CriticalDance Forum

Hip flexibility
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Author:  bebounce [ Fri May 18, 2001 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Hip flexibility

I have incredibly non-flexible, closed hips (okay, not the LEAST flexible, but it's still sad) and It's a problem for me in class. To ask about something else, I've noticed that even though my hips are the most closed of anyone in my class, I have and use more turnout than most of the other girls; that makes me wonder-what muscles need to be flexible to have good turnout? and where are they? Okay, back to the point, What I REALLY need to know is how to open my hips up, like when I butterfly and lie on my stomach, my feet are higher than my head almost! It feels like they just don't budge, when I stretch they still feel closed, like there is no stretch to open them up-it literally has no affect on how my hips feel; they WON'T BUDGE. I really need some good stretches are excersises! I would compare the feeling in my hips to When Basheva was talking about tightly constructed feet. Like if you have REALLY tight feet, and you push your arch, and stretch your foot, it feels like there is like NO AFFECT in the arch flexibility; you get my metaphor. Anyway, PLEASE HELP ME WITH MY HIPS!

Author:  Basheva [ Fri May 18, 2001 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Bebounce - there is a point beyond which the hips simply will not oopen. It isn't just the muscles, tendons, ligaments, it's also the shape of the bones, and how they are fitted together within the hip socket - and you can't change bones.<P>I would not recommend doing the butterfly face down at all - it is too stressful for the knees. You can accomplish the same stretch by sitting on the floor and putting the bottoms of your feet together. Or you can lie on your back and put the bottoms of your feet together. However, if you lie on your back on the floor be sure to have a mat underneath you so there is no back strain.<P>The really important thing that you said in your post was that you "have and use more turnout" than the other girls in your class. The most important thing is to use what you have and to use that in a correct manner.<P>Stand in first position, your best unforced first position. Without holding onto the barre, go on up on your demi-pointes, now look at where your heels are. I bet they slipped back a bit. That is where your turnout is - the turnout that is available to you and that you can use safely and smoothly. There is not much beyond that you can go. There is no magic exercise.<P>I do the sitting butterfly all the time. When I do a tendu I concentrate on keeping my working heel hidden from the mirror. When I tendu to the front I visualize the heel leading my foot out. When I take a step onto demi-pointe - I step turned out.<P> But still there is a point beyond which you can't go - or you will force it, get injured and you will not really be able to move and dance. And you will surely injure your knees.

Author:  Born2dance [ Sat May 19, 2001 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

I do the frog or i think that you call it the butterfly face down. My feet almost touch te ground and when I have someone push down and in they touch the ground flat. It doesnt hurt my knees at all and my teacher actually recomends this. Is this ok?

Author:  Basheva [ Sat May 19, 2001 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Born2Dance - in my opinion it is most definitely not ok - and even less ok for someone to be pushing down on you.<P>It is not really a matter of your knees being in pain - it is a matter of placing weight in a stressful way upon them. They were not meant to carry your weight in this way. You can accomplish the same stretch in a much more benign, passive way by doing it sitting up or lying face up.<P>And both as a teacher or as a student I would never-ever-never-ever allow anyone to push or pull on me. Allow relaxation to do the work - allow gravity to do the work - allow slow and careful work to get the job done. It takes time and patience, but it is safer.<P>In my opinion.<P>

Author:  Born2dance [ Sat May 19, 2001 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

We do something in class called partner stretch. One person lies on their back with one leg sraight on the ground and the other leg up in the air. The partner pushes the leg down until the person on the ground feels the stretch. Do you think that this is incorrect also then--becuase someone is pushing on you? I like doing this better then barre stretch because i am so flexible i dont get stretched from barre stretch.

Author:  Basheva [ Sat May 19, 2001 4:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Born2Dance - in my opinion - I am against just about every stretch in which someone would push, pull or otherwise handle another person. The only exceptions for that are a physical therapist, doctor, or other professional. Even a dance/ballet teacher should not be pulling and pushing. It is ok for the teacher to gently guide and "arrange" an arm, a hand, touch the toes, gently arrange the head - but not much more than that. It's not a wrestling match.<P>If you are that flexible, then you especially don't need someone pushing on you. Anything extreme is to be avoided. There is no point to it. Someone who is very flexible needs to be working on strength, so that the leg can be held with stability - like in a high developpé.<P>Ballet is not about athletics - ballet is an art form. A grand battement is not supposed to kick you in the face - LOL. <P>Sorry, that is my opinion.<P>

Author:  Born2dance [ Sat May 19, 2001 4:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Is there a way to work on the strength while everyone else is stretching? Have you ever heard of the doorway splits stretch?

Author:  Basheva [ Sat May 19, 2001 5:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

No - I don't think right off hand I can think of a doorway split stretch - could be kind of gruesome if someone opens the door? - just kidding!! Describe it for us.<P>Well, if you read the stretch and strength thread there are a couple of ways on there to work on strength. By lifing the leg to the barre, and then lifting it off the barre for several seconds, lower, then lift again and hold it more seconds. Do that to the front and side - after EVERY class.<P>Another great way to do it is to retard the lowering of your leg from the grand battement. I believe that is also described in that stretch and strength thread. Kick up for the grand battement and lower slowly. Do that with every grand battement, and you will get stronger.<P>Another way is to do your heel-in-hand stretch and then try to let go of your heel and keep your leg there and lower slowly.<P>And yet another way - developpé to any position, then retiré, developpé again in fondu, now straighten that standing knee and try to keep the leg at the same height it was at when you were in fondu.<P>Or - rond de jambe en l'air, and developpé out of that. Grand rond de jambe is also a great strengthener - without letting the leg sink as it goes to any position. In fact as it goes around try to move it up higher. (OUCH) <P>But, the thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be extreme to be good - it has to be beautiful - that comes first. A strongly pointed foot, straight knees, stable center placement, lifted torso, and a smile - are a lot better than extreme anything. In my opinion.<P>

Author:  Born2dance [ Sat May 19, 2001 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Ok--the doorway stretch. We have this door in the ballet studio that goes to the outside so it doesnt open unless someone opens it--so thats the door we use. I hold on to the end of the barre cuz it works out that way--but i think you can also hold onto the doorknob. You place for the right leg splits the right leg on the ground by the doorway and raise your left leg up--if you have a perfect split your body should lie flat against the door frame. Did that make sense?

Author:  KyleS [ Sat May 19, 2001 6:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

born2dance,<P>After I got my splits and was trying to improve them I did door jam stretches between my classes. I think I did mine in reverse of you, I did them in a penche. It also helped my back flexibility by kinda walking my hands up the door way, just a suggestion if the door way is big enough for you to get a grip on it.<BR>~K~

Author:  Basheva [ Sat May 19, 2001 7:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Ok - I think I got the picture. But tell me - why is this better than just doing splits on the floor? and then bending forward over your front leg - and gently back bend to your back leg?<P>The floor splits are a lot safer - because you are not at the same time asking your body to bear your weight. When you do them against either a wall or a door - standing up - you are asking your body to stretch and bear your weight. It is also a great opportunity for your ankle to roll and your hips to lift.<P>However, on the floor - the ground is solid beneath you, you are not at the same time asking your body to bear your weight, no ankle/foot rolling and you can steady yourself with your hands on the ground on either side of you to keep your hips as square as possible. That is, in my opinion, not only a safer stretch, it is also a more aligned stretch.<P>However, the other looks more spectacular - but stretching is not about doing something spectacular, it's about doing something safe and efficacious. In my opinion.

Author:  Basheva [ Sat May 19, 2001 7:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

For penché, one of the best ways to work on them - is stand at the barre, and point your outside foot to the back. WITHOUT putting any weight on it at all, do your best backbend, now as you come up from the backbend, bring your leg with you into arabesque, and on into penché. Your leg must come up as one piece with your body. Engage those back muscles. That will really strengthen the muscles in your back and at the same time improve the flexibility of your back.<P>Always hold onto the barre, and never put weight on that back pointed foot.<P>A lot safer that trying to turn yourself upside down on a door. In my opinion.<p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited May 19, 2001).]

Author:  Suzie [ Wed May 23, 2001 9:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Hello,<P>this board is incredibly helpful for any dancer who seeks good advice or encouragement. Image<P>I have started dancing again after a 7-year break, and I really really love it. But I've noticed a few problems with my body that I didn't have in the past (10 years of ballet, from age 7-17), and after thinking long and hard about it, I'd like to share my observations with you. Some of them have to do with turnout, so I thought this would be the right thread to add my post to.<P>My body center seems to have changed quite a bit during the six years I haven't danced. At 17 I was 5'5" / 100 lbs. Since then I've grown another inch and gained 15 lbs. On the one hand I have much better balance now. On the other hand I had trouble with pirouettes at the beginning. I always over-turned them. But that problem was easily fixed. I don't need as much strenght now to do a pirouette than I did before.<P>That brings me to another point. My body memory and the body that I have now just won't mesh. I was doing pre-professional level training when I had the accident that prevented me from pursuing a career in dancing. Now, I'm just a little better than a total beginner. Okay, my body still knows more about alignment than I thought it would. I automatically stand straight. And when I don't think about what to do with my arms or my head it will just happen. But my muscle memory really has to adjust to what I can do at the moment. <P>An example: fifth position, sur le coup de pied, passé fermé, developé, rise to demi pointe. Until then everything went just fine. But when I wanted to fully extend my leg, I was quite unelegantly reminded of the fact that my leg just won't go as high as it used to do. And that's just one example. *LOL*<P>Another thing I'm having trouble with is my turnout. As a child I was "suffering" from hyper-mobility/-flexibility. The flexibility is gone to a certain degree. But I still have hypermobile joints. When I stretch out my arms to the front with my palms pressed together I can make my elbows touch. Or when I sit astride on a bench, back straight, then put my feet up on it and let my knees fall out into the butterfly stretch, they go even farther down than the bench level without any pressure. So I'm pretty sure that I should still be able to fully turn out my legs from the hips, because there is no resistance from the joints. <P>When I stand up, first position, and turn out from the hips, I can maintain a comfortable turnout of 80° to each side. But when one of my feet leaves the floor, it gets quite difficult to maintain the turnout. I really begin to feel which muscles are engaged for turnout and which of those little buggers are not stretched or strong enough. I'm working an my overall flexibility to minimize the resistance that some muscles seem to build up and on my strenght to be able to hold the turnout even when off the floor or off the barre. When I listen carefully to my body it says that the inner thigh muscles (the ones that are joined to the hip by the big tendon in the groin, and the hamstrings need stretching. The muscles under the butt need strenghtening. And the muscles that go around the outside of the hips need stretching and strenghtening. Sorry, I don't know the scientific terms. Any suggestions on how to do this? I never had to overcome these problems when I was a teenager, because everything just seemed to come naturally to me, but now I really need help.<P>Another thing: I really have the strangest legs. When I stand in sixth position, my knees won't touch and they are quite knobby. Even when I hyperextend my legs, they stick out a bit. And they are slightly pointed inwards. So even when I turn out from the hips it looks like I'm not doing it right. But when I do a plié, the knees go straight over my toes. When I was younger those legs gave me a lot of headache, because I found them ugly. I only noticed when my teacher kept telling me to straighten my legs, everytime I was doing grand battements or an attitude, that I had "different" legs. I did try very hard, I even hyperextended my legs to make them seem straighter, but my knee would still stick out a bit. Isn't it strange?<P>Sorry for the lenghty post. I really didn't intend for it to become so prosy. Image<P>~Suzie

Author:  Basheva [ Wed May 23, 2001 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Suzie - the good news is that you are so very aware of your body and where you are in that body. You know it with your reason, but now you have to accept it with your heart.<P>Remember, when you stopped dancing at 17 you had all those years behind you. I think that your mind remembers the final stretch and strength you had attained but it doesn't remember as well the work it took to get there. <P>As for the height of your extension - you will just have to be patient with it - it might never get to where it was, but it will get better with time and work. <P> As you are so well aware turnout is a balance between flexibility and the strength to hold and use that flexibility. It doesn't matter what the muscles are called - you are aware of them and what you have to use. Again, time will provide the strength - and patience.<P>A lot has happened - your body has grown and changed a lot between when you last danced and where you are now. You have to work on what you have now - and accept a new rate of growth. <P>A good analogy might be in appetite and how we eat. When we are teenagers we tend to eat a lot - we are very active, and growing and we seem to be able to digest almost anything. Then when we are older we need less food, and we have to be more careful about what we are eating, the stomach is not as accepting as it once was. Those older people who go along remembering HOW they used to eat, and WHAT they used to eat, and continue to eat large heavy amounts, run into all sorts of problems with digestion and overweight. Those older people who can accommodate the "new person" they have become and made the adjustments, do much better.<P>As an older woman if I ate pizza at midnight like I used to as a kid, I would really suffer for it. I can't go on memory - I have to go on the reality of who I am now.<P><BR>You knowledge of ballet technique, and some of the things that are going well automatically for you - like pirouettes - are an asset. But, you have to forget how high your leg used to be, you have a new leg and you have to work with that. Does that make sense? I am doing the same thing after being away from dance for three years. I have to work with what I am now.<P>But, that is not meant to be discouraging, because progress still happens. There will be improvements with time. It took you ten years (7-17 yrs.) to get where you were before.<P>As for the shape of your legs, I don't think I have met many women who were happy with their legs, for one reason or another. But, in my opinion, you should never push back and hyperextend those knees.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited May 23, 2001).]

Author:  Suzie [ Wed May 23, 2001 3:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hip flexibility

Dear Basheva,<P>thanks for your very kind and encouraging words. <P>The above post was only about the problems that I've experienced. I've left out the good things, because I didn't want to write too much in one post.<P>The good news is, as you mentioned above, that now I'm very much aware of my body and what I'm doing in ballet class. And I dance more from the heart than I did before. Maybe it has something to do with maturity if you can call it that at the ripe old age of 23. Image<P>And my extension really isn't that bad. When I do grands battements, my foot goes to shoulder level. And I can do a pretty good arabesque with both left and right leg to the back, also with the foot at shoulder level. The only thing I really have trouble with is extension to the side. But that will surely come again with time and patience. And I'm steadily improving. My flexibility has already very much improved. I can do a split (left leg in front) again after two months of ballet training. And I can feel in my heart that I'm on the right track with carefully observing and trying.<P>My teacher even suggested that I could try pointe work again within a year if I kept improving at the current rate. But I'll wait and see how it goes.<P>When I really think hard about my ten years of ballet experience, I remember that flexibility always came easily to me. But I also remember that it took me very much effort to attain the strenght that was neccessary to use that flexibility to good advantage.<P>Did I really sound that negative in my last post? I didn't want to give the impression that I'm still crying about the past. And you have to keep in mind that English is only my third language.<P>Thanks for listening,<BR>Suzie

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