The stretches that took me from “I can’t do a wheel pose without help” … to… “Yeah, I can put my head between my feet.”
As a dancer, back flexibility is always a topic of discussion. Unsurprisingly, when you type into Google “back flexibility” the first question that autofills is “back flexibility stretches for dancers.”
This has been an area of focus and success for me – with achieving the illusive “head-to-feet” in January of 2016.
10 Stretches: How I Got My Head-to-Feet
- Disclaimer: I am not an expert on flexibility. However, these are all stretches I learned from certified personal trainers, yoga instructors, and contortionists.
- Warm Up: Spend 10-15 minutes warming up. You can do chest circles, shoulder rolls, cat/cow poses.
- Be mindful: Your spine is important, take special care and rest days.
- Questions? I’ve hyperlinked to video tutorials from professionals for most poses.
1. Cat/Cow Pose (Howcast, 2012)
Inhale into Cat Pose, exhale as you round your back for Cow Pose. Rotate between both poses 3 times.
2. Downward Dog (Yoga with Adriene, 2012)
Press into the ground with your hands and draw your hips back. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
3. Cobra Pose (Yoga with Adriene, 2013)
Inhale as you press up. Focus on lengthening your spine. Gently twist side to side to warm up your low back.
4. Cobra Kicks
Once in cobra, I like to bend each leg. Bend each leg two times and hold for 3-5 breaths. Then, press your hips back for Puppy Dog.
5. Puppy Dog Pose (Ekhart Yoga, 2010)
Keep your hips over your knee as you drop your chest down. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
6. Camel Pose Rotations
Using a gentle rotation to grab both ankles, lead with the arm in the direction you plan to go. Sweep out the opposite direction. Repeat 3 times in each direction.
7. Camel Pose (BeFiT, 2013)
Gently reach back for your ankles or feet. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
8. Wheel Pose (DOYOUYOGA.com, 2013)
Press up into wheel pose. Hold for 3-5 breaths. See video tutorial for proper form.
9. Plow Pose
Keep arms and palms down to your sides, pike both legs to roll overhead. See video for leg variations. As you unroll, pike legs together and unroll one vertebrae at a time.
10. Feet to Head: Lower Down from Camel Pose
Work on lowering down with your back muscles. If this feels too challenging, practice with walking your hands down a wall. Feeling bendy? Reach overhead for the ground and walk hands in towards your feet.
How often to stretch?
I do the stretches listed above for 20-40 minutes three days a week.
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Howcast. “How to Do a Cat Cow Pose for Energy | Yoga.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 June 2012. Web. 14 July 2016.
Yoga with Adriene. “Downward Dog – Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 12 December 2012. Web. 14 July 2016.
Yoga with Adriene. “Cobra Pose – Yoga With Adriene.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 January 2013. Web. 14 July 2016.
Ekhart Yoga. “Yoga, the Puppy Dog Pose.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 1 March 2010. Web. 14 July 2016.
BeFiT. “Jillian Michaels: Yoga Camel Pose” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 24 March 2013. Web. 14 July 2016.
DOYOUYOGA.com. “How To Do Wheel Pose – Yoga Pros on Yoga Poses.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 29 June 2013. Web. 14 July 2016.