As dancers, we know that our bodies are put through quite a lot, so, making sure we are in the best possible condition is paramount to keeping us at the top of our game as well as staying safe.
We move and practise in class as soon as we walk through the door, but when we leave, it is very easy to switch off, or just focus on choreography and remembering movements, forgetting to look after our minds and ‘dancer’ bodies.
Being a dancer is not just about our performance and choreography, it is also about how we look after our bodies, as without them, we cannot do what we love. Give your body care and attention, so you can prevent injuries and keep yourself at your best.
Stretching at home has an abundance of benefits for dancers! It increases our flexibility which creates better lines and a better scope for different movements. It also radically improves our posture (something that will also help your body as you get older…trust me!)
You do not need any special equipment or even a lot of space. All you need is the right mindset to make time to focus on your body and state of mind.
The areas of focus are unique to each body depending on your strengths and weaknesses, but your teacher can certainly advise you on what needs a bit more work to achieve your goals. But in this article, we are going to advise on exercises you can do at home for your back and shoulder flexibility. Your back is an important foundation for most things, not just dance. Making sure it has the perfect balance of strength V flexibility will help with other parts of your body.
Improving your back and shoulder flexibility with at-home stretching will have major improvements on movements like Bridges, Walkovers, and Front Aerials for Acro Dancers and Arabesque lines for Ballet Dancers. Chest Stands and Needles, a target for many dancers these days, could also be achieved and improved by increased back and shoulder flexibility.
A Cobra stretch is an easy one to start with. When you lie face down on the floor, legs together and toes pointed, push with your hands slowly and lift your upper body upwards. Make sure your hips and pelvis are still on the floor and keep your head up with a long neck, facing forwards. Lift your chest until your arms are straight.
Another great stretch for Back and Shoulder Flexibility is to get yourself into a bridge with your chest/face toward a wall, make contact with the wall with the heels of your hands (in the bridge), and press your chest to the wall. Your head should be as far back as possible and your arms should be straight. Your hands and feet should be parallel, and your hips as high as possible. For an ultimate stretch, take this bridge down to your elbows, keeping your forearms parallel (no wings!), and continue to press your chest to the wall.
Bridges themselves are brilliant to practise at home using the same amount of space. Make sure you are focusing on the positioning of your hands and feet. Do these movements slowly to allow your back and shoulders to open and relax, so you are less likely to injure yourself.
You can find a variety of back and shoulder stretches on YouTube, however, we would advise asking your teacher for approval before attempting to follow their instruction in case they are not qualified instructors who are giving incorrect directions, potentially leading to injury. Acrobatic Arts and Alixa Flexibility are trusted professional resources which could be helpful to you.
You should also see improvements in your lines and posture. Believe me, your teachers can tell when you stretch at home and when you don't!