In class, most dancers learn techniques for stretching and warming up healthily and safely. But it's also extremely important to stretch at home. Here are some stretches that every dancer can do to help him/her become more flexible, safely (featuring Ella, Skyler, and McKenzi ):
1. Getting/Improving Your Splits
Step 1: Go into a deep lunge with your hips square and your knee directly over your ankle. Make sure your back leg is straight!
Step 2: Lower your back knee to the floor and press your hips forward, like so:
Step 3: Sit back on your back knee, while still staying over your leg. Straighten your front leg, lean forward from the waist, and try to touch your head to your knee.
Step 4: Slide slowly into your split. Whether you are able to do a full split or not, keep your upper body upright and focus your energy to your center (it will help you get lower in your split). Try balance on just two fingers, or lift your arms off the floor completely. Remember to straighten both your legs and point your front toe. Keep your hips square! In the long run, stretching correctly will help a lot more than stretching incorrectly, even if it means you have to wait longer for ideal results..
Step 5: If you are completely to the ground, stretch forward and try to touch your face to your knee, while keeping your hips on the ground and stretching from your waist, like you're doing a flat back.
Step 6: Reach out past your leg to come up. Place the tips of your fingers on the floor for balance, and arch your back towards your knee. If you can, try to let go of the floor and grab your ankle.
2. Middle/Straddle Split
Step 1: Open your legs as far as they will go into your second position/straddle. If your legs do not form a straight line from one leg to the other, push your hips forward as much as you can (it's okay if it isn't perfect. If you stretch, it will get better over time!). Remember to stretch through your feet, turn out from your hips so your knees are up, and point your toes, no matter how good your straddle is!
Step 2: Stretch over to one side and, keeping your ribs and chest open, try to stretch out and touch your toes with your hand. If you can't, keep reaching out! It is much better to use correct form and not be as flexible than to compromise form for flexibility. Repeat on the other side.
Step 3: Lean forward and roll through to your middle split without coming out of your straddle. Try to breathe deeply in and out, and with every "out" release and drop your center a little further towards the floor. The key is to relax! Try putting on relaxing music and holding your splits for a song or two. When your middle split is flat on the floor, press your stomach flat and stretch your arms out. If you can, add yoga blocks under each foot like before, adding them until you have reached you limit with your hips still flat on the floor.
Step 1: Stand in first position. Bend one knee to your chest and grab your ankle with both hands. Try to pull your knee as close into your chest without lifting your hip. Remember to keep your bottom leg turned out!
Step 2: Straighten the leg that is bent to your chest. Try to pull it as close to your face as you can. Bend it back down to the Step 1 position, then straighten it again. It should be closer to your face than before. Repeat this movement five times.
4. Straight-leg Scorpian
Step 1. Get into your wall splits, whichever side you usually do your scorpian with (your supporting leg will be your "better" side. So if you are more flexible on your right, keep that one on the floor).
Step 2: Using a stable chair, reach up and use the chair to pull your body up, while holding your wall splits.
Step 3: Push up on the chair until your back is arched as far as it will safely go. From here, you can attempt to reach up and grab your leg, but make sure you have someone spotting you if you do.
5. Chin stands
Step 1: Get on your knees and lift your upper body. Lift your chest and spread your arms back at a slight angle. It is recommended to practice on either a tumbling mat or carpet if you are not fully comfortable with your chin stand yet.
Step 2: Roll forward in one swift motion. DO NOT try to throw your chest onto the floor and push yourself into a chin stand. Rather, roll in a sort of wave motion, starting from your knees/thighs, to your stomach, to you chest, and finally to your chin. Spread your fingers and keep your arms back and use them for balance.
Step 3: Try to straighten your legs and hold your chin stand. Squeeze your legs and butt as hard as you can, it will help you control it and hold your chin stand for longer.
- If you do not yet have your split, use a yoga block and try to go as far into your split as you can. Make sure you straighten up instead of leaning forward, as it can help push your hips further to the ground. Hold your overspilt for a minute, then remove the block and try to do your split normally.You will notice that you are most likely further to the ground than you were previously. The block acts as a kind of ankle weight, and when removed makes it easier to split!
- If you already have your split, try to arch your back enough to grab your back ankle/leg and bend your back leg up so your foot touches your head. If you do it correctly and keep your hips on the ground, it's a great stretch for both your split and your back. Use a wall or partner for balance if necessary, and remember to hold your core and breathe.
- To get your scorpian straighter, walk your hands down your leg as far as you can, even if it's only to right below your ankle! Don't grab your toes and try not to grab your foot. The lower you grab your leg, the easier it will be to straighten your leg!
- ALWAYS make sure that you are warmed up before stretching. Do some jumping jacks, touch your toes, run around, and do lunges for at least 10-15 minutes, or until you feel warm. Also, the best time to stretch at home is right after you get out of the shower/bath. Your muscles are already warm and relaxed! Also remember to stretch both sides equally, even if you are not naturally as flexible on both your right and left.
- If you are sore: still stretch, even if it's light stretching! Don't overexert yourself, drink lots of water, and use ice and heating. Also, if you think you might be sore the day after a tough class, try taking a cold shower for as long as you can, THEN take a warm shower. The cold shower helps reduce swelling and cools down your body temperature. The warm water then loosens up the muscles and relaxes your body. Remember to drink lots of water, too!
- Be patient. Nothing worth having comes easily. As much as it may be hard, working to YOUR fullest ability is the best you can do. The goal is to improve, and that comes from hard work over a period of time. Work at your own pace and don't be discouraged if you don't get the results you want overnight. I promise if you stretch everyday, you will see the difference over time.
Post and photo credits: Ava Wolf :)