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cambre back - possible to extend?


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#1 dancepig

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 10:58 AM

Okay, now that I've had several classes with three exceptional dancers, I'd really like to be able to get a better extension on my cambre back. I am not sure if this is possible with an adult of advanced years? :offtopic: But if it is possible to get a better bend to the back, I'd sure like to know how? Thank you!
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#2 dancing_dentist

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 11:21 AM

Hi dancepig,
it is always possible to get father on back bend. The key is to train your back's flexibility. There are many exercises you can try.
This is one of them, lay on your stomach, ask a friend to hold your ankles firmly to the floor. Now try to get your body up with your arms in 5th position. Do it in a sharp movement and hold it. You'll feel your upper back muscles working.
You can also sit on your knees and your arms in 5th. Then bend backwards as far as possible, try reaching the floor with your arms which are still in 5th position. Do not lose the tension on your back, otherwise you'll end up with your arms on the floor supporting your body. It has to be your back which supports your body weight. Get as far as you can. Then slowly open your arms through 2nd position while recovering.
There are many other backbend exercises, and don't forget to stretch your arms backwards too.
By improving your backwards cambre, you'll improve your arabesque as well.
:offtopic:

#3 tangerinetwist

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 11:45 AM

Hi dancepig,
You can also sit on your knees and your arms in 5th. Then bend backwards as far as possible, try reaching the floor with your arms which are still in 5th position. Do not lose the tension on your back, otherwise you'll end up with your arms on the floor supporting your body. It has to be your back which supports your body weight. Get as far as you can. Then slowly open your arms through 2nd position while recovering.
There are many other backbend exercises, and don't forget to stretch your arms backwards too.
By improving your backwards cambre, you'll improve your arabesque as well.
:offtopic:


This position puts a lot of stress on the quadraceps muscle group as well as the knees.

I really like using the cobra pose from yoga to develop my students' back flexibility as it is unlikely to put other muscle groups and joints at risk of injury.

#4 Redbookish

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 12:43 PM

I'd agee with TangerineTwist that the exercises you suggest, DancingDentist, could put stress on the knees, and if not done carefully, rising up "sharply" to fifth en haut while lying on your stomach could strain your neck, if you use your neck rather than back muscles. I'd never ask anyone to hold my feet to the floor, but rather engage my inner thigh muscles and lower abdominals & core muscles to keep my feet on the floor.

The yoga like movement of lying on your stomach, hands under the shoulders, and rippling up through the spine, with correct placement of skull, would be helpful -- is that the Cobra pose, TangerineTwist?

#5 dancepig

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 01:08 PM

Thank you all for the suggestions. I have to admit that what dancingdentist suggested did make me say ouch, but I'd be very very careful if I was to try that one. What I'm visualizing in that cobra pose is something like the swan exercise in pilates? I have been working very hard on that one, but don't really seem to be getting very far. Guess I need to give it more time? :offtopic:
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#6 ami1436

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 01:10 PM

I feel that one of the key ingredients for a good cambre back is, just like for everything else, good alignment and a strong core. Your core needs to be aligned and LIFTED, because the cambre back lifts up-and-away, as opposed to back-and-down... does that make sense?

#7 tangerinetwist

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 02:30 PM

The yoga like movement of lying on your stomach, hands under the shoulders, and rippling up through the spine, with correct placement of skull, would be helpful -- is that the Cobra pose, TangerineTwist?


Yes, this is the Cobra! :offtopic:

#8 Redbookish

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 04:15 PM

Ah! thank you :) I didn't know I did yoga! ... :P

#9 Boots

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 05:11 PM

Do it in a sharp movement and hold it.


Argh! Please don't do it sharply. As a yoga teacher, let me say, yes cobra and other things are great - if you do them correctly! Keys to back bends:

Backbends should be all about the upper back, not the lower back. Engage your abdominal muscles and deep pelvic musles to keep yourself out of your lower back! If your lower back pinches, come out of it, focus on engaging lower abdominal muscles by drawing the area between your navel and pubic bone in and up, and then work on going into the back bend slowly and safely. If you're on your stomach, lengthen your tailbone toward the floor.

Use your upper back musles to "open" the front of the body. In yoga this is usually done by drawing the tips of the shoulder blades down and together. In ballet you usually hear "shoulders down", which unfortuntately people sometimes interpret in such a way as to roll the shoulders forward, which completely impedes back bending.

If you are doing a prone backbend (on stomach, facing down), keep this rule in mind - as long as your pelvis is on the floor, your elbows shoud be bent! If you straighten your arms you end up "hanging" in your arms and lower back, and you force your shoulders up towards your ears - which means you can't use the upper back muscles properly to open the front body. If your pelvis comes off the floor, then only hands and tops of feet should be on the floor (this is upward facing dog, whereas pelvis on the floor is cobra). In Both cobra and updog, keep your belly muscles engaged!!!

One of the things that has helped me most both in cambre back and in balances has been learning the use of mula bhanda in yoga. I won't go into the intricacies of it here, but a simple way to think of it is deep pelvic floor muscles. I ususally tell students to draw their sitting bones together from side to side, and at the same time, gently squeeze the pubic bone and tailbone toward each other. Try this next time you do a cambre back and you'll have more of that "up to go back" feeling. Then try it is a passe releve and see what happens to your balance. :)
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#10 tangerinetwist

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 05:55 PM

I was certainly NOT saying to do the Cobra movement sharply. That statement was in reference to the movement done sitting on the knees and going backward. There is no sense in ever trying to stretch anything by using sharp movements as they put both muscles at risk of tearing and joints at risk because they are not properly lubricated and may be torqued in directions they are not meant to go.

#11 Boots

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 07:07 PM

I was certainly NOT saying to do the Cobra movement sharply. That statement was in reference to the movement done sitting on the knees and going backward. There is no sense in ever trying to stretch anything by using sharp movements as they put both muscles at risk of tearing and joints at risk because they are not properly lubricated and may be torqued in directions they are not meant to go.


Tangerinetwist, I know you weren't - I was quoting someone else.
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#12 tangerinetwist

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 08:36 PM

:) Didn't want that to sound like it was coming from a ballet teacher- I try to let yoga teachers do things their way and have a great deal of respect for the discipline.

#13 Boots

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 08:58 PM

...and I have great respect for ballet teachers. :) No doubt my rather sharp response had something to do with the misunderstanding. But I couldn't help it - I was wincing imaging someone doing serious damage to their back by bending to forcefully.
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#14 MJ

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 09:46 PM

Am I the only one who finds it difficult to breathe while cambe'ing back?

#15 jimpickles

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 09:47 PM

Well, theres so much written and in such detail that what I will say will seem quite simple - but I dont like the cobra, as it tends to put too much strain on the lower back, which gets worked a lot already. In any case the lower back isn't where you need to develop the flexibility for back cambres. I much prefer the yoga sphinx - where the arms are kept at right angles with the forearms on the floor, and the chest is lifted up and out. This concentrates the bend in the upper back where it is needed. I heartily concur with all that's been written on strong core.

Another thing you can do, if you have a sofa at home (and most people do), is to sit sideways on the seat, with your back against one of the arms. Lie back over the arm, so that the bend is maximised in the upper back. For a truly maximal effect, put your arms over your head (elbows out to the side), and get a trusted friend to pull your arms up, out, and back down towards the floor.

Jim.