I like the quad and hamstring stretches, too. And here is a cool neck stretch I use a lot, since I hold stress in my neck, which is terrible for the posture. :x
Neck Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs relaxed but straight out in front of you (some flex in the knee is fine). Place one hand under the thigh on the same side of your body (i.e. right hand, right thigh) Place the opposite hand on top of your head, and gently pull your head toward that shoulder ( in this case, left shoulder). Straight down is fine, but if you shift your head around a little, you can generally find a spot where you can feel the stretch relieve more tension. Hold for 20 - 30 seconds, then release and do the other side. Yummy stretch!
Good one Jenn. That helped me a lot. I've had considerable pain in my back and neck lately.
I like to do calf and hamstring stretches. It helps with running and dancing, since I tend to get really stiff there. To stretch my calves I lean forward pressing both hands into the wall, bring one foot forward -- knee bent, and put other leg backwards -- pressing calf into the floor.
For hamstrings I sit on the floor, right leg straight out, left leg turned inwards on the floor so that bottom of left foot is touching the inside of right leg. Lean forward and grab hold of right foot. This is a good one.
Stretching is a very important part of health and fitness and often overlooked or avoided for various reasons. There are many different ways to stretch a muscle but these are the easiest and safest that we've found.
§ Never stretch a cold muscle... make sure you have warmed-up for at least 8-12 minutes
§ Get permission from your doctor if you've had any previous injuries
§ Stop immediately if you feel any pain
§ Do not bounce or jerk... stretch using a slow, controlled movement
§ Breath and relax
§ Hold each stretch for 20 or 30 seconds in the beginning, up to 60 seconds or longer if you're more advanced
UPPER BODY: Arms
Deltoids (shoulder) Either seated or standing, lift your left arm across the front of your body at about chest height. Place your right arm below your left arm at or slightly above the elbow. Keeping your left arm straight, bend your right elbow and gently pull your left arm across your chest. Repeat with the other side.
Biceps (front of arm) Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Extend your left arm parallel to the floor or slightly above with your palm against the wall. Slowly turn your body to the right, away from the wall. Repeat with the other side. This is also an excellent stretch for chest muscles.
Triceps (back of arm) Sit or stand tall, with good posture. Place your left arm behind your head with your palm facing your body. With your right hand, gently push your left elbow down. Repeat with the other side.
Wrists Interlock your fingers. Lift your arms above your head with your palms facing the ceiling. Without arching your back, gently push your hands towards the ceiling and slightly back. This is also an excellent stretch for shoulders and elbows.
Chest In addition to the Biceps Stretch above, you can also stand or sit upright and place your hands on the small of your back. Slowly bring your elbows together behind your back, until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
Start on your hands and knees. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and arch your back away from the floor. At the same time, lower your head towards the floor. Slowly reverse the motion to let your back sag towards the floor. At the same time, lift your head and tilt your pelvis towards the floor. This is Hatha yoga position known as the cat stretch. Lower
Lie on your stomach with your feet together and your hands on the floor at shoulder height. While relaxing your back and butt, slowly push your upper body away from the floor to increase the stretch. This is also a Hatha yoga position known as the cobra. Alternate position: Sit on the floor with your right leg extended. Bend you left knee in a 90 degree angle and place your left foot just outside your right leg. Rest your right elbow on the outside of your left knee and gently rotate your torso to the left. Repeat with other leg.
Side Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Without bending forward or backward at the waist, slowly bend to the left until you feel a stretch along your right side. You can keep your arms on your hips for support, or extended over your head to increase the stretch.
Lie on your side with your top knee bent. With your hand, grab the top of the foot and gently pull your heel towards your butt. Repeat with the other leg. Alternate position: Lie on your stomach and bend your left knee. Grab your left foot with your right hand and gently pull your heel towards your butt. Repeat with the other leg. Hamstrings
Standing, place your left heel on a bench or chair that is approximately 18 inches off the floor. Gently lean forward at the waist. Repeat with the other leg. Alternate position: sit on the floor with your left leg extended and toes pointing upward. Bend your right leg and place the bottom of your foot against the inside of your left leg. Keeping your back straight and bending at the waist, gently lean forward. Repeat with the other leg. Both of these stretches also affect the lower back and calf muscles. Calves
Stand facing a wall or tree with your left foot closer to the wall/tree and your right leg further back (right leg should be straight). Keeping your right heel on the ground, slowly bring your left knee and hips forward. Be sure to keep your back straight as you move your body toward the wall/tree. Repeat with other leg. Iliotibial Band (IT Band)
Lie on your back with your right leg extended and your left knee bent. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee and gently pull your left leg over your right leg and towards the floor. Be sure to keep your right leg straight and your shoulders flat. Repeat with other leg. This stretch also affects the hip flexors.
Hip Flexors Kneel on your left knee on the floor with your right knee bent in a 90 degree angle and your right foot flat on the floor. Gently lean forward over your right foot while keeping your back and torso straight. Repeat with other leg. Alternate position: lie on your back with your knees bent in a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left leg and rest your left foot just above your right knee. Gently pull your right knee towards your chest. Repeat with other leg. This stretch also affects your butt.
Have you ever taken any Yoga classes? I've met a lot of dancers who complement their study of dance with yoga practice...in one group I used to belong to one of the students was an avid dancer and performer...one of my inspirations for learning to dance actually.
I've been doing yoga for about 5 years...and it's really helped with my total body flexibility, plus it is so relaxing. Once you learn the basics you can customize it to your particular needs...whch is great for the day after a late night dance-athon...give it a try if you haven't already! :wink:
By the way, there was an article on yoga as the perfect exercise for dancers -- I believe in a recent issue of Dance Teacher or Dance magazine? Did anybody happen to read it? I just saw the caption while I was waiting for my dance lesson to start, and didn't get to read the whole article.