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.

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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.

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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.

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