Whether dancing to classical, jazz, Latin, or hip-hop music, dancers require a tremendous amount of strength and flexibility to bring the music to life through their bodies. Even if you’re not a dancer and your daily life may not require you to lift your leg towards the sky or bend over backward, dancers’ stretching drills will increase your flexibility and help you avoid injury in your daily activities!
Warmup exercises elevate your body temperature to keep your muscles, ligaments, and joints loose. Warming up is how you prepare your body for a physical activity like learning ballet, lowering your chances of injury. Even an activity like taking a walk can benefit from a warm-up like stretching, to help keep your leg muscles and ankle joints from getting overstressed from impact, which can sometimes lead to soreness or tears.
Let’s start with some basic barre hamstring stretches. Use the barre to stretch out your hamstrings and other leg muscles. Stand at arm’s length from the barre and lift your right leg up to meet the barre. Rest your foot over the barre and hinge your upper body forward to lean into your leg. Lean forwards, sideways left and right, then backward. Once done, turn your back towards the barre while keeping your leg extended over it. Lean forwards and down. Hold your leg for a few seconds.
Go back up and lift your hand. Hold for a few seconds and turn your body towards the barre again. It's time for splits! Slide your working leg along the barre as far as it will go without feeling pain. Try to go all into a perfect split position if you are able. Be sure to keep your legs straight.
Lay your yoga mat on the floor and lay down. Push your lower back into the floor as you exhale and on an inhale lift your legs up, while you press your arms and palms into the floor. Sweep your legs over your head, and use that momentum to curl the hips up and off the floor. Roll on your back, bringing the weight towards your upper back and shoulders. Be sure your hands are supporting your back well for this one. From your usual position with both legs up, let both feet drop directly to either side, back, and front. Let gravity help you out!
Move from your original position with your back on the floor and legs up with your back supported by your hands into a sitting position. Then roll back into a shoulder stand and bend your legs over your head to touch the floor. Repeat several times.
All of these stretches can help you avoid injuries if you play any sport that works your legs. Do them either before or after a workout, or any time your leg muscles are feeling tight.