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Flexibilty Exercises For Dancers – Stretch The Psoas Muscle

Flexibility Exercises For Dancers – Get A Higher Leg Extension To The Back

The iliopsoas, or psoas muscle, can be lengthened, which will allow you to keep your back upright when you perform a high leg extension to the back, or derriere, in ballet terms. This is also your arabesque position, with variations of the arm and head positions.

The psoas muscle is a postural support muscle. Its strength keeps you upright, working with the core muscles to stabilize your low back and pelvis area. The psoas runs from the top of your quadricpes, or quad, at the front of your thigh, and goes over the hip joint, to the spine. Inserted at the anterior, or front of the spine, this muscle controls the bending of the body at the hip joint. (Say you sneeze and one of your knees lifts up when your middle section contracts. You bend at the hip joint. The psoas is a hip flexor muscle).

If sufficiently flexible, the psoas allows an easy, fluid,  bend at the waist, when you perform your high leg extension to the back. Here is one of the easiest flexibility stretches you can do, to lengthen the iliopsoas.

You do not use ballet turnout to do this; start with your legs parallel, in a demi plie, or small knee bend, heels on the floor.

  • extend one leg directly behind its hip joint.
  • press the back foot level on the floor.
  • use a ballet barre or the back of a chair to stay balanced.
  • slowly stretch the back leg, and keep your pelvis as upright as you can, although it may tip back a bit.
  • this light pressure to stay upright creates the stretch over the front of the back leg hip.
  • pull up the core muscles, and you will feel even more of a stretch.
  • rotate your spine toward your front leg, gently, for a stretch in a slightly different part of the hip joint.
  • rotate in the other direction, to the back leg, and the stretch will be emphasized differently, again.

Hold each position for thirty to sixty seconds, and do not bounce or pulse. Repeat the stretch at least three times, with each leg.

Always stop and ease up the position if anything hurts.

It is always best to stretch at the end of a class, when you are warmed up thoroughly. This way you get the most out of your ballet stretches.



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