Most of us dancers incorporate stretches into our daily routine, but do you stretch strategically? There are muscle groups that get tight from long periods of sitting that inhibit our fluidity and range of movement. Tight muscles can also lead us to use the wrong muscles to execute movements. Having worked as a remedial massage therapist in a team of physio and exercise physiotherapists, I came to see very common patterns. Here is my quick guide to important muscles to free up the spine (please consult your doctor before attempting new stretches if you have any issues or physical concerns):
1. Spine twist. This is a stretch that works best with generous time and breathing, to let all the smaller muscles along the spine (multifidis) and erector spinae, as well as the fascia cross-sling to let go. Spine twist video.
2. Illiopsoas (or psoas) is our deep hip flexor that connects our top half to our lower half and can get very short and tight from long period of sittings. It is a powerful muscle and if yours is very tight, on one or both sides, it can lead to feelings of tightness in the hamstrings and compression of the lower back. Psoas lunge.
3. Adductors (short and long) are the muscles of the inner thigh. They often work in concert with other muscles to create lower back tightness and knee problems. The "frog pose" and other stretches to lengthen the inner line of the leg can make a powerful difference to the fluidity of the spine. Adductor magnus stretch (Frog pose).
4. Gluteus group, piriformis, obturators (hip rotators) are the muscles of your derriere that can limit your hip movement and lead to tightness in the upper back, as well as sciatic pain (in the case of a tight piriformis). Pidgeon and half pidgeon are great yoga poses for these. Experiment with different angles to get different glut muscles, including the deeper ones. Piriformis release and stretches.
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