How Yoga Helped My Ballet Stretches

At age 17, I could not do a split.  I worked HARD for YEARS to get a split, to no avail.  Those were years of pain and disappointment.  Nothing seemed to work.

In my 17th summer, I went to New York City on a ballet scholarship.  My mother went with me.  She discovered a Yoga Studio within walking distance from our rooms and encouraged me to take a class with her.

I tried a yoga class,  It was very peaceful and relaxing.  The Yoga teachers used stretching positions.  But instead of pushing and working at stretching, they relaxed into the positions.  They used breathing and mental imagery to help with relaxation.

I was a strong dancer and a hard-working student.  It was very hard for me to relax.

I practiced yoga exercises every morning and night.  Slowly my body released its tension.  Within weeks I could do a split!  Eventually, using relaxation techniques, I achieved a straddle (side split) and perfect turn-out!

To this day, I do Yoga exercises to stay relaxed and flexible.

Moral of the story:  Don’t “try” to strertch.  Don’t “work hard” at stretching.  Don’t “push”.  Just ease into your stretch.  Relax your breathing.  Let the stretch take you where it will.  If you feel your mind racing or your body tightening up, come out of your stretch.  Go back to it later.  Focus not on stretching, but on relaxing.


P.S.  If you have any tips or tricks for stretching, share them with us by leaving a comment.  Thanks!

3 Reasons Dancers Should Stretch

Three ways stretching can help you:

1.  Stretching improves flexibility.

2.  Stretching  reduces risk of injury.

3.  Stretching reduces soreness.

Lets look at these ideas more deeply.

1.  More flexibility.  A few dancers are “noodles”.  They can twist themselves into pretzels.  They don’t need more flexibility.  Most of us are not like that.  Most of us need to stretch to get the freedom of good turnout.  We need to stretch to get the soaring arabesques and the effortless extensions that are so beautiful.

2.  Fewer injuries. Have you ever kicked your leg up with too much force and pulled your hamstring muscle?  Or maybe you fell and pulled something.  Dancers who are flexible are less likely to get these types of injuries because their muscles can handle the unexpected stretch.

3.  Less sore.  When you work a muscle hard or in a new way, it will often be sore for a couple of days.  For example, it you lift your leg to the front and hold it until it trembles, your thigh muscles (quadraceps) are probably going to be sore.  If you stretch them out right away, you increase the flow of blood to the overworked muscle and it will not be as sore.

Stretch gently.  Stretch safely.  But stretch!