I receive this question many many many times a week, sometimes on a daily basis as well. How do I become more flexible? How do I get my needle? What stretches are good for turnout? How can I get my oversplits? Do you have any flexibility tips? And so on… This post is more dedicated to the actual stretching itself. Because I know many of you are beginners- of course not all, but I even though you’ve been dancing for 10 years sometimes going back to the basics is just as good. So here we go.
I have to start by telling you this, some people are born natural flexible while others naturally have a stiffer body. There’s nothing wrong with either of them, but it is a fact that does matter a lot in the long-term aspect how flexible you are able to become. I am natural flexible but that doesn’t mean it easier for me- I have the flexibility easier but the opposite with strength. Natural flexible but natural weak as well… is a way to put it. People that are stiffer in their bodies tend for the most time to have a stronger body as well.
In every stretch you do, you need to be careful & listen to your body- the fact that I can do a stretch without feeling anything, doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. If you haven’t stretched in your whole life, stretching will of course hurt. It doesn’t necessarily need to be painful, but keep in mind that having slightly pain while stretching is just a way for you body to show you that what you do works. As long as it’s not bad pain. That’s another thing to keep in mind, the difference between- will this pain make me a little sore because my body isn’t used to do it but it won’t affect me too much? Good. Will this pain that comes with this stretch make me unable to walk properly or do I have to adapt my daily moments in a bad way? Don’t stretch like that.
So, I hope that every person out there is aware that if your body is warm when you stretch, the possibility to hurt yourself reduces rapidly. Your body stretches much easier if you are warm as well, the results will be better. Either you can go for a minimum 15-20 min walk outside- outside walking is good for you- if you don’t live in polluted Delhi. Walk fast, breath & feel how the blood flow starts increasing in your body, making your muscles warm. Running is also great. If you do an intense workout beforehand, take 5 minutes doing leg swings to make sure you hips are nice and warm.
There’s something in your body called Fascia. This is the biological fabric that holds us together, the connective tissue network. Understanding fascia is essential to the dance between stability and movement – crucial in high performance, central in recovery from injury and disability, and ever-present in our daily life to the last breath we take.
The stretch I always start with- is the famous hamstring stretch. You know the one where you sit on the floor, legs stretched in front of you & then bend forward. I can easily put my head to the floor while doing that- but then it’s no point of doing it if I don’t feel it, right? Instead, grab your feet & flex. Stretch your legs as much as possible (if you have hyperextended legs, like I do, let your heels go off the floor & the stretch will increase), while trying to make your back completely straight: butt out, shoulders back & keep an open position in the upper front of your body- that’s when it stretches. This will really stretch your fascia. Hold from everything to 30s 3 reps, 2 min, 1 min 2 reps etc. I would say at least 30s as a minimum. This will make you warm from inside & out. It’s a lovely stretch when you get the hang of it- really intense but definitely essential in your daily stretching.
I won’t give you any other stretches today. Always remember that whatever you see online, when you try a stretch at home- be careful & don’t ever do anything too intense, that hurts too much, too many times. An example of this is the famous needle- constantly doing that when my body was still growing & not having enough muscles, broke my back. Although, better flexibility improves your performance in physical activities. It can also decrease your risk of injuries, helping your joints move through their full range of motion which enables your muscles to work most effectively. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle.
It’s all about balance.