Why is Flexibility Important?
Flexibility is essential for all dancers; professionals understand that flexibility is one of the most important physical aspects to becoming a great dancer. Having a good range of motion aids in making a dancer’s work appear more seamless and it can also help increase a dancer’s turn out. Flexibility also reduces the risk of injuries and soreness. Not only does flexibility elongate your lines and enrich the look of your dancing, tightness can actually be bad for your body.
Dance of all genres can help to improve your flexibility. Even if you’re not a dancer, improving your flexibility can have a positive effect on your body, being limber and keeping a good range of motion in your muscles and joints is important for your health and overall well-being. A good range of motion and flexibility aids in proper alignment of the bones as well as good posture. When your bones are in good alignment, your muscles, joints, ligaments and vital organs can work as they are supposed to. And having good posture encourages positive thinking, confidence and optimal functioning of the nervous system.
If you lack flexibility, over time, your body will start to suffer. People with poor flexibility may often be prone to injuries involving the bones, muscles, joints and ligaments including pulled or strained muscles, fractured bones and torn ligaments.
Healthy Muscles = A Healthy Mind
Flexibility is not only helpful in dance class or on stage, it can also help us in our day to day lives. Tight muscles in the neck and shoulders is closely related to stress and tightness in the gluteus can be related to emotional burden. Having tight muscles can affect your frame of mind, but your frame of mind can also affect tightness in the body. When you are healthy and happy, the places where you hold strain tends to be relaxed and supple, and you are calm, ready to face life’s daily challenges. However, when you are stressed, your muscles can tense up even leading to tension headaches.
Ways to Overcome Tightness
The next time you feel tight, sore, or stressed about something, try stretching focusing on the specific area that feels tight. You can also use movement to encourage blood flow, go for a walk. Try to force yourself to take some fuller, deeper breaths. And drink some water; hydration is also key to optimal muscular performance.
Improve Your Flexibility Through Stretching
A few dancers are naturally, super flexible or hyper mobile. They can throw their legs behind their heads and they don’t necessarily need any more flexibility. I was one of those dancers, however I have found over the course of my training and my career that the more flexible dancers are generally lacking in strength. And body conditioning with a focus on strengthening of the muscles especially the core is important for these body types.
Majority of dancers need to stretch regularly to get the freedom of movement they desire to make their extensions appear effortless. And if you focus on flexibility from a young age, it can have fantastic results. A little bit of extra practice goes a long way! Stretching in front of the TV can be a great distraction. Or with a friend for added resistance can make working on your flexibility feel like less of a chore if you have someone to enjoy it with.
Here Are My Top 3 Tips for Improving Your Flexibility Through Stretching :
- Try to stretch the major muscle groups at least once everyday
Stretches should be held for 60 seconds to give your muscles added elasticity and looseness. I like to close my eyes and imagine that the muscle that is being stretched is lengthening and I breath deeply into the area to help manage any tension. The more you stretch, the more tolerant your muscles become. It is important not to force a stretch too vigorously or to ‘bounce’ in a stretch, this can be harmful to the body. Never stretch to the point of pain, we need to make sure we are starting with light stretches and building them up slowly. Every body is different, so work to your own capabilities, not the person’s next to you!
- Warming up before taking on stretches
Stretching with cold muscles can put a strain on your muscles and cause harmful damage. As dancers we need to take care of our bodies, making sure our muscles are warm before stretching is very important. Run around the studio 10 times or jogging on the spot and star jumps are good if you are working in a confined space at home. Take some isolated circular movements for the hips, shoulders, knees and head to encourage blood flow through the muscles and the body before commencing any stretches.
- Try a yoga class
Yoga has a plethora of benefits for the body and the mind and flexibility is one of them. Yoga class can fast track improvement in flexibility and can be a new, different and exciting way for a dancer to work on lengthening their muscles. Cross training is also a great way to aid in injury prevention.
I hope you have found this blog helpful and informative. Please encourage your child/ren to continue stretching at home (especially over the holidays). Join in! Stretching is good for every body! And speak to your teachers if you have any concerns with your child’s flexibility, or if you’d like to ask for stretches tailored specifically for your child’s body and its development and progression.