Take a load off with some easy ballet stretches that dancers do (or at least should do) every day. The average American spends most of their day sitting, whether in class or at work. Even now as I type this post, I have been sitting at my desk for at least four hours.
What does that do to our bodies? Most adults claim that they often feel stiff and tense after long day at work. So if you’re looking to unwind, or simply want to touch your toes, give this stretch sequence a go.
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What Can Ballet Stretches Do for Me?
These easy ballet stretches help to gradually increase flexibility and give mobilization to stiff joints. If you keep at it every day, you should see massive improvement in a few weeks. You may be wondering, “Why ballet stretches? Can’t regular stretching help too?”
Yes! Any kind of stretch is good for you! But ballet stretches are a bit different because the positions get deeper into the muscles while strengthening and lengthening them. Everyone needs a little ballet in their life, and you can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health with the Benefits of Ballet.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous to put so many pictures of myself out there on the internet. A leotard isn’t the most forgiving kind of clothing! But I’m doing this to show you that not everyone is perfect, and we all have to start somewhere.
When I first started ballet, I could barely touch my toes, and my splits seemed miles away. If you’re new to ballet and hate stretching, don’t be intimidated by your classmates doing stuff like this:
When you feel like this:
Keep in mind that some of the greatest dancers were not always flexible. It just takes time and consistency. If you make a goal for yourself and stick to it, you’ll touch the floor with these easy ballet stretches in no time! Ballet has helped with so much more than strength and flexibility. There are at least 3 Ways the Challenges of Ballet Can Help You in Real Life!
Warming Up Before You Stretch
I would like to emphasize that if you want to treat your muscles well and do these ballet stretches right, you must warm up first. Please please please do at least five minutes of movement before you start! It can be jumping jacks, a light walk around the block, some pliés, anything at all.
I’ve heard stories of people tearing muscles from dropping into the splits without warming up first. If you’re a serious dancer and attend an audition, you might see your competition move right into their biggest tricks with their legs right over their heads as soon as they walk in.
Do not succumb to intimidation stretching! Seriously, warm up your body first and everyone will still be impressed. These pictures were taken after I had just finished an hour and a half class, so I was pretty warm (and tired).
Do these stretches in the order I have shown, because the intensity increases as you go along. You can either do some of the easy ballet stretches, or more advanced ones, it’s totally up to you and your flexibility level.
Do what you feel like you can, never push yourself past your limit! Hold these stretches at least 30 seconds each to really let your muscles adjust and lengthen with the stretch. I also want to note that I forgot a few stretches, so I took these pictures over the course of a couple nights. Anyways, let’s dive in!
Open Your Hips with Butterfly Stretches
Start with your legs crossed as shown with your shoulders back and your chest open. See how I have my left foot in front of my right? That will give my left hip joint a more intense stretch when I learn forward in the next picture.
Try to keep your back as flat as possible when you lean forward. Switch your feet so your right foot is in front instead, and lean forward again to stretch your right hip.
Next, go into a classic butterfly stretch with your heels touching and your back straight. Don’t worry if your knees don’t touch the ground. Simply apply light pressure with your elbows while grabbing your ankles.
If you’re going to remember anything from this, it’s please don’t grab your toes and pull them up to the ceiling! Not only does it promote bad turnout for ballet dancers, you stretch a muscle in your shin that increases the likelihood of injury in your calves.
Grab your ankles like I do in the picture and you’ll be fine. Don’t forget to lean forward with a flat back!
Time for Hamstring Stretches!
Straighten your legs out in front of you and try to sit as tall as you can. Try to imagine pushing the last few vertebrae of your lower back into your thighs. If this alone stretches your hamstrings, don’t worry. You’ll be able to sit up straight in no time.
Keeping your back as flat as possible, try to hinge forward from your hips and grab your toes. Hold this for 5-10 seconds, then allow your back to curve and try to touch your chin to your knees.
Bend your left leg into passé, which just means put your left foot up against your right knee. Bend forward again and try to touch your right foot. Always start with a flat back before letting yourself lean all the way forward and touch your nose to your knee.
Now you’re going to flip your bent leg around so your heel is close to touching your butt. The goal is to have both hips touching the floor at all times while being completely level. This stretch is to loosen up your hip joints more while giving your body a glimpse into the splits.
You can see that I can get my leg a little past my left hip. But if you feel comfortable with your bent leg more in front of you, that’s totally fine! And if you can’t do this position at all, that’s also fine!
I know people that can do barely it with their bent leg completely in front of them. As long as you get a good stretch, you’re accomplishing something. Lean forward and try to grab your foot one more time.
Open Your Hips and Stretch Your Quads!
Straighten your bent leg so it’s directly behind you while bending your front leg. You are now in pigeon pose! This pose is great for stretching your quads, butt, and loosening your hip joints.
Try to sit tall, and maybe even lean back a little bit for a nice ab stretch. If you’re feeling adventurous, raise your back leg and hold it up with your opposite arm to get an amazing quad stretch.
Release your leg, curl into a ball on the floor while contemplating your decision to do this, then repeat the whole hamstring and pigeon pose sequence on your left leg!
Now Time for Split Stretches!
Moving onto straddle stretches, sit with your legs out in second position as far as you feel comfortable. Try to sit straight, as if you were sitting normally in a chair. Your pelvis will naturally want to tilt backward, so try tilting it forward.
This will create an intense stretch for someone new to this position, so take it slow and hold your position just before the discomfort becomes too much. You can keep your hands on your knees for extra stability. It took me several years to get to where I am now, so don’t worry!
Keep your lower back as straight as possible as you lean forward. We’re warming up this position for now, so just try to reach your hands out in front of you a bit, or put your elbows on the floor.
Slowly come back up and take a few breaths. When you’re ready to continue, reach your left arm up over your head and lean over onto your right leg. Try to grab your right foot, and make sure that your shoulders are square. Don’t let that left hip leave the ground!
You should feel a good stretch in the left side of your back, as well as your right leg. Breathe as you slowly come back up, then repeat on the other side.
Come back up, and turn your upper body to face your right leg. Lean forward and try to touch your nose to your knee. Your hips should not leave the ground! If you feel your opposite hip start to rise, focus on keeping it down while reaching over your leg. Come up and repeat the other side.
Onto the splits! You are completely welcome to try these stretches out, but if you’re jus not feeling it, I get it. I encourage you to take a look at these stretches though, to give you something to look forward to.
These are the warm-up stretches I do before sliding into my front splits every class. Start out with a basic lunge position, making sure your knee is directly above your foot with your hips square. Make sure you hold this for at least 30 seconds, like everything else we’ve done.
Shift your weight back so your leg is straight out in front of you. Flex your foot to the ceiling and lean forward, taking in that nice hamstring stretch!
When you’re ready, slide out into the splits as far as you can. And like I said, nobody is perfect! You can see that I don’t have my left splits, even after years of dancing! It took me about eight months to get my right splits. Repeat the two previous warm-up stretches before sliding into your left splits.
We’re going to finish this with straddle splits! I like to sit in a low squatting position with my hands on the floor in front of me while I slowly let my legs slide out to my sides.
I want to emphasize that you need to keep your toes up toward the ceiling instead of letting them fall forward. You’ll end up stretching the wrong muscles and never reach the floor. This one is definitely a fun party trick if I’m warm enough for it!
Bonus Stretch! If you’re feeling loose and limber and want an extra stretch for your hips, give frog stretch a try! Start in a position on all-fours with a neutral spine, then let your knees slowly slide apart. It’s a very intense stretch, so be sure to pace yourself! Here’s a pic of my friend Lizzy who could sleep in this stretch if she wanted.
Final Thoughts on These Easy Ballet Stretches
Do these easy ballet stretches once a day for fast results, or a few times a week to loosen yourself up a bit. This is the basic stretching routine everyone at my dance school does, with some people laying flat on the floor in a straddle, while others can barely touch their toes.
We are all made differently, so we have different levels of natural flexibility. I’ll admit that I am naturally flexible, but I’m not a wet noodle. As long as anyone works on their flexibility regularly, they can achieve the splits, or simply bend down and touch their toes.
It just takes time, patience, and a strong ability to ignore discomfort. I personally love the feeling of stretching, which would explain a lot. There are many more stretches I could have shown here, but I’m keeping it basic for now.
If you want me to do more stretch-related posts, let me know in the comments below!
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