Dancers are known for their tremendous flexibility and long, elongated bodies. It is crucial for dancers to stretch, as the repetitive movements they perform over long periods of time can result in injuries to their legs, hips and feet. The same stretching routines classical, ballet, jazz and hip-hop dancers use to remain flexible can be incorporated by anyone to keep muscles limber and prevent injuries associated with sports, exercise and overuse.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Seated stretches are employed by classical dancers to increase flexibility in their hamstrings. Sit on the floor and extend both legs in front of you with the feet flexed. Bend one leg and place your foot on the inside of your leg with your leg on the floor. Bend from the hip and stretch forward over the extended leg. Hold onto your calf, ankle or foot -- depending on your flexibility. Switch and repeat with the other leg. This stretch works the entire hamstring area, which is one of the largest muscles in your legs. Be sure to stretch within your own personal limit. Do not push a stretch past your level of comfort. As you become more flexible it will become easier to stretch further and deeper. Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds.
A butterfly stretch reaches many tight spots in the body. This stretch will loosen the hips, buttocks, hamstrings and inner thigh muscles. It is performed by sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet together and touching, and your knees creating a triangle on the floor. Lean forward over your legs and stretch forward as far as your body will allow. Try to keep your buttocks on the floor as you lean forward; when the buttocks raise you do not get the complete benefits of the stretch. Hold the stretch for at least one minute for maximum results.
Most people associate the Camel pose with yoga, but it gains its origins in classical ballet. This stretch increases flexibility in your hip flexors, quadriceps and the small muscles above the knees. Start by kneeling on an exercise mat with your legs hip-distance apart. Make sure to hold your body upright and do not scrunch your shoulders up to your ears. Curl your toes under, so you are resting gently on your feet. Place your hands on your lower back and gently lean backward until you feel a deep stretch through your thighs. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat. The Camel pose can also help relieve lower-back pain, which is often caused by tight hip adductors.
Figure Four Stretch
Ballroom and ballet dancers often use a figure four stretch as a warm-up. This stretch works the muscles of the buttocks, hamstrings and hips. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Take your right foot and rest it on the top of your mid-left thigh. Grasp your hands behind your left leg and pull your knee into your chest. You will feel a deep relief on your buttocks as you move into the stretch. Bring your knee as far as you can without experiencing discomfort. Hold the stretch for at least one minute. Repeat with the other leg.
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