.