Wellness and the Dancer - How stretching can stimulate the body and mind.
Flexibility has always been a vital component of dance training. WTS has recently introduced a more focused approach to developing the flexible body. By adding Flexibility and Strength Training to our full-time program, we ensure that our dancers are equipped to express themselves fully and freely through the artform they love so much.
We’ve all been there. You sit in a class surrounded by dancers who fall effortlessly
into a second split. Who can shoulder their leg like Misty Copeland and wrap
themselves up like a human pretzel and you ask yourself…how?
The good news is you can train to become more flexible. Through daily practice and
a deeper understanding of the stretching process, flexibility will increase the body’s
muscle elasticity. And with the correct training, you will soon be leaping through the
air like the rubber band you were always meant to be.
OK, so what is Flexibility exactly?
Flexibility is best described as: ‘the ability to move the joints through their full range
of motion.’ Flexibility, and the extra flair of hypermobility, has become a considerable
advantage in our highly competitive market.
Currently, there are loads of platforms that provide content on demand. Instagram,
TikTok and YouTube have ensured that audiences are able to watch entertainment
at the click of a button. Even live entertainment is increasingly more accessible and
overflowing with variety.
Whilst audiences enjoy the graceful skill of the professional dancer, they are
naturally unaware of the amount of work it takes to perfect that finished product.
Audiences only experience the effortlessness of art in motion.
Mind, Body & Soul
So, why do you need to perform flexibility and strengthening exercises to improve performance?
For the professional dancer, the benefit of cross training [i] and cardio workouts cannot be denied. It takes years of hard work to achieve beautiful lines and flawless technique. But like an athlete – the dancer strives endlessly to pursue the extent of their physical capabilities.
A stretching warm up and cool down has long been a part of a dancer’s routine. However, this does not always support mindful flexibility practice nor does it empower the dancer to permanently increase their muscle elasticity[ii]. Without the elasticity, the facility of the body remains restricted.
At WTS, we understand the demands of an ever-evolving industry. We have recently introduced a more focused approach to developing the flexible body by adding Flexibility and Strength Training to the full-time training program. Through the integration of a daily stretching routine[iii], our dancers physical capabilities will improve, which will help to ensure their futures in an increasingly challenging market.
So, clearly stretching has proved itself to be invaluable in the classroom. But, it also has numerous mental and physical benefits that aid the dancer outside of the studio.
How Flexibility Improves Health
What are the mental[iv] and physical benefits of stretching exercises for flexibility?
One of the greatest things about stretching is its versatility. Not only is it good for the body, but it also helps to stimulate the mind.
As you stretch, your body releases endorphins, which interact with your body to leave you feeling satisfied and content.
Stretching also regulates your metabolism and insulin levels. This could lead to better digestion, weight loss, and better-balanced sugar levels.
Stretching improves circulation by increasing blood flow, not only to your muscles but also to your brain [v]. But, what makes is this important?
Improved dynamic movement: stretching improves brain to muscle coordination.
It aids relaxation: tense muscles can restrict blood flow which can reduce the amount of oxygen available to the muscles. Stretching can enable the tense muscle groups to relax, allowing for even oxygen distribution, leading to greater muscle elasticity.
Greater bodily awareness: many disciplines use stretching as a way to check in with your physical self. It brings to light what the body feels and what we may be ignoring during our day to day activities. This can be anything ranging from dehydration or muscle tension due to stress of lack of sleep.
Knowing what muscle groups to focus on: stretching routines help you to identify which muscle groups may need attention. With routine practice, this can help you avoid injury, not only when dancing but also outside the studio in your day to day activities. You’d be surprised how many injuries have occurred by doing something as simple as lifting a shopping bag.
It prepares the body for exercise: stretching loosens up the body and warms up the muscle groups in preparation for movement.
Stretching should be a vital part of every dancer’s daily routine. It is absolutely possible to increase your flexibility through consistent and dedicated practice. Not only will it improve your physical performance, but will also provide mental awareness and assist to unlock the creative potential within you.
If you are seeking a career in the performing arts, as a teacher, performer and creative entrepreneur, apply today and make your talent tangible!
[iii] Health Harvard