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  1. #1
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Default Exercises that help with flexibility?

    I need some good exercises that help with flexibility for a very stiff jointed student. My regular exercises aren't enough I am afraid. What are some good ones that are gentle to start with?

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Flexibility where, specifically?

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    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Good question, I forgot to mention! Mostly the whole torso, stiff upper back, lower back, hips. It's someone with very limited movement in the torso. I have hope though , a lot of people need time to work on their flexibility. But that's what we are going to work on first (plus better posture as well) before adding in more dance movements. Arms and legs are ok though.

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    If she is a once a week student and flexibility is hampering her, and if she is a serious student, I would recommend taking yoga classes. There are a lot of yoga exercises that help with spine flexibility, so if you want to add some of these exercises to your class, it would be great, but it won't do too much good if she's only doing them once a week. I think the yoginis of this forum can pitch in with specific yoga exercise recommendations.

    I am currently working on increasing my upper back flexibility (I have a lot of lower back flexibility but not that much in the upper back), and it's happening little by little. I am doing it by practicing port de bras cambré exercises from ballet almost daily on my own. If you are interested in knowing more about those, I can elaborate.

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    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    I am currently working on increasing my upper back flexibility (I have a lot of lower back flexibility but not that much in the upper back), and it's happening little by little. I am doing it by practicing port de bras cambré exercises from ballet almost daily on my own. If you are interested in knowing more about those, I can elaborate.
    What is port de bras cambré? I need more flexibility in my upper back myself, I have scoleosis and that need constant monitoring otherwise I grow into the hunchback of the Notre Dame

    The student has daily classes with me.

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amulya View Post
    What is port de bras cambré? I need more flexibility in my upper back myself, I have scoleosis and that need constant monitoring otherwise I grow into the hunchback of the Notre Dame

    The student has daily classes with me.
    Daily! That's awesome

    I couldn't find any videos of it being done the way I do it... this is the closest to it I can get.
    Disclaimer: don't be intimidated by these girls' superhuman flexibility! NO, I do not do exercises like the girls in this video, even people who have doing ballet their entire lives don't... this is very extreme stuff, but with my explanations I am hoping it can help get the point across.


    The exercise I am talking about starts at 1:20 and ends at 1:35. It's just basically bending forward and then bending back, but without shifting the angle of the body, and keeping the weight where it is, also without bending the knees or shifting the pelvis.

    Even in its most basic form, this is actually much harder to do than it looks, because when we bend forward we tend to "pike" our butt towards the back (and bend our knees), and when we bend back we tend to "pike" our pelvis towards the front, to compensate for the weight that is going in the other direction.

    It's a great exercise for building balance and building flexibility that is supported by strength. I am naturally a fairly flexible person, but very little of my flexibility is supported by strength, meaning, if I am doing something on the floor and/or otherwise have something or someone to support me, I can go very far in some exercises, but doing the equivalent exercises standing is much harder because it requires strength to bring yourself into and out of the positions and to hold yourself there.

    Don't do it on demi-pointe, just do it flat-footed. Take longer counts for the exercise than they are taking in this video, and hold the two bent positions for longer.

    When bending forward, make sure the back is straight for as long as possible and make sure not to "pike" back. Try to bring your head as close to your knees as possible, without bending them.

    When bending back, bring the arm up first, then stretch the neck back (not all the way back, make sure the neck is stretched and supported and holding your head up, don't just let the head fall back), and stretch the back, elongating it and bending it back starting at the top, thinking of doing it vertebrae by vertebrae starting at the very top of your neck and going all the way down to the lower thoracic vertebrae. Try not to use the lumbar vertebrae here. Most of us already have more flexible lower backs than upper backs, so use this exercise for upper back flexibility. Don't pike forward and don't bend the knees. It's hard to keep a balance this way, and at first you'll feel like you are bending back but then you'll look at yourself and see that your back is just straighter... LOL... but keep at it and eventually you will begin to see some progress. Be sure to REALLY engage your core, keep that lower back straight and the pelvis tucked. Engaging the glutes here really helps as well. You really need to contract those muscles to keep your lower back straight while your upper back is bending back.
    Last edited by Yame; 08-17-2011 at 10:45 PM.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    If you seriously want to improve flexibilty you first need to know exactly what is inflexible. There are a range of tests which measure a person against a standard set of responses - but they need to be administered correctly. I have a small group of these I have gathered over the years - but I couldn't do it by text. You want someone like a sports physio. Book an assessment. Tell them what you need to be able to do. They will measure and rank the areas that need to be worked on - for instance muscle A may need work before muscle B either because it is less flexible or because working on B first may make working on A harder.

    A good physio will give maybe 4-6 exercises to start with - any more and it won't get done. They'll take you through them then you go home and do it several times a week. If you are less experienced you may need to come in after a week or so to check you are doing them right. Then after about 2-3 months you come back and they re-assess and add/remove exercises.

    If you are less serious you could try a generalized program or yoga - but you risk doing what "feels good" - which is often the areas which don't need the most work. Also with stretches that use several muscles the more flexible ones tend to move the most while the ones that need the work do as little as possible.

    Finally, is it flexibilty - or could it be range of motion issues which cannot be improved (such as ones related to bone configuration) or even could it be lack of control (I've had students swear they have no bend in their lateral flexors to bring up their hip with the torso held but have plenty if the pelvis is held an the torso bends)

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    The exercise I am talking about starts at 1:20 and ends at 1:35. It's just basically bending forward and then bending back, but without shifting the angle of the body, and keeping the weight where it is, also without bending the knees or shifting the pelvis.
    This requires a certain amount of flexibility and strength first - before you can do it safely. This is NOT a way to improve flexibilty for most people.

    First, many people cannot bend forward at the hip like this - it is physically impossible due to a number of factors which maybe just muscluar - for instance over tight hamstrings (in which case work on stretching the hamstrings alone first) - or skeletal (there is a huge variation in hip joint configuration). Doing this exercise then will end up bending in the back which can cause injury (and does nothing for flexibility).

    Next, the fullly bent over position is normally avoided as it puts the weight of the upper body on a single vertebra - again this is asking for trouble.

    Going backwards these women had lovely flexible backs and used every joint to get their movement - they didn't achieve that by doing the exercise though. They got this through natrurally flexibility maybe with some help of specific exercises. Civilians tend to bend from one poor over used joint - again putting their backs at risk.

    In addition to these women having flexible bodies they are also young, strong, trained and with no extra weight. They can do this (at least for a few years) - 99% of the population cannot and most of those will never be able to no matter how hard they try.

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    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    This requires a certain amount of flexibility and strength first - before you can do it safely. This is NOT a way to improve flexibilty for most people.
    No, it's not. That's why I prefaced it with "I am currently working on [...]" "I am doing it by [...]" I wouldn't expect some random person off the street to just look at that and do it, but I'm assuming Amulya as a dancer can look at the exercise, read my explanations, and decide whether or not this is something that might work for her.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    Going backwards these women had lovely flexible backs and used every joint to get their movement - they didn't achieve that by doing the exercise though. They got this through natrurally flexibility maybe with some help of specific exercises. Civilians tend to bend from one poor over used joint - again putting their backs at risk.
    The whole point of the exercise is to build upper back flexibility and get you to learn how to bend back without overstressing that "one poor overused joint." These dancers in particular I am sure were naturally flexible to begin with, however such exercises helped them increase the upper back flexibility they already had.

    Ballet dancers do achieve upper back flexibility through exercises like this. Those who already have it get to keep and increase it, those who don't naturally have it get to build it. I can spot a ballet dancer a mile away by the lines they can create with their upper back. This happens because the pelvis must stay in place no matter what they do, so that they can keep their balance. So any backbend must happen from the upper back.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    In addition to these women having flexible bodies they are also young, strong, trained and with no extra weight. They can do this (at least for a few years) - 99% of the population cannot and most of those will never be able to no matter how hard they try.
    In my disclaimer I've said even ballet dancers who have been dancing forever can't necessarily do these exercises in the way the dancers in the video can. I merely picked this particular video because I couldn't find another video of this exercise.

    No one is saying we'll all be able to bend that way if we do this exercise everyday. All I am saying is that this is a way to slowly build some upper back flexibility, if done correctly. In my explanation I go into detail about how to do it correctly. If all my guidelines are followed, none of the problems you mentioned would arise. It's not about how far you go, it's about how you do it and maintaining the posture and proper technique. If a person can not even begin to do that exercise without having major issues, then it's not for them just yet.

    Most people, unless injured or disabled in some way, have the potential to improve their current abilities. We can't all aim for the highest of goals, but we can always aim to get better, even if it's just a little bit better. I don't like the word "never," except if it's to say it's never done anybody any good. With all the orthopedic problems I was born with, no one in this world would have dreamed that I'd be dancing... yet, here I am.

  10. #10
    Junior Member Maysoon's Avatar
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    here's a website you're gonna want to check out: her name's EvaMarie Pilipuf and she is the Flexibility coach highly recommend once on her site, to the right click on "about EvaMarie" then you'll see "free demo" click on that one, and you'll find free sample vids its very helpful, simple for the beginner/intermediate I did! and seeing results I've became more flexible try but you gotta check it out lol if anyone has any questions or confused about the site PM me.

    The Flexibility Coach - Online Stretching Instruction

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