This week’s question is about back flexibility. Maybe you are one of those naturally flexible dancers, but for those that aren’t as flexible, progressing in this area can be frustrating – it doesn’t just happen overnight. Read below as our Panel of Dance Teachers tells us how to improve flexibility.
What is your best tip for improving back flexibility? Will I ever be as flexible as my super bendy friends? It’s so easy for them.
Improving back flexibility requires consistency and patience! It’s important to remember that each dancer will have his or her own amount of natural flexibility and also that each dancer’s extension will happen at his or her own part of the spine. Cobra stretches are my go-to stretch for increasing back flexibility. Lie on your tummy with hands flat on the floor beside your shoulders. Press your hands into the floor to lift your head and shoulders off the floor into a backbend. Keep your shoulders pressed down, your hips on the floor and relax your glutes. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat, this time with head up to ceiling. Push back into Child’s Pose and repeat a third time, this time allowing feet and head to try to touch. End with more Child’s Pose and then flip over onto your back to bring knees to you chest and roll through your spine. A weekly schedule of consistent stretching will be very helpful, but take it slow and steady and you should see results! Good luck!
We were all born with our own unique body structure that is ours and ours alone. Embrace that and don’t compare yourself to others. There may be others who are naturally more flexible but there are things you can do to improve your own flexibility!
There are many stretches and exercises you can do; some are more comfortable than others, and some will work better for you than they will for others.
The bridge, also known as a back bend, is a great one to start with. You can make this one as simple as you like. Once you have the basic bridge down you can start to walk your hands closer to your feet. You can also lift your right leg, hold 10 seconds, then repeat with the left. Another good one is one that I have heard called the Seal, The Superman, The Surfer, or in yoga The Upward-Facing Dog: lay on your stomach and use your arms to push only your upper body up, leaving your hips on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat. You can also leave your arms at your side and use your core to lift and hold. Then finally one of the BEST things to do is Arabesques. These will help improve your overall flexibility. Make sure you are using proper breathing while stretching as well. Take your time and don’t push yourself. It’s not worth injuring your muscles.
The best way I have found to increase my student’s back flexibility is with these exercises:
1. Get a partner who is close to your size/height. One person will face the wall and place their hands and forearms against it. The other partner will assist in getting the leg up as high in the back as possible. Make sure that the student is mature enough to tell the partner when the stretch is good, too much, or too little and needs extra push. Obviously we all need to know the difference in a “good” hurt and a “bad” hurt. In this stretch, make sure you do not LEAN too far into the wall or bend over from the waist as that defeats the purpose of feeling the back stretch. This stretch will not only help your back/shoulder flexibility when you try to reach back and grab your leg on your own, but also help in getting your scorpion or back split/needle!
2. Again with a partner (of same size/height), have one person lay flat on their stomach. The other person will stand over them, feet on either side of their waist, and grab their hands and pull UP. The partner lying down should be in the form of a seal stretch with their arms overhead. Tell your partner less or more depending on what feels good on your body.
3. This goes along with the stretch above. Have the partner standing turn around and face the legs of the partner who is lying down on their stomach. The partner who is standing will bend down, grab their partner’s legs/ankles, and walk them up. The partner who is lying down should now be in the form of a chest stand while their partner is holding up their legs in the air.
4. Holding a bridge position, and then lowering their elbows to the ground.
5. Holding a bridge position and doing bridge rocks (where you stay in the bridge and simply rock front and back)
6. The seal stretch is always great. Bring the feet to the head, or as high as your feet can go.
7. Sitting in a split and leaning back as far as possible.
Note: During all of these exercises, hold for at least 1-3 counts of 8. The best way to achieve ANY type of flexibility is HOLDING the stretch! Never come out of the stretches quickly or abruptly. After all of these stretches, make sure your relax your back and bend forward so that your spine doesn’t feel “crunched”. Kind of like after splits or deep stretches it feels good to “shake it out”. Same with the back!
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