Here are 5 ways to improve your flexibility:
1. Warm up first. While a lot of dancers have been taught to stretch first thing before class, it’s important to stretch warm. Think of your muscles like taffy: cold taffy is brittle and breaks, but warm taffy stretches and stretches! A brisk 5-10 min walk, or jog on the spot is enough to be ready to go.
2. Inhale... Exhale. As you ease into the stretch, don’t hold you breath. You’ll find as you exhale you’ll release deeper into the stretch. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html#SEC55, Even breaths help relax the body, increase blood flow and remove the lactic acid that causes sore muscles.
3. Stretch for the task at hand. It’s tempting to grab a spot at the barre or in centre, stretch out and just hold. However, before class or performance as a warm=-up, this style of stretching, called stationary or static stretching, has been shown to reduce strength and power output. No thanks. Dynamic stretching increase blood flow to the muscles, increases heart rate and prepares the muscle for work. Save static stretching for the end of class or your day as a means to increase overall range of motion.
4. Stretch evenly. Don’t focus only on your “problem” areas. Everything in the body is connected so it’s important to stretch the entire body and do it in the correct order. Stacey Nemour, martial artist and flexibility expert, tells The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacey-nemour/flexibility-for-dancers_b_3883886.html, It’s ideal to start at the top of the body and work your way down, being sure to stretch both the front of a muscle group and the back. For example, if you stretch your hamstrings, make sure you stretch your quads too. It’s all about maintaining balance.
5. Listen to your body. Your body will always tell you the difference between beneficial stretching and stretching in a way that is causing injury. Set a goal, stretch consistently, and be patient with yourself. You’ll be amazed how much your range can increase with consistent improvement!