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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How to lean forward when sitting in a V


Susanne

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A very common stretch is the one when you sit on the floor with back straight and legs open to the sides in a V. Then you are supposed to lean forward. The trouble is that it is really difficult for me to even sit with my back straight. (It doesn't help if i make a smaller V or even sit with my legs parallell and together)

It just doesn't feel like I'm stretching my hamstrings at all!

I only get such a cramp on the outside of my thighs and camp in the neighbourhood of the hip flexor!

 

The other day my teacher pressed me down on the floor, which proved that I'm not that inflexible that I thougt (even tough I'm not flexible), but I beleive is the cramp that prevents me to lean forward.

 

Has anyone had a similar experience? I cannot find any book that can tell me what I should work on to be able to do this stretch correctly!

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Guest Starling

Hey Susanne!

 

I'm fairly flexible myself, but I have similar problems in the forward v-stretch you described. What I find really helps is breathing. I start sitting 90 degrees with my hands in front of my. I breathe in deeply and try to strengthen and lengthen my spine. On the exhale I try to walk my hands a little further in front of me. I then inhale and strengthen, exhale and go a little further. That's it! It has taken a little bit, but I can definately get down a lot further. Of course, all the regular rules apply - you stretch better if your really warmed up and stuff.

 

Again, I just find the breath really helps the stretch. I also breath through my nose, and fill up the diaphram so your really taking in a lot of oxygen. I also try to focus the breath on the places that are stretching.

 

Hope this helps!

Starling

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Guest skydream773

hey there!

 

you may want to try picturing a pole sticking straight up your bum (i know, it doesn't sound pretty!!!!) and following your spine straight up through your head. This will surely keep your frame straight, to avoid arching your back. Then you can slightly lean forward, still imagining this pole. Don't look down, look straight ahead. you may also want to picture someone pushing your abdomen out from the back. i find that helps. let me know if this helps or not! :D

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When I first sit down to stretch, I can barely lean forward at all.

 

What I do is stretch each leg individually first. I stretch one leg out to the side, and then bend the other leg, so that the foot of the bent leg is flat against my upper inner thigh.

 

I then stretch towards the foot of the straight leg, and then lean forward over my bent foot.

 

Once I've stretched both legs like this, I can lean forward when both legs are straight.

 

Rio

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I have the same problem as you. Although I can now sit straight and lean forward with a straight back (but not all the way), it took years to be able to do it.

It feels like there is something that should click in your hip and it just doesn't. Is that also how you feel in this position? I feel like everything is locked in my hip socket, and that it is very hard to relax even a little bit, in order to go forward.

 

To start with, I have never done this exercise with straight legs. It just doesn't work otherwise. I always let my feet flat on the floor and trying to maintain my turnout, but I bent my knees a little. I found it helps a lot. With bent knees, it's unlikely you'll be able to be flat on the floor in front of you, because at one stage, you're going to tilt forward and fall on your nose :D but if you keep the pulp of your fingers touching the floor in front of you, and breathe slowly as you go further, I found it helped. Once you're familiar with this exercise, and you have found a new flexibility, you can introduce straight legs, but as I said, if you're anything like me, it took a LONNNNNG time!

 

I also alternate the 'forward' exercise with another: in the same position you started with (straight back but slightly bent knees) I try to really lengthen the spine and straighten the knees slowly. It doesn't have to be fully stretched to start with, but towards this aim... Doing this exercise with arms in 2nd makes it really hard (the back is working!) If it's still too much, you can put the pulp of your fingers on the floor, just beside your bum. Don't rely on it too much (as you'll find it's easier to push the floor from there, to gain a straighter back), but on the other hand, you may push too far and create an arched back, and also, it will be harder to work without arms...

But go gradually, building up as you improve. If you can do that with a teacher, that would be much better... Never go beyond what you can do without injury, it goes without saying. This takes time. Be patient. ;)

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I also forgot to mention that having someone press on your back is not a good idea :D

What you'll achieve with this is increased flexibility (with a risk of injury, may I add!) but what you need is flexibility and strength in your back. No amount of pushing on your back to open your legs further will create a strong/flexible back! :D

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Susanne,

I experience tightness in the same areas that you describe when trying to do the straddle stretch. What helps me is to stretch those areas first, before trying to do any forward stretches. (Also really concentrate on loosening your quads. Sometimes you don't realize that you're gripping them, and that will definitely hold you back).

 

What I usually do (it's a bit of a long description - sorry!):

 

Forward lunge stretch with the knee of the back leg on the floor. If you tuck your pelvis a little and lean as far forward toward the bent leg as possible (without forcing anything!), you get a really good stretch in the front of the hip/hip flexor.

 

I follow this with a stretch for the outside of the hip/buttock area. Lie face down with one leg bent under you and the other leg extended back (ideally the angle of the bent leg is such that your lower leg would be perpendicular to your body, but for most of us that doesn't work. Mine is usually at a sharper angle, with the foot of the bent leg somewhere in the neighborhood of my other hip).

 

After this stretch you can do another hip flexor one - from the lying down position, raise your torso up and support yourself with your hands. Bend the back leg (the one that was extended behind you) toward your buttock. Reach around with the opposite arm and *very gently* pull the foot closer to the buttock. Keep your torso up and be careful that you pull the foot straight in to you and not off to either side,as that can hurt your knee.

 

I hold each of these for at least 10 breaths, and sometimes I repeat them on the side that is feeling more tight. After this series I find it is much easier to do the forward straddle stretch.

 

Hope that helps! :D

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Thank you everybody!

As someone pointed out it may take a LOOONG time so, I will try all your advice and see what happens! As some of you have already guessed it is the tension in the hipsocket area.

 

The strange thing is that I cannot sit with my spine straight without some tension in my quads and hip. If I relax I will automatically bend my back and drop backwards! Does it make any sense to you?

 

Let's see what happens! I'll keep you updated!

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Hi!

I think I've found out that the trouble is that my hamstring and other muscles in my thigh are too tight. Because when my teacher pushed me down to the floor I didn't really have a straight back. :P Now I've found that it's really (and I do mean very very) difficult to sit with straight parallell legs and straight back, then there is the same feeling that someone else described in another thread (I think it was scuffite) about feeling as hitting a nerve. I didn't think the "nerve-feeling" had anything to do with my muscles, but it apparently does.

 

Another thing that I've found helped was to sit with straight back and bent knees and gradally pressing down the legs so they become straight. It helps me to understand what "straight" is.

 

Thanks everyone!!

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Up until about a year ago I had the same problem with sitting tall while my legs were extended, either in second position or straight out in front of me. To compound the difficulty, about 10-15 minutes of my modern class would involve exercises in this position. Being a good soldier I did my best until finally, my back rebelled. More than once in modern class I would be glued to the floor, literally unable to stand, because my back hurt so much.

 

The problem was, of course, very tight hamstrings. And despite my efforts to do traditional stretches, nothing seemed to help.

 

In desperation I decided to take a new approach. First thing I did was to refuse to sit in any way on the floor where I had any difficulty or experienced any pain while sitting tall. In modern class I either modified my way of sitting or did the exercises (or alternative ones) while lying with my back on the floor. Second thing I did was to rethink the way I was stretching. Rather than pay attention to the experts, I started experimenting with various ways of stretching, to see what worked best for me. I think I tried almost everything that has ever been suggested, plus some ideas of my own to come up with a stretching routine that worked for me. I did a lot of stretching with my back on the floor. Also would hang on a railing as I walked down the stairs of my house.

 

The good news was that it worked. My hamstrings have become more flexible and I can comfortably sit tall in all the seated positions. And I’m an old guy, whose flexibility gets progressively less, and who is a “man of steel” (i.e., doesn’t bend well) so what I did seems to have worked. I think the big thing was simply to refuse to do anything that might remotely cause the pain and to find my own ways of gaining flexibility.

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