When I first started dancing, I had no clue where to start from. All I knew was how to do the splits (which I learnt in the most unhealthy way). Back then (a few years ago), I didn’t know which muscle to stretch to achieve a particular move. I would just try to do what I saw and if I didn’t get it, I’d be depressed. I didn’t know that there were specific muscles to stretch before doing the splits, I just attempted to the splits. Thankfully, I survived that and I’ve learnt how best to stretch in order to be flexible. If you’re just getting started or you’re still trying to figure out your stretching routine, this blog post is for you. If you think you’re late, you’re not. Trust me, you’re not.
This post is not meant to tell you how to stretch. Its purpose is to show you the key areas to focus on especially for those who are just starting out, I have narrowed down the stretches to four basics things to focus on.
Try touching your toes. Keep your knees straight, now stretch out hands downwards to touch your toes. This simple routine is a great stretch for your hamstrings. Hamstrings are one of the most important muscles to focus on. Hamstrings are very prone to injury. They make up every activity that involved the leg. From walking to running to stretching. They are very important when it comes to flexibility and if they are not stretched properly, the dancer can experience injury. Every dancer, at some point, has had a hamstring injury. Even non dancers have experienced the hamstring injury. That’s how susceptible it is to injury.
Do you remember the first time you did a deep lunge? One of the few places where it would hurt is the hip flexor. The groin area that creates the ‘V’ shape, that where your hip flexors are located. Flexible hip flexors are necessary for splits, middle splits, leg extensions and a whole lot more, the hip flexors play a very important role in your flexibility. A lot of people underestimate the importance of the hip flexors, I was one of them, but they are equally as important as the hamstring. A simple exercise like lifting your knee to your chest clearly demonstrates the importance of your hip flexors. Here is a simple stretch to try to get them flexible.
Think about this. You’re dancing, expressing yourself freely, and as you try to reach backwards, you hear a snap! All because you don’t have back flexibility. But it’s not just about getting injured, there is a natural beauty that follows when you have flexibility in a certain area, there would be no struggle to execute anything. Back flexibility is important. It’s not just for gymnasts or contortionists or ballet dancers. Back flexibility is important, I cannot emphasize this enough. This fragile, yet important part of flexibility. For dancers like us, (grown ass people), it is often scary to tread this path. There is so much fear regarding back flexibility. So we tread carefully here. But it’s not impossible to get a flexible back even in your adult years.
TOE, INSTEP AND ARCH FLEXIBILITY
In contemporary dance, when we extend our leg(s), we can either point or flex our foot. Either way, the toes, arches and insteps are in full use here. Pointing or flexing your foot requires an intentional and deliberate doing. So these muscles need to be trained to flex and point and they require stretching of the muscles in those areas. Try pointing and flexing your foot repeated in order improve flexibility in your toes, insteps and arches.
These are just basics areas to focus on. There’s no textbook rule that says you must follow these points to the book, but these four areas are the basics to focus on if you’re just starting out.
It is also important to note this; flexibility and strength go hand in hand. The more flexible we become, the more strength we need to hold that flexibility. So as you work on your flexibility, also include strength training.
Good luck on your journey to flexibility!