One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘How the hell did you get so damn flexible?’ It’s often followed by a sly comment, suggesting I’m ‘naturally flexible’ or ‘born this way’ – these comments are commonly thrown around by people who (I believe) don’t have the drive or patience to stretch.
Flexibility isn’t something you just are, it’s something that takes immense work , focus and determination. Yes there are different types of muscle types and what you are genetically prepositioned to can make it harder or take you longer to increase your flexibility, but that does not mean you can never be flexible.
Age, gender, joint structure, ligaments, tendons and adipose tissue (fat) are all factors that can make it more arduous to increase flexibility. But what I believe many people don’t understand is just how much work is required for absolutely anyone to achieve flexibility - especially for the level of flexibility demanded for dancers (unless of course you vigorously stretched as a child, which I always wish I had been forced to do! (which in turn would of also resulted in possible long term joint and ligament damage).
I personally didn’t even understand the importance of stretching until I was 15 and in a ballet school in Munich, Germany. I was always taught the relevance of warming up and had a rigorous pre-ballet class routine - which mainly involved running around and rolling on the floor while pretending to act like I knew what professionals really did without actually being fed the real knowledge required.
I was cursed and screamed at by my teacher for my lack of flexibility. He forced me to remain in the studio at the end of the day alone, with nothing but a chair and a ballet barre and simple instructions to ‘Not stop until you are in tears.’ So that is exactly what I did.
To this day I wish I had the information and knowledge then, that I know now. If only someone had taught me what types of stretches there are, how long to hold them for, the basic muscle groups and just how important stretching is in injury prevention. I definitely would have saved myself a profound amount of tears, time, injures and and titanic soundtrack replay afternoons (my soundtrack of choice used in an attempt to sooth myself while stretching through incredible pain).
In the coming months, together with health professionals and physiotherapists, I’ll be writing multiple articles and releasing videos on the importance of stretching, what types of stretching there is, which stretches are best, how to get more flexible, how to maintain your flexibility and how to stretch to help prevent injury. Each article will be jam packed with information I believe is a must for every dance to know. All the information I wish I was educated on earlier, and all the information I believe will help so many dancers around the world today.
Aimed with the correct knowledge on stretching you won't just be able to increase your flexibility faster, but injury free. Happy stretching.