Stretching Series: Knees and Legs

WOW! So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here. I want to start this stretching series post by apologizing for my long absence. I’ve been really sick over the past two months and it’s actually stopped me entirely from going to ballet and stretching. As you can imagine, that’s been pretty frustrating… but I plan on touching on that in another post so stay tuned for that. Unfortunately I’m still only able to do very light stretching, and when it do it it’s far from pretty so I decided that I’d continue this post in the series by using found resources and photos. Hopefully within a few weeks I’ll be able to get back into the game and get some original photos and stretches for you guys!

Today I wanted to cover leg stretches, with some emphasis on knees since I know someone requested it! 🙂 The following are some of my favorite leg stretches, some of which not only improve flexibility but strength as well. I’m all for a double whammy!

1. Triangle pose: Ok so when I first stumbled across this yoga pose I looked at it and said “PIECE OF CAKE”. Then I tried it… haha. It’s not easy, folks! It requires hamstring and groin flexibility as well as core strength to maintain balance.

  • Stand with your legs about 3.5 to 4 feet apart.
  • Turn out your right foot, and leave your left foot turned in.
  • Lift your arms straight out to your sides.
  • Tilt your upper body over your right leg, stretching your arms and legs
  • Twist at the waist, lowering your right hand to your right ankle.
  • Repeat on the other side. For an added knee stretch, bend the knee of the leg that is turned out.

2. Knee Stretch: This one is pretty straight forward. I find that it helps stretch not only my legs and knees but also my lower back. I find this one super relaxing and love doing it before bed! Just lie on your back and bring each knee up to your chest one at a time, hold for about 30 seconds (longer if you’d like), and then lower your leg back to the ground. Easy peasy, but very helpful for tight knees.

3. Forward lunge/Warrior Pose: This stretch and yoga move is helpful for stretching the knee, hamstring, and groin all depending on how deep you can take it.

  • Start with your legs about 2-4 feet about depending on how far you would like to/can stretch. Keep one foot turned in, the other turned out.
  • Rotate toward the turned out foot and bend that knee.
  • Stretch as far as you can without discomfort.
  • Repeat on the other side! (don’t forget this!)

4. Hamstring Stretch: I love this one. I do this using Therabands but it can easily be done using a strap, rolled towel, bungee cord, etc. Just lie on your back and wrap whatever youre using under or around your foot. Then, trying to keep your leg straight, pull your leg up with your arms. When you feel that you’re about to need to bend your knee, stop and hold. Over time you’ll be able to go farther but don’t push yourself too hard or you could end up in a world of pain!

5. Hurdle Stretch: This is an oldie but goodie. Sit with your legs in a V position, as far as you can open them. Bend one leg in and lean toward your straight leg. You can do this facing straight toward the leg or to the side. Make sure you don’t bounce!

Hopefully these leg stretches (with knee emphasis) can help some of you! Let me know what kind of stretches you’d like to see in the future. I apologize for the lack of new pictures, I hope that when the next post comes along I will be able to actually participate!


Can you be TOO flexible as a ballet dancer?

OY VEY! I am so sorry that I’ve sort of “slacked off” on my stretching series. I’ve been sick for the past week and then I just sprained ankle on top of it. Apparently I can dance better than I can walk. 🙂 So while I’m taking a little hiatus from dance and intense stretching to let my body heal from the illness and injury, I figured I’d bring up a topic that seems to be controversial at the moment- can you become TOO flexible or overstretch when it comes to ballet?? I found an article about how the positions of ballet have changed over the years and how they require a different level of flexibility and it raises interesting questions about the pressure it puts on dancers to be crazy flexible. I’ll fess up… one of my guilty pleasures is following a ton of little ballet Instagrams that are likely run by 12 year old girls (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m “old” in comparison so it makes me feel a little silly haha). So my Instagram feed is overrun with pictures of girls doing tilts, oversplits, and various other insane in the membrane stretches.

One of the first pictures on google image search of "oversplits"

One of the first pictures on google image search of “oversplits”

Part of me is blown away at the awesomeness of the stretches. It’s really amazing to see what the human body is capable of when you stretch it out and push its limits. The other part of me is really curious as to the concerns and dangers associated with stretching to extremes. I am, of course, a huge advocate of stretching as I find it’s very important to keeping a healthy body as well as progressing in ballet. I am also very cautious and try to make sure to weigh the costs with the benefits before I do anything. For me, the biggest concern that I have with these extreme stretches are the dangers involved. Could you imagine if one of the chairs in the above pictures slipped out during the process of getting in this position?! Holy pain, Batman. Or when I see people stretching their arches by sticking their foot under a couch and forcing it down I can’t help but wonder how much potentially “unnecessary” strain they are putting on their joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles that could later lead to serious injury.

When trying to do research on the topic I found some really weird mixed messages. A lot of sources say that you can’t really be too flexible and that you should try and push and push until you can get further. A lot of other sources say that being overly flexible is neither necessary nor helpful in ballet because it actually makes you need to work harder to maintain the classic lines that make ballet seem graceful rather than looking contorted. Although I found a lot of opinions of parents of dancers, adult dancers, and teen dancers, there aren’t a whole lot of easily accessible resources based from more reliable “official” sources. So, because I am no expert and definitely cannot give you advice on the matter, I advise that you weight the pros and cons yourself before attempting any stretches of that magnitude and always recommend caution. But I figured it could be an interesting point of conversation. Do you feel that these extreme forms of stretching can help or hinder ballet? How do you feel about the ever increasing flexibility requirements of ballet and how it changes the way the lines of the body look?


On a more fun note, I also decided to do the ABC survey Kristen posted to tell you a little more about myself after the jump 🙂

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Stretching Series: Stretching Tips and The Back

In my previous posts, as well as on the Adult Ballerina Project Facebook,  I mentioned that I would be doing a post on stretching. I got some good requests and feedback on what type of stretches you’d like to see and I decided that rather than squeeze it all into a horrible 5 page long post or a short one without pictures that I’d do a series instead. So this will be the first of my stretching series and I’m starting with my favorite part of the body to stretch: The back!

83eb6bb7f3e5113d03859d2cf0cfcc79Before we begin with that, I’d like to give some of my general tips on stretching.

1. Bundle up. Ok, this may sound really unpleasant. Especially because it’s summer. But this has been a huge help in increasing my flexibility. When I stretch I typically wear tights, legwarmers, shorts, sweatpants, a leotard, and a sweater. As I heat up, I strip layers but I tend to leave my legwarmers and shorts on to keep my legs and hips nice and toasty. One word of caution if you do decide that this tip is something you’d like to try… don’t overdo it. Make sure you’re hydrated and that you’re not pouring sweat. It should serve to help get and keep your muscles warm, not to make you pass out from heat stroke.

2. Warm up for your warm up. This may sound silly but when I stretch I like to walk around the room fast for a few minutes, do a few jumping jacks, or something similar. Getting your blood flowing just a little bit will help your muscles warm up and be more flexible.

3. Use Therabands to help add some resistance or to help you grab your leg when your arms cant quite reach yet.

4. Make good use of fences, counters, doorways, couches. I love to stretch my legs out by just resting one on my counter like its a barre. When I’m at hotels I use the door frame to help me stretch my back out. Be creative and use whatever is safe that you can use to help aid you in stretching.

5. Don’t push yourself too far. Stretch just enough for a little discomfort and hold for 15 seconds. Then next time hold for 20, then 30 and so on. When it becomes “easy”, then push yourself a little farther and repeat the process. This will keep you from torn muscles.

6. If you’re having a stiff day, stretch after a warm bath.

7. You might not look like the hot babes in the yoga pictures you found online- and that’s ok! I get annoyed with this all the time. I imagine myself doing a stretch I see online and when I do it it looks TOTALLY different (and much less cute) than the pictures I saw. But lets get real- that’s what the person in the picture does for a living and they usually have also sat through hair and makeup (and get touched up) and are taking a full day to take like five pictures. Stretching isn’t about the visual product as much as it is making sure that your body is flexible and ready for dancin’.

Ok so now I’ll start with my favorite back stretches. I do these almost daily, if not twice daily. I have found that my posture has totally changed with these stretches and that my arabesque and port de bras have also improved as well.



1. (Left to right) I start with a cobra pose focusing on keeping my shoulders down and pushing up with my sternum rather than my lower back.

2. Once I’ve reached that pose and have held it for about 30 seconds or longer, I bring my feet up as close to my head as I can get them. It’s ok if you can’t get them to your head yet, just keep trying by bringing them up as high as you can.

3. I always like to reverse my stretches. When I stretch one muscle group, I stretch the opposing muscle group. I find that this helps me avoid soreness and keeps me from having any part of my body from being more flexible one way than the other. Soooo, to reverse these back stretches I do a cat pose, remembering to pull up from the back as well as pushing up from the core.



4. From there I turn over and do a back bend, feet and hands flat on the floor. After holding as long as you’re able between 15 and 30 seconds.

5. Slowly go down onto your elbows one at a time. I like to put my hands together in the center but you can also put them parallel to each other on the ground. Start by staying on flat feet and holding for a few seconds, then go up on demi pointe. Hold.

6. Walk your feet outward as far as you can to see if you can straighten your legs. I’m still unable to straighten completely but I’m getting there. I find that the easiest way to get out of this pose is to just keep sliding until you’re laying on your back.

7. Last I like to lay on my back and sort of just wiggle around, loosening everything back up. It seems super counter intuitive that stretching would make you tight, right? But I’ve noticed that sometimes with back stretches, your back wants to revert back to it’s previous happy place right away after you’ve pushed it so I just roll out my back, twist around, and try to loosen it back up before I go about my business. 

This is also a great video that can be really helpful. Click here.

What stretches do you do to increase your back flexibility/strength? Also, what parts of the body do you want to see stretches for in this series? (I know that we got one request for knee stretching and I will be certain to get that done!)

Happy Stretching!

**Keep in mind, these are just MY favorite stretches and you definitely need to make sure are careful trying anything new.

Ballet at home- DVDs, YouTube, and Tips

I am starting to feel like there’s an overarching theme to my posts- I’M BUSY! haha. But, to be honest, a big part of my life as a grad student who is also in the beginning stage of an internship is that I don’t have a lot of free time and the free time that I do have is at weird hours. I’m sure there are plenty of ladies and gents who may be reading this can relate to this! One of my favorite ways to get around this issue is to do ballet at home. This can be a real challenge, especially for beginners who haven’t had much experience taking a class. Where do you even begin? Well, luckily I spend the time between classes on YouTube doing mindless searching and have created a nice list for you along with some of my favorite ballet at home tips!


  • “Ballet Class for Beginners with David Howard”. This DVD is my favorite for home ballet. It can be a little bit frustrating because you have to play some parts twice in order to do both sides, but it’s a minor inconvenience in my opinion. I was able to find the DVD on Amazon for about $6 and got it in a matter of days. Smoking deal! It covers a ton of different techniques and the run time is about 40 minutes, but that doesn’t include repeating. What I like about how it comes in chapters is that you can choose to mix and match your workout so that it never has to be exactly the same. 
  • The NYC Ballet Complete Workout. This DVD is less ballet class, more ballet fitness but it has much more ballet in it than most ballet inspired workout videos do. It takes moves like pliés and mixes them in with bicycles and crunches. It’s rough! I have managed to rope my fiancé into doing the videos with me and they even make him sore. The video isn’t necessarily the newest so the video and the music is super cheesy but thankfully you can choose to use the classical music in the startup menu rather than the awful “hip” background music. You can get it here on Amazon. 
  • Ballet Beautiful by Mary Helen Bowers. Holy grail of ballet fitness. The workouts are more based around the idea of sculpting a lean ballet body rather than ballet technique but I find that the workouts greatly improved my posture and technique in class. She has a few different DVDs. I have the “Classic 60 – Minute Workout” (which has since been rebranded as “Total Body Workout”) and “Body Blast”. Both are available here at the Ballet Beautiful website.  The DVD’s consist of approximately 15 minute workouts including two butt series, her bridge series, her famous swan arms series, total body workouts, and more. What I like about this format is that the workouts are totally mix and match-able. You can do 15 minutes of a total body workout, or you can build up to about an hour or more of workouts. It really just depends on what you have time for! Another wonderful asset she provides are her online streaming videos. They are similar to the DVDs but you can have access to them any time you have access to the website.


  • Dancing’s technique based and educational videos. These videos are great! They’re made by eHow… Ok, slightly cheesy seeming but they have been so helpful to me. I suck, like bad, at things like rond de jambe and I love being able to watch these videos at home over and over again to see how it’s done and to try it. I have found value in almost all of their ballet videos. There is such a wide variety- warming up, technique, how to care for ballet shoes, how to do your hair.  Click here and start checking it out! 
  • Maestro Greenwood Online Classes. These videos are also really great. They have a lot of technique practice and they include some video with verbal instruction as well as video with just music. I enjoy that because there are times where I just want to hear classical music and copy what I see, but then there are other times where I really want to focus harder on exact technique. I also really appreciate the stretching videos! Click!

General Tips

  • Keep an inner instructor in your head. I try to my best to focus on my technique at home. It can be really hard to make sure you’re doing some things well when you don’t have someone there watching to correct you so try to remind yourself “posture”,  “breathe”, “stomach tight”, etc. Focus on technique because if you keep practicing it incorrectly at home, you may find yourself in a sticky mess when you finally get to a class and it’s twice as hard because you need to forget how to do it the incorrect way and learn to do it the correct way. 
  • Invest in a full length mirror you can move around if you don’t have one. It’s important to be able to see what your body is doing in order to do the step above. There are some pretty affordable mirrors at Target, Walmart, and thrift stores.
  • Build a barre (shameless plug to my DIY post! haha), or use a counter/chair/couch/railing. That extra balance is important, particularly for beginners, in order to help you learn the best technique and also to prevent injury from falling face first into the floor. haha.
  • Try to avoid doing ballet on carpet, it can be a little extra sticky under your feet and cause some tripping/toe injuries. If you do ballet on tile or wood flooring make sure you have proper traction.
  • If you can, try to video even just a portion of your workout… I totally get what some of you may be thinking: AWKWARD, I don’t want to see myself dancing. But I assure you, it will help you get better! You’ll have a nice opportunity to watch back the video and see that this whole time you thought your ronde de jambe was perfect but alas you forget to point your toes in the back! Or maybe you might even find something you’re doing better than you thought you were.

For now, I think that’s all I have for videos and tips but I will be sure to post again when I have more. I hope that you at home ballerinas find this a little bit helpful. Does anyone else have any home ballet tips or favorite videos to use? Let me know in the comments!


Dealing with Sore Muscles


The best thing you can do is stretch

Oh boy! I just finished my first class in a few weeks and I am hurtin’! It was a really strange circumstance of me leaving my studio just in time for the new studio to be closed for two weeks, then I was out of town. So It had been three weeks of no structured class. I have been stretching and trying to practice at home as much as possible but I think that there is definitely something to be said for the rigor of a structured class. I got to class a bit early to stretch and speak with the instructor and thought I was ready for anything- I couldn’t have been more wrong! Haha. It still surprises me, adjusting to my body as an adult and how it works, to see how just a little break in activity can send me right back to square one (okay maybe like square five, but still not where I was at!). I got home a sweaty mess, plopped down on the bed, and told my fiancé that I know I need to eat but I’m not sure how to go about it because 1. I can’t move my legs and 2. I’m nervous that the second I put food into my mouth I might throw up. Ok, I’m slightly dramatic but I really was whooped! I knew that I instantly needed to get on top of making sure my muscles don’t tighten up much because I knew if I didn’t I probably would be in a world of hurt tomorrow. I thought I’d share a few of my tips for avoiding that next day of crying when you drop your keys because you know how much it will hurt to pick them back up. 😉

1. Stretch it out: I like to lay on my back on the floor, stick my leg straight up at a 90 degree angle and just make slow circles of varying sizes with it. The slow motion really makes you stretch it out. Then I bring my leg straight over across my body for a while, bend it for a while, then I bring my knee to my chest. I also like to borrow some yoga moves like these here. I particularly love doing the cat, cow, child, and half downward dog because they feel so relaxing but they also really do stretch those muscles out. The key is to keep stretching throughout the day so that the lactic acid doesn’t settle in your muscles which is what makes you sore. It seems like the most obvious tip but I also think that it’s the first we forget.

2. Soak! I love a good, warm Lush Bath Bomb (or essential oil) and epsom salt bath. I find the that the combination of heat and scent take the epsom salt to the next level because you’re not just relaxing your muscles but your mind too. Personally, I get super stressed from being so busy and having a stressed mind leads to a tense body and there’s no amount of salt that can take that away. So lock the bathroom door, tell the kids or partner that you’re out of commission for 20 minutes and relax! I also enjoy partaking in a good foot soak, perfect for a dancer. I love trying new “recipes” that I find on pinterest. Today I tried one with green tea, baking soda, vinegar and epsom salt. The result wasn’t too pretty… the water, well it looked a little gross. However, my feet felt AMAZING after.

3. Enlist a loved one for a massage! This is self-explanatory and can be fun!

4. Fuel your body properly. This one is hard. There are so many different resources with conflicting ideas about what to eat in general, but when you add in what to eat for working out there are one thousand more ideas. What I have found that has really worked for my body is to have a protein AND carb heavy snack about an hour before I go to ballet. Something like bagel with peanut butter or hummus. Occasionally I throw an apple in as well. I also make sure to follow my class up with a balanced yet protein and fresh food heavy meal or snack. For example, today I had a burrito in a whole wheat tortilla with eggs inside, lots of lettuce, carrots, avocado, and cabbage. I feel that I almost always feel so much better when I have something that is substantial but not heavy. I’ve read in a few places that blueberries (or any antioxidant heavy food) work well because they soak up all the free radicals left. Anti-inflammatory foods like kelp, salmon, ginger, green tea,  and sweet potatoes are also supposed to be really helpful in telling your muscles to calm the heck down. And, of course, stay hydrated!

5. Try some topical treatments like white flower oil, icy hot, peppermint oil, or salonpas. My personal favorite when it comes to this is to, right after my hot bath, rub a little white flower oil diluted in baby oil all over my legs, bottom, back, arms, and shoulders and then bundle up in warm clothes for a while. This really lets it soak into my muscles and feels SO nice.

6. Finally, don’t be too afraid of the occasional ibuprofen or Tylenol. Sometimes the pain is just too much to manage with home remedies and that’s totally fine. You don’t have to do without!

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful/new to at least one person. What do you do to keep the aches and pains away?