Just because something has always been done "that way" doesn't mean we should still be doing it. When I see dancers being taught to hike their leg up on the barre to stretch (esp. children at a barre that is way too high for them). It makes me cringe.
With all the new knowledge we have at our disposal, why we still cling to old beliefs is beyond me. As teachers, we have a responsibility to not just teach the way we were taught, but to stay current with the information we have today. We need to think beyond, "Well, that's the way it's always been done" and learn improved ways that will make our students' dance experience a better one (and a longer lasting one)!
Stretching at the barre in the way that you see in this picture (and in a way that many students are still being taught to do ) can be hazardous to a dancer's body. It can put tremendous pressure on the achilles tendon (which is usually resting on the barre and dragged along as you stretch.) It also can put tremendous stress on the knees (both of the supporting and stretching leg) and usually leads to overstretching- which can cause muscle and ligament damage.
There are much better, safer ways to increase your flexibility and range of motion- ways we teach here at Studio Sharise.
Here are a few:
- Yoga poses: especially poses such as front & side lunges, Crescent, Pigeon, Warrior, and Triangle,
- The good ol' Straddle Stretch is an oldie, but still a goodie (but better when feet are flexed)
- half splits and supported full splits (using yoga blocks under your hands or hips)
Most importantly, leave your ego outside the class door. Gaining better flexibility takes time and you must work with the body you have. You are in competition with no one.
Flexibility like strength is a gradual gain. Pushing it far beyond its current capabilities will only lead to damage. Damage that could keep you out of dance class for weeks or standing in the wings on your performance day (not exactly what we are working for here).
And remember, stretching should never cause pain. Mild discomfort? Sure. But pain? NO! Hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds, stretch daily ( after a 5 minute warm-up) and DON'T push it, DON'T strain ( if you're gritting your teeth, you're doing too much). Just allow your body to sink into the stretch, allowing gravity to be your buddy - and don't forget to breathe!
To reach your maximum potential, go slow, be consistent, respect your body and Get off the Barre!
See you in class!