Let’s start this piece by picturing a dancer flowing from one position to another, the movement appears effortless and smooth. How can the dancer move so seamlessly, with such incredible posture?
Graceful alignment and flexibility are vital elements for becoming a thriving dancer, and this can be achieved by stretching. While it may seem tedious or time-consuming to slow down and breathe through a stretch, the payoff is that it can improve your dancing abilities tremendously.
Plus, by including stretches in your warm-up you are helping to prevent injury and by stretching during warm down, your chances of soreness the next days are decreased.
Here are some of my favourite stretches to include in your sessions:
Legs crossed with a spinal twist
For hips, chest, shoulders, upper & lower back
1. Sit on your bottom with your legs in front of you
2. Fold your legs so they are crossed, however with one foot sitting the opposite legs inner thigh
3. Twist your torso in the direction opposite to the foot placed on the thigh
4. Place one hand on the ground behind you, and the other on your knee
5. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 20-30 seconds, seeing if you can twist yourself a little further on an exhale. Repeat on the opposite side.
For the triceps, shoulders, chest
1. Stand tall with your feet at hip distance
2. Extend your arms up overhead
3. Bend one arm, reaching for the centre of your shoulder blades with your fingertips
4. With the opposite hand, hold the bent elbow in place and if it feels good, lightly pull the elbow towards your head for a deeper stretch
5. Hold for 10-15 seconds, breathing into the stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Lunge with spinal twist
For the hip flexors, glutes, spine
1. Start in a lunge stance with your left leg forward.
2. Reach your right hand to the ground, using your fingertip grip for stability.
3. Twist your upper body to the left and reach your left arm towards the ceiling.
4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Seated toe reach
For the hamstrings and calves
1. Start in a seated position and your legs out long in front
2. Reach your hands towards your toes as far as you car
3. Bring your hands to your feet or shins and let your head hang, feeling a stretch all throughout the back side of your body
Seated leg cross stretch
For the hips, glutes and lower back
1. Sit with your back straight and your legs extended in front of you
2. Bring your feet together, allowing the soles of your feet to touch
3. Bend your knees and allow them to fall outwards towards the sides.
4. Use your hands to hold onto your ankles or feet, whichever is more comfortable for you.
5. Sit tall and engage your core to maintain good posture.
6. Gently press your elbows against the inside of your knees, helping to increase the stretch.
7. Relax your muscles and take slow, deep breaths as you hold the stretch.
8. You should feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs and hips.
Seated single leg stretch
For the hamstrings & lower back
1. Sit up straight with your legs extended in front of you.
2. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot next to the calf muscle of the left leg.
3. Ensure that your left leg remains straight and firmly planted on the ground.
4. Sit tall, lengthen your spine, and engage your core muscles.
5. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, start to hinge forward at the hips.
6. Reach forward with both hands and try to grab onto your left ankle, shin, or foot, depending on your flexibility.
Modification: If you can't reach that far, you can use a strap or towel to loop around your left foot and hold onto the ends with your hands.
7. Continue to breathe deeply as you gently pull yourself forward, aiming to bring your chest closer to your left leg.
8. Keep your back straight and avoid rounding your shoulders or collapsing your chest.
Split leg and side stretch
For your inner thighs and sidebody
1. Extend both legs straight out in front of you.
2. Open your legs as wide as you comfortably can, forming a wide "V" shape with your legs.
3. Keep your spine tall and your posture upright.
4. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability.
5. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, slowly hinge forward at the hips, reaching forward with both hands.
6. Reach towards your right foot or ankle with your right hand, while extending your left arm up and over your head towards your right foot.
7. Aim to keep both sit bones grounded and avoid leaning excessively to one side.
8. Keep your legs active and engaged throughout the stretch.
9. Feel the stretch along the inner thighs and the side of your body.
Reclined hamstring stretch
For the hamstrings and inner thighs
1. Lying on your back, extend both legs straight out in front of you.
2. Bend your right knee and bring it towards your chest.
3. Take hold of the back of your right thigh with both hands, interlacing your fingers.
4. Slowly straighten your right leg towards the ceiling, keeping a slight bend in the knee if needed to avoid any discomfort or excessive strain.
5. Point your toes up towards the ceiling, engaging the muscles in your right leg.
6. Relax your upper body and keep your shoulders and back flat against the ground.
7. If you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, you can stay in this position. If you want to deepen the stretch, gently pull your right leg closer to your body using the strength of your hands.
8. Make sure to keep your hips and left leg grounded throughout the stretch.
9. Breathe deeply and relax into the stretch, allowing your muscles to gradually release tension.
Keep including these stretches in your warmup and warm down to improve you technique and flexibility - and don’t forget to breathe throughout!
Love Miss Karlie