5 Things to do Instead of Asking Dance Students to “Tuck Under”

5 Things to do Instead of Asking Dance Students to “Tuck Under”

If you’ve ever taken a ballet class, then I can wager that you’ve heard this correction at least once:

“Tuck your pelvis under!”

You’ve probably also heard:

“Pull-up!”, and its evil play-friends, “Engage your core!”, “Suck in your gut!”, “Get your ribs in!”, and then to top it off (as I was always told), “Don’t look so weird!”.

HAHAHA really? You want me to suck it my gut, tuck my butt under, push in my ribs and NOT look like I’m constipated? Right…

These cues are generally given to help us find “neutral” alignment and dance better.

At best, this verbiage can convey the wrong feeling and cause extra tension, and at worst can cause life-long movement habits that can cause pain in and of themselves, long after you’ve stopped dancing.

Quick story.

I currently am working with a former dancer in her 30s. She’s had a few kids and now works as a chiropodist (yay feet).

We quickly discovered that it is VERY difficult for her to access anterior tilt in basic body-weight movements, such as a rockback. Her pelvis will begin to tuck under almost immediately- She doesn’t know how to hip hinge.

Something clicked for her instantly: All the years in dance, for as long as she could remember, teachers had been telling her to tuck her pelvis under. Not only did this become a habit in her dancing, but became her “thing” years after she stopped performing.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the terms anterior and posterior tilt, see the picture below:

ant post tiltAnterior tilt= Booty out
Posterior tilt= Tucked-under

Let’s continue with the story.

My client began to notice all the different moments in her life that she would habitually posteriorally tilt (tuck under) her pelvis rather than hinge from her hips.

When she bent down to pick up her kids. While sitting. And as a response to stress. Tucking under had become her pattern, and she began to realize that this was probably why her back was always sore, too.

She asked me to teach her the proper way to bend down to pick up her kids, to which I replied, “So you want to learn to deadlift, eh?” (a deadlift is just a loaded hip hinge, and a kid is for sure a load to lift).

Her pain quickly decreased by improving her awareness and by working to mobilize her pelvis and improving her ability to anteriorally tilt.

And her husband reports her butt has firmed up a bit too. #science at it’s best- if you can’t load your hips, you can’t work dat booty.

So if you teach dancers, please be aware that the cues you give them may stay with them long after they’ve stopped dancing. Your words carry more power than you think.

Also it is important to recognize that every dancer is different. We all learn in different ways, so please be ready to adapt what you say to match the individual. This is a skill that takes time and experience working with many bodies.

Moving on…

WHAT’S THE “BEST” PELVIC ALIGNMENT?

A dance teacher recently asked this question in a group that I follow on Facebook. Her question (paraphrased): “What’s the best position for the dancer’s pelvis? Neutral, anterior tilt, or posterior tilt?”.

Of course it seems like a no-brainer. Neutral, obviously.

Or is it?

This question makes it seem like only one position can be the best, and the other two are the devil- Positions to avoid because they are bad, bad, bad.

If you think that she’s right about this, then sorry to burst your bubble but posterior and anterior tilt are good!

Your body was designed to do these movements. They are necessary and without them you wouldn’t be able to walk properly.

Why demonize positions that are completely natural and healthy for the body? Especially for an activity like dance, the movement vocabulary of which is infinitely vast! Why limit yourself to just “neutral”?

 

IS NEUTRAL SOMETHING TO AIM FOR?

Yes and no.

Yes you should be able to get to neutral with any joint- Spine, pelvis, hips, shoulder, feet, etc.

And yes, you should also be able to posteriorally tilt, anteriorally tilt, and do all the other fun movements each joints of your body is built to perform .

You can have it all. Good news, I hope, if you’ve been beating yourself up because you can’t stay perfectly “neutral” while you dance.

That said, if you can’t get to neutral ever, that’s a problem.

I have a pretty crazy degree of anterior pelvic tilt at rest (as I wrote about HERE), and this wouldn’t necessarily be considered problematic except for the fact that I can’t tuck my pelvis under enough to even get to neutral.

Think of neutral as a particular range of motion that just happens to be mid-point on the spectrum.

Mid-point is a range of motion you definitely don’t want to lose.  Just like posterior tilt or anterior tilt. Just like kicking yourself in the head. Or sitting on your head…

I repeat: Every movement your body is capable of performing is perfectly healthy and good and you should not avoid any of them.

We sometimes subconsciously learn to avoid positions that our brains perceive to be a threat because of injury, emotional reasons, or inappropriate cueing from teachers.

So we learn to work around these points in our of range of motion to avoid feeling distressed. And good thing we do, because it’s a really clever way to avoid pain (physical or psychic) in the short-term.

Long-term however, avoiding and then losing a range of motion isn’t so healthy.

All that to say that the question should not be “which is the best position“, but rather “HOW can I help my students access the appropriate ranges of motion at the appropriate times?”

To be confined to neutral while dancing, yes, even in ballet, is like dancing constipated and scared.

That’s probably why I always looked so weird and got injured a lot…

NEUTRAL SPINE/PELVIS REVISITED

I’d like to quote Michael Mullin (ATC, PTA, PRC) as he originally wrote on his Facebook page:

There is a difference between trying to keep someone neutral during activity & trying to facilitate muscles to reduce the pull of a pattern. Neutrality might be achieved, but the bigger goal during training in particular is to not allow a stronger bias to create significant torque onto the system.

Neutrality is awesome, but learning to establish balanced muscle work with movement patterns is end-game….

Read that again.

For most of us, to keep an absolutely perfectly neutral alignment of pelvis and spine is not going to happen. “Neutral” is also a position that is slightly different for everyone, and on any given day.

To force uniformity on a position that is highly variable and constantly in flux is madness.

What’s more important than staying neutral, which by the way I don’t think is possible, is the ability to, as Michael states, “reduce the pull of a pattern” that could create excess torque on a joint or system of joints.

What this means is that how the movement feels for the dancer is more important that how it looks to the outside eye.

Aesthetics are an important part of dance, but no two people can move the same way, and trying to force a dancer to look a particular way, i.e. stay perfectly neutral, will only add strain to their system causing that “weirdness” I couldn’t avoid (because I was trying to be perfect and move like someone I wasn’t).

If the movement feels good for the dancer, there is an absence of extra strain, and it meets the criteria of the aesthetic they’re aiming for (the choreography for example), who cares if it’s not perfectly neutral?

As a colleague of mine pointed out (after I asked him if the corrective exercise I was doing looked “right”), he said, “How does it feel? Are you feeling ___ happen? If you’re feeling it in the right places that’s all that matters. Proprioception is everything“.

Unfortunately for those of you who want solid “yes”, or “no” answers, everything is shades of grey. But this is also a beautiful and liberating thing.

You’re free!

WHEN IS NEUTRAL GOOD?

When a joint is neutral, or centrated (sitting centered relative to it’s maximum extremes of possible range of motion), it is at a mechanical advantage. Sort of.

Actually, a muscle has the highest force producing capabilities when it is stretched out and ready to recoil, like a stretched slingshot. So when you get stuck in one range, there is a constant tug-of-war going on- The muscle wants to recoil, but your brain ain’t letting it.

This is why things can start to feel tight, like you hamstrings and groin.

Anyway, yes, a neutral pelvis is good to aim for as it will allow you to access optimal turnout, hip flexion and extension and minimize stress on the spine and other joints.

This is one mindset… Want another one? Sure you do.

If mindset A is “to achieve maximum range of motion, one must start from center”, then consider mindset B, “To achieve neutral, one must be able to feel both other extremes of that joint’s range of motion”.

This could turn into a huge chicken-or-the-egg discussion, or we could just all agree and say it’s never great to lose ANY range of motion, neutral included.

I guess the biggest thing I want you to consider is that neutral is not a position, it’s just a point on the movement spectrum and you shouldn’t get stuck there.

After all, is the body ever capable of being completely still? I dare you to try (hint- it’s not).

So if neutral is but a range of motion we move through, impossible to hold, and getting stuck in one range of motion at the expense of others can be unsafe and tension-creating, why are we treating it like the holy grail of dance?

WHAT’S A BETTER CUE THAN “NEUTRAL”?

I realize I may have made things even less clear for you. Good! I hope you’re thinking.

What then do you say to a dance student who clearly needs some help sorting out their pelvis/spine/joints you feel need to be more “neutrally” aligned?

While I said that all ranges of motion are good, being sloppy or stiff at the wrong times needs to be corrected before becoming habits that cause pain.

I’m not a dance teacher, so this is not my area of expertise. I’m good with the supplemental work to help dancers bring new awareness and movement possibilities to their art, but when it comes to teaching dance, there are so many people who can do it better than me.

A few things I’d like to say though, from my perspective.

1. Avoid using cues like “tuck-under” and “suck it in” that are positional and can pack emotional baggage.

Give cues that are meant to create a change in movement rather than encourages the dancer to maintain a position while trying to move.

“Tuck-under” and “suck it in” can also make dancers feel like they have a butt that’s too big, or they are fat, and it really sucks to have to dance around in a bodysuit and tights thinking that your dance teacher sees you that way, judging your body.

2. When cueing and corrections alone don’t work, screen dancers, if you can, and recommend some supplementary training to help them.

Sometimes coaching won’t work because the student isn’t ready for it, psychologically or physically- Something beyond their consciousness is holding them back. Supplementary training can help bring these limitations to their awareness and help them to make change.

Check out THIS RESOURCE that showed the benefits of helping dancers with supplemental work outside the class, and this improved their alignment.

Dancers were given separate “tutoring” sessions to supplement technique classes in hopes it would transfer into class.

“The major focus of the tutoring sessions was increasing
awareness and motor control, and developing good alignment habits to promote lasting improvements. The results
of the study indicate that following intervention each of the
dancers decreased their degree of anterior pelvic tilt by an
average of 3.5 degrees. Through a simple tutoring program
these dancers were able to improve their pelvic alignment
and gain a greater understanding of what was necessary for
maintaining this alignment.”

Addressing the pelvic needs of a dancer will eliminate the need to tell them to “tuck under” in class, as they’ll be in a more optimal alignment reflexively.

3. Consider giving them a regressed exercises.

Allow dancers to prioritize proper movement quality over leg height, or excessive range of motion beyond their control. Better to take a few steps back and master the basics.

4. Treat each dancer as an individual.

Remember that what worked for you may not work for every dancer. And please try not to project your own fears and movement biases upon your students.

For example, if you were told to tuck under, you may see this as the ultimate correction, and whenever you see a bum out of place you urge them to tuck it in.

This might not be their specific issue.

And if you had knee pain, then you might cue movement a particular way that worked for you to avoid knee pain. You might do this subconsciously.

If your students don’t have knee pain, they don’t need to avoid it! Just be aware of whether the cue is for you or for your student.

Yes, this makes your job as a teacher pretty difficult. I hope you enjoy the challenge and reward that informed, individualized cueing can bring. Your students will certainly benefit, and you’ll learn a ton.

5. Consider a subtle shift in the language used to communicate alignment.

If you check out THIS article, it seems like it made a huge difference to change from using the word “tuck” to “tilt”.

Mention of the word tilt seemed to suggest the possibility of a different action… Janice Chapman speaks of “slightly tilting” the pelvis without clenching the buttocks, which, in her words, “helps to engage the lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in a posturally advantageous setting.”

So I highly recommend varying the verbiage you use to cue your students. What might be a harmless and effective cue for one student could be highly distressing for another depending on their unique history.

CONCLUSIONS??

  • All movements are good. Posterior and anterior tilt are no better or worse than neutral.
  • Trying to stay perfectly 100% in neutral spine or pelvis can cause excess strain on your system. Minimizing strain and getting dancers to feel the movement correctly is more important than them looking perfect (because as you know, dancers can make almost any movement look good…).
  • Take the time to learn to cue each dancer in your class as an individual and avoid projecting your past experiences upon them.
  • Sometimes supplemental exercise is necessary for a dancer to overcome a limitation that they can’t be coached out of.

If you’re interested in seeing what I mean by “supplemental exercise”, you’ll want to check out Dance Stronger- A book, 4 week training program, and amazing supportive community. I created Dance Stronger to help you overcome limitations that could be causing excess strain and frustration in your quest for “neutral” and better, stronger dancing.

4 week strength training program

Click here to see what Dance Stronger is about!

Dance Stronger is available 100% by donation, because I know you’re a starving artist with priorities. Like coffee, And that shit’s expensive!

I hope to see you in the DS community, and please leave a comment below if you have thoughts, questions, or want to crush my soul (please don’t do that though).

How to Manage Anterior Pelvic Tilt to Improve Your Alignment and Your Dancing

How to Manage Anterior Pelvic Tilt to Improve Your Alignment and Your Dancing

If you are reading this you are a human and you have a pelvis.

And if your name is Dave, you have your own hands, too!

But back to pelvises(pelvi?), Dave. When was the last time you thought about your pelvis? If you’re me, right now! It’s holding your organs, your legs are attached to it, your pelvis is pretty cool.

Today’s post is dedicated to your pelvis, it’s alignment, and getting it positioned proper to help you dance better with less pain and soreness.

Having good pelvic alignment is kind of important for dance. That ain’t no secret.

A good neutral pelvis position, or a centrated pelvis, ensures that the things attaching to it will be functioning optimally. Your hips and spine being the things most directly affected by pelvic alignmnt. Some people like to lump it into one fun word- The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.

And a well-positioned pelvis keeps your organs happy, too.

When the pelvis is centrated, the muscles and other structures attaching to it will be able to rest somewhere in their middle range of motion. This is what you want. When a muscle is at mid-length it has the highest contractile strength. Neither a lengthened muscle nor a shortened muscle will contract as strongly as one at mid length as they are at a mechanical disadvantage.

Dancers will often do exciting compensatory things with their pelvises to get a little extra turnout, for example. As explained in THIS brilliant paper by Donna Kraswnow et. al.

Dancers may attempt to gain a few degrees of additional rotation by decreasing tension on the Y ligament with slight hip flexion, which lowers the anterior brim of the pelvis into anterior tilt and pulls the lumbar spine into hyperextension. By doing this they sacrifice the stability gained from the Y ligament and alter neutral pelvic and spinal alignment.

Another place anterior tilt creeps into dance is in tendu back-type movements.This can be the cause of or caused by tight hip flexors.

…when the dancer’s leg moves to the back (such as tendu battement to the back and in arabesque) and hip extension is restricted, the pelvis is pulled into anterior tilt and the spine hyperextends. The less hip extension a dancer has, the more contribution from the lumbar spine is required for all posterior movements of the femur.

Give your lumbar spine a break. Want better turn out? Center your pelvis.

Want to get on your leg? Get that pelvis centrated.

Want to manage your back pain? Yep, center that pelvis!

But before you can attempt to find center, you need to take an objective look at your pelvic point A. What’s your start position?

Is your pelvis sitting in an anterior tilt or a posterior tilt?

This is important stuff to know about yourself. A crucial piece of body-awareness that I am going to suggest today that you learn to cultivate.

Welcome to Sorting Your Pelvis 101- Anterior tilt edition.

To keep things super simple (stupid) we will only talk about the saggital plane in this post.

The saggital plane refers to forward and back movement. The pelvis is capable of moving in all sorts of whacky directions, but if you don’t have your forward and back sorted, then nothing else beyond that matters. Yet.

Pelvis Sorting Step 1: Know your habitual alignment.

Do you know if your pelvis tends to rest tilted anteriorally, posteriorally, or fairly level?

To simplify things, let’s think of your pelvis like a bowl of soup. The pelvis being the bowl, and I guess your organs are the soup. Mmm, organ soup.

ANTERIOR TILT

If you tilt the bowl forward (anteriorally) the organ soup will spill out the front, onto the floor. This can make it look like your belly is bulging forward a little, and many dance teachers will tell you to “suck it in” to correct this look.

Sorry, but you can’t suck in your pelvic alignment.

This position is indicative of abdominals that aren’t stabilizing effectively, but “sucking it in” will do nothing useful. Finding neutral is what you need, and then the abdominals will do their thing reflexively.

POSTERIOR TILT

If you tip the bowl backwards (posteriorally) the soup spills out the back, and all over your pants. This alignment can make it look like you have no butt, which is sometimes the look ballet dancers are going for. Also a result of constantly being told to tuck under- Not always a good cue, much like “suck it in”.

If it looks like you have no butt, chances are you aren’t using it either, and glutes that function are pretty important for creating force as well as stabilizing your hips and pelvis.

A level bowl of soup is ideal. No spills. No embarrassing pants stains. No prolapsing organs or “long-back” (a term a friend of mine uses to describe people with no butts).

I happen to be an excellent example of someone with a rockin’ anterior tilt.

The horizontal line represents a level pelvis. As you can see, I could do better. Workin’ on it guys. And no, I’m not wearing enough colours. Nearly.

Notice the booty poppin’ way my pelvis, if it was a bowl of soup, would be spilling soup out the front, hence “anterior tilt”. You also see how I try to compensate for this with some rib flare. Pobody’s nerfect.

Getting to neutral requires me to posteriorally tilt like crazy. Unfortunately, this is something my brain has a hard time understanding, nor should it have to try that hard.

If you are like me, then it might feel like you have zero connectivity to your lower abdominals, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t round your lower back or tuck your pelvis under without clenching every muscle in your body.

You need hamstrings, adductors and a TVA that function.

Pelvis sorting step 2: Do something about it.

So your’re ready to do something about it, eh?

Here are my top 3 drills (right now, probably will be different next month…) to help a little with the anterior tilt situation.

Note that to speed the process it might be beneficial to seek some kind of manual therpy like massage, acupuncture, or whatever gets you results. Work with someone you trust and who has experience helping dancers.

1) Foam roller diaphragm release.

Why? With anterior tilted pelvis also comes a compensatory rib flare indicative of diaphragm tightness. The diaphragm is the king of your body. If you want to change your alignment, strength, flexibility, whatever, you need to optimize your diaphragm function and get your ribs in a better position, deemed the “zone of apposition” by the Postural Restoration Institute. See this post for more info on that.

Use the inhalation to push into the roller, and as you exhale let yourself relax into it. It feels kind of like getting punched in the gut really slowly, so, not very nice.

2) 90/90 hip lift.

I seem to post a lot about this exercise, but that’s because I love it so much.

Why? Uber simple, and uber effective for getting more mobility into posterior tilt and lumbar flexion, continuing to work on breathing mechanics and rib positioning, as well as hamstring and core activation and downregulating the low back erectors a little bit. #winning all around.

With the roller between your knees (squeeze the roller, not your butt), curl your tailbone off the floor by pressing your knees up to the ceiling. Inhale for 4 counts, exhale all your air out (at least twice as long as the inhalation). Let your ribs come down towards your hip bones. Take 5 or 6 deep breaths.

3) Tall kneeling wall hump

I don’t know if I can take the credit for creating this exercise- It’s just tall kneeling up against a wall, but I do hope I can take the credit for calling it a “wall hump”.

Why? I like this because it grooves good core sequencing- moving into hip extension without slipping into anterior tiltage. It’s like a squat from the knees down. If it hurts your knees, don’t do it. Same goes for your lower back.

The goal is to get your hips, sternum, and between your eyeballs to smush into the wall at the same time, moving from the pelvis, and not leading from the ribcage or belly. It’s not a body roll. It’s much less sexy than that.

Try not to clench or squeeze your butt, or sink into your lower back.

As you lower from the wall, lead with the back of your neck. To aid this sequencing, put your hands on the wall and push your head away from it, keeping a slight double chin to maintain a neutral neck. Don’t revert back to anterior tilt locomotion.

Conclusions??

Pelvic re-alignment is a journey, not a quick fix. You might never, in this lifetime, get there. It’s progress, not perfection. But if you believe in reincarnation, perhaps your work in this life will reward you with a level pelvis in your next.

And please bear in mind that these exercises are not for everyone. What helps one person achieve a neutral pelvis will not work for the next, and so it’s very important to find someone you trust to help you.

Those who get the best results will test the efficacy of their efforts daily, work on their corrective exercises consistently, and ask for help when they need it.

Next time I’ll talk about some of my favourite ways to centrate a posteriorally tilted pelvis. Stay tuned!

5 Productive Stretches for Dancers

5 Productive Stretches for Dancers

There’s stretching, and then there’s productive stretching. I now only refer to the stretching I do in sessions with my dancers as “productive stretching”.

Mere stretching is unacceptable. My clients deserve better than simply to stretch, and so do you! Why choose to do only a “thing” (to stretch) over an activity with legitimate, progressive returns (a productive stretch)?

Which would you rather choose: Productivity, the act of actually accomplishing something worthwhile. Or, doing stuff for just for the sake of doing stuff.

As much as I like just doing stuff, I came to the conclusion last year that being productive and my happiness level have a direct correlation. It turns out productivity isn’t such a bummer, and I actually like getting stuff done.

Case in point:  Only do productive stretching.

By my above definition of productivity as being the act of actually accomplishing something worthwhile, productive stretching therefore refers to stretching that actually accomplishes something worthwhile: An increase in tissue length and/or desired improvement in joint range of motion and/or changes a neuromuscular pattern of moving in a way that improves execution of important movements and skills, AND can reduce the risk of injury or relieve chronic pain. That’s a very important AND.

In other words, flexibility that will help you dance better and not hurt you.

POP QUIZ:

Does this look productive?

 

Will it make you more flexible? Yeah maybe… But only up until you need hip replacements at the ripe old age of 27. My iliofemoral ligaments hurt just looking at this picture.

Will getting sat on improve motor control, dynamic stability, and help you dance pain-free while preventing injuries? Heck no.

Please don’t do crazy stuff like that. Don’t let your coach sit on you. If not for yourself, do it for me! Because I CARE ABOUT YOU!

It’s funny, I hardly ever stretch with my dancers at all, and when I do, it is generally limited to some mobility or motor control drills, some dynamic stretching to warm up, and I must admit I’m a huge fan of yoga slow-flows and their ability to set your ass on fire while improving range of motion, strength, and building new motor pathways.

Like I wrote about HERE, simply doing common stretches, like lunges to release your hip flexors aren’t that productive. In the case of the pelvis, active mobilization is a better strategy to improve alignment and help with “tightness”. By this I mean using your own muscles to move your bones into a new alignment, and then chill out there and take some deep breaths, which teaches your body to remember that position, increasing the likelihood you’ll actually keep some of that alignment while you’re up walking around, dancing, and carrying your too-heavy bag in one hand, Starbucks cup in the other.

In a nutshell, if you’re already flexible, perhaps well into a degree of being pathologically lax in the ligaments (although I really hate that “p” word) then there are better things you can do with your supplemental training time than stretch more. By simply doing more and longer durations of stretching, a few undersirable things could happen:

  • Muscle becomes overstretched and weak, unable to activate at the right times
  • Joint position becomes altered (ostekinematic changes), causing things to rub together and hurt (labrums, bursae, tendons, etc)
  • Altered motor control around that joint due to ligament and muscle overstretching
  • Muscles around that joint tighten up in an attempt to guard the overstretched joint
  • Overstretching of joint capsule and ligaments (again, causing guarding and feeling of tightness around the joint).

In fact, these days I say, “If it feels tight, DON’T stretch it!”.

And if you are going to stretch something, please breathe while you do it!

So what should you do instead? Try these exercises that serve as mobility drills that can help you to improve joint range of motion as well as training good movement patterns into your system that will allow your joints to stop guarding themselves against the overstretching you might be dishing out (oh your poor ligaments…).

1) For your quads and hip flexors:

Half kneeling is one of my favourite drills and positions. Your goal is to get a stretch for your quads and hip flexors while at the same time you’ll probably feel them burn from activation (along with your butt and hamstrings, hopefully).

Things to consider:

  • Both knees should be at a 90 degree angle
  • Make stance as narrow as possible within a reasonable level of challenge
  • Lift front foot to make sure your weight is not shifted forward onto the front leg. Recheck throughout to make sure you have not drifted forward.
  • Feel maximal stretch possible on front of supporting hip by pressing your knee through the floor, slightly thrusting hip forward, and trying to feel as much space in the hip as possible (like you’re hovering off the floor)
  • Turn head side to side to check balance
  • Breathe with the intention of 360 expansion, directing the breath low, below your bellybutton

 2) More fun for hip flexors, and some calves, too. 

I know- You have tight hip flexors and calves all the dang time. You can kill two birds with one stone and do some split stance breathing. It doesn’t look like much, but this drill (inspired by Anatomy in Motion), when done with awareness of the breath (<– super duper important), can be a really awesome stretch for your calves, hip flexors, and can help with pelvic alignment.

Things to consider:

  • Split stance with feet parallel (don’t let that pesky back foot turn out), as wide or narrow as needed
  • Check in with breathing- Can you breathe low below bellybutton, 360 degree expansion, with full exhalations letting your ribs drop down to hip bones?
  • On an exhale, rotate tailbone through your legs (like a sad dog) to bring pelvis forward, leading the lunge. Front knee can bend a little, back leg stays straight.
  • Keep back heel down and knee straight as much as possible
  • You may feel stretch in calf and/or trailing leg hip, or even inner thigh.

3) For your lower back (if you have a large lordotic curve like me!)

The lower back muscles often become hypertonic, and very overdevelopped, appearing visually hypertrophied (big and sausage-y). However this is not always the case- Some of us are the opposite, so don’t assume that you need to release your lower back because it’s possible you need to get MORE ability to extend your lower back.

You must be careful, very very careful, when stretching the lumbar spine area. Too much stress too soon will hurt your vertebrae, and rather than improving the length of the muscles you might increase their stiffness due to the additional stress and weird forces on the vertebrae and disks themselves. You don’t want that.

The following 2 videos aren’t technically  “stretches”, but are re-positioning/motor control/breathing/core (whatever you wanna call it!) exercises which I have found to be productive in helping to release tension from the lumbar spine erectors.

Things to consider:

  • I stole this exercise from the Postural Restoration Institute. This one helps to release the lumbar erectors while activating the abdominals, hamstrings and adductors, and making you breathe a lot (which is a good thing).
  •  Push feet into wall and pull heels down.
  • Lift tailbone slightly off the floor by pressing knees up.
  • Breathe, trying again to expand all around like a balloon, and try to extend your exhalation to being 3 times as long as you inhale (getting all your air out), and letting the ribs drop down to your hip bones.
  • You should feel this one in your hamstrings and inner thighs and a bit of core, as well as a release for your lower bacl. If you don’t, keep practicing. Same goes if you feel your quads tense up (hint, your quads should stay unclenched)- Keep practicing!

 

Things to consider:

  • Another PRI exercise to actively release the lumbar erectors.
  • You are trying to maintain contact with your mid and lower back (from about bra level to tailbone). Really round your lower back.
  • Same cues as the 90/90 hip lift, but now up on your feet! Breathe, round into the wall, reach your arms.

4) For your abs and butt.

Yes, just because you want to tone and tighten your abs and butt doesn’t mean that they don’t need to learn how to lengthen too! Can you produce force with a sling-shot if you haven’t stretched it back as far as it can go first? Nope. By the same token, you need to be able to feel your muscles stretch to use them. Abs and glutes included.

This is one that is inspired by Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). In this sidelying reachy exercise (that one of my clients has adorably named the “Starfishy Sideplank”), your goal is to find a stretch for your abs and the bottom glute (among other fun possibilities of muscle-feels).

Things to consider:

  • Lying on side, propped up on elbow, legs in a 90 degrees lunge-type position- bottom leg forward, top leg back
  • Ensure supporting elbow is directly beneath shoulder
  • Press palm and forearm into the floor, rolling it inwards (pronate arm), keeping as much space between ear and shoulder as possible
  • Check in with breathing
  • Reach forward as far as possible with front arm, hold for a breath
  • Lift hips off floor if possible, hold for a breath
  • May feel stretching across back hip, bottom leg glute, upper back/shoulder, ribcage/abdomen, lower back, etc

If you want to learn more exercises like these check out Dance Stronger– My latest creation. Dance Stronger is a multimedia guide for dancers who want to get the tools to help them improve their dancing, prevent injuries, and reduce pain by, you guessed it, getting stronger! Click here to get more info.

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In any case, I’d love for you to try the “stretches” in this post out for yourself and see how they feel. Can you feel the stretches? It might be a little trickier because these are stretches that take a bit of conscious effort to find, not splat stretches where you get sat on.

I hope this was helpful. From now on you must only stretch productively. Deal?