When you find yourself admiring the smooth elegance of a naturally talented dancer, you’re looking at someone whose psoas muscles are functioning at their fullest potential. This muscle wraps from the lower back around to the front of the hips (think hip flexors). It’s one of the largest muscles of the body and is the major walking muscle. If not cared for properly, psoas muscles can cause many problems, including lower back pain, disc problems, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain and digestive problems, none of which are good news for dancers. To release tightness and tension in your hips, start with these stretches and you’ll notice the freedom and ease it can bring to your dancing.
Exercise #1: Pigeon
Start with left leg curled in front of you, right leg stretched back. Keep your pelvis square; this stretches the front and back of your hip.
To deepen your stretch, relax your torso down over your front leg. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times on each side.
1. Keep belly engaged.
2. Keep back knee pointed down.
Exercise #2: Kneeling Lunge
Kneel on both knees. Swing your left leg front so the foot is flat on the floor pointing directly ahead. Lean slightly forward until you feel a stretch in your hip. Draw your belly to your spine and keep tail tucked.
You can add a side cambré to stretch your sides or bring your foot toward your back to stretch your quad. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times on each side.
1. Keep front thigh parallel to ground.
2. Keep focus straight ahead.
3. Keep back knee pointed down.
Excercise #3: Stretch With A Physio Ball
Using a physio ball (45 to 55cm), place one foot on the ball, maintaining a neutral, square pelvis.
Engage your abs and roll the ball back by extending your leg backward. You can do this parallel or turned out, or roll the hip from parallel to turned out while in the extended position.
You can add a side cambré or a demi-plié to deepen your stretch. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times on each side.
1. Keep abs engaged.
2. Keep bottom foot flat.
3. Keep pelvis neutral.
Photos by Erin Baiano