Hello! My name is Cassandra and I am SO happy to be doing some guest blogging for the woman we all gain so much inspiration from, Taylor. I am a former gymnast, current dancer and competitive gymnastics coach with a passion for natural living and fitness. When I’m not dancing or out on hiking adventures with my husband, I love to work it out to my customized Taylored Fitness workouts. I look forward to sharing with you all during this time!
Today we’ll talk about stretching; not only for dancers and Yogis! Gaining flexibility can be intimidating, and can sometimes seem an unnecissary addition to your health and fitness regiment. In reality, it can be a great way to keep our bodies healthy and lean. More importantly it can become a meditative act, helping one to de-stress and relax. Remember, never stretch to the point of pain, and be careful not to compare your flexibility to others’. Everyone’s mobility at their joints varies, and it is best not to fight our bodies. I would recommend doing these stretches after having worked out so as not to cause strain, and more excitingly, to help reap the benefits of a stretching program as soon as possible.
Let’s begin! Find a sturdy door like your front door, get a stool if needed, and hang facing the door. You may lift your legs up completely, or just lift onto your toes. You could also grab a towel to place over the door so that it’s more comfortable to hang. The point here is to release tension from the lower back and hips. Try to hang longer each time you do this. This is one of my favorite stretches and is a great way to get started.
Relaxed and ready for side bends, stand up straight slightly more than hips width apart, reaching high to the sky and place one hand on your mid thigh as you thoughtfully reach over to the side.
Gently roll through the front as though you were holding a large bouquet of flowers, dropping your head a bit and exhaling as you do so.
Continue on to the other side and then reach back, realeasing the head slightly so that you’re looking to the ceiling, or better yet the sky. Repeat, beginning to the other side this time. Be sure to keep your spine stretched.
For the next part, you will need a low to medium resistance thera band. Grab the band and hold overhead more than shoulder width apart.
Stretch tall and bend over to the side, pulling on the band gently 15-30 times with the arm that’s closest to the ground. Remain tall through the center and repeat to the other side.
Grab your yoga mat and head to the floor. Sit upright, legs straight out and together in a pike position. Slowly point your toes, feeling the full articulation of the foot through a slow count of four, and then hold for four. Peel back to flex your toes for a four count and gently open your feet into first position, as demonstrated.
Try to maintain turnout without forcing it, and point your feet for a four count, then hold for four. Come back to flex feet in turnout and bring them back to parallel. Repeat the process one more time. Hinge at your hips to forward fold and gently point or flex your toes depending on how deep of a stretch you would like, flex being the deeper stretch of the two. Hold at your lowest point and very gently reach back and forth without bouncing 25 times. Roll up gently to finish.
Time to open up the hips with a butterfly stretch. Resist the urge to ‘flap your wings’, as that can put stress on the knees. An example of this stretch is at the top of the page.
Sit up tall and gently fold forward at the hips, exhaling and holding for 5 deep breaths. You now have the option to place your feet further out into more of a diamond shape, as seen here.
Forward fold and hold for 5 deep breaths as well. You may skip the diamond shape if you have knee problems.
Now, an active stretch to open the hips further. Sit upright with your knees like mountains, hips width apart and place your ankle to your other leg’s knee and gently rock side to side. Keep the foot active in flex position in order to protect the knee. If this feels uncomfortable, stop and do not repeat on the other side. If there is no strain, rock side to side gently 10-15 times.
Onto one of my favorite stretches, sit up and bend your front leg at a 90 degree angle with a flexed foot.
Again, be sure to keep the foot active in order to protect your knee. You may need to place a yoga block under your knee depending on how open your hips are. You have the option to keep your back leg bent with your foot close to your seat, or for an advanced stretch you may take your back leg straight behind you as you would in a split. Place your hands wide and gently fold forward and hold for 3-5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other leg.
For the next stretch you will need a foam roller. If you don’t already have one, immediatly run to the store and buy one now! Serioulsy though, they are great and are more widely available than ever. Long a secret tool utilized by dancers and physical therapists, foam rollers work wonders to get knots out and release tension. Take your foam roller and roll out your spine from top to bottom 3-5 times. Keep your stomach muscles active and your back straight as you go over the lower spine. Place the foam roller at your upper-mid back and hold for 3-5 deep breaths.
Imagine your spine opening up as you melt into the foam roller. If this is too much, then begin with rolling out your spine and building up to this point. Remember, you want your lumbar (lower) spine to remain stable while your thoracic (upper-mid) spine can allow for more mobility.
Let’s relax and breathe with a yoga staple cat, cows. Inhale as we round out our back for cat stretch and exhale as we send our gaze up while drawing our shoulder blades down for cow. Repeat 2 more times. Slowly flip yourself onto your back allowing your arms to lie without tension by your side, legs slightly apart, and close your eyes while taking 100 deep breaths or longer to finish. Careful not to fall asleep, although perhaps a nap is in order after this stretching session.
Remember to treat this as time taken for YOU to collect and refresh. Happy stretching and thanks for reading!