If you're planning to enroll for adult beginner ballet classes, there are two very safe stretches that you can do before you learn anything about ballet.
You can do these every day and continue them once you start ballet lessons. Even if you never carry through with dance classes, learn these anyway as they will help to avoid back pain. And if you dance, you'll be dancing smart!
Why is back pain so common among adults? Even among adults with no history of injury or back strain, low back pain especially can become a chronic problem, mild or severe.
As you age, your flexibility decreases. Your long muscles that allow a certain range of motion, get shorter. Your joints begin to lose their range of motion, and the ligaments that hold bone to bone begin to lose their strength. Similar to an elastic band aging and getting less elastic. However, your ligaments and muscles will not just fall apart one day like an old elastic band.
However, you will start to feel pain as you continue to try and move and do all the things you are used to doing. You depend on the muscles at the front of your body, the muscles across your chest and shoulders, and the muscles at the front of your spine and hips, for a lot of every day motions. You particularly lose flexibility in these muscles from sitting at a desk, typing and staring at a computer monitor, or similar sedentary inactivity.
Loosening up these muscles is all you need to do. Ligaments do not need to be stretched - in fact, joint stability depends on their integrity.
So here are two easy stretches that will help you avoid back pain.
Done correctly, you may find some aches and pains that you already have will disappear. Healthy muscles are relaxed, and can stretch when you need them to, for daily activities.
My chiropractor calls this 'the doorway stretch'. Standing in a doorway, place the palm of your hand against the doorjamb, above shoulder level, so that your arm is bent at a 90-degree angle, and your armpit is right against the doorjamb. Press your hand and arm into it. Slowly press forward increasing the stretch, not to a point of any pain, just a stretchy feeling. Hold for about a ten count. Repeat with the other arm.
You are stretching muscles that routinely tense, especially if you are not sitting with your hips against the back of your chair, your spine upright in its natural curve, head held straight, neck relaxed. And of course your monitor, keyboard, mouse, arm rests are all ergonomically placed perfectly. I know! Who sits like that?
Allowing these muscles to retain more and more tension without relief, will pull on your neck muscles, upper back muscles and lead to headaches and neck and shoulder pain. Now you can reverse that trend.
For your low back and hip area: stand with feet together, and take a long step forward. Keep your hips and low back upright, and place your hands on your hips so you can feel it if your posture changes.
Bend your back leg slowly, lowering into a runner's lunge, not uncomfortably deep. You will feel the stretch at the front of your hips. The posture muscles at the front of your spine will get this stretch as well, and also the front of your back thigh. Hold for a 10 count, and switch legs.
You will be more able to stretch after a hot bath or shower. If you do any kind of exercise class, do after class while you're warm.
In a dance studio, before a class, you will see dancers sitting on the floor in stretch positions, or maybe with their legs on the barre in a stretched ballet position. They are not really stretching, they are just checking their positions and loosening up a little. So don't copy what ballet dancers do before class. You'll see them really go at it after a 45 minute barre, or at the end of a class.
For those who have had an injury or who are experiencing any sharp or burning back muscle pains, see your health care practitioner before trying these exercises.
If you try ballet as an adult beginner and later opt for another style of workout, keep up these two very healthy exercises.
Last update : Wednesday, 11 March 2009