During seated stretches, I encourage my students to sit straight on their sits bones and then fold forward at the hips—even if they don't go forward very far. One student tells me that if she sits as I instruct, she can't reach forward at all. Why?
Whenever you see a student slouch or sit on the back of their pelvis, it usually indicates very tight hamstrings. The hamstrings and the lower back work together, so when the hamstrings are tight, discomfort can be felt in the lower back, and vice versa. The hamstrings need to be fairly flexible to sit at a 90-degree angle.
Try putting your students on a yoga block or a thick book. Can they sit more easily with their legs in front of them, and/or in second position? If so, then hamstring tightness is getting in the way.
My favorite way to stretch the hamstrings is to stand and place one foot onto a chair. Square the hips and think of the sits bones moving backward—it may even feel like you are sticking your butt out. Slowly contract the quad on that front leg so the body will send a message to release the back of the leg. Your dancers can also do this stretch while sitting on the edge of their chair at school, by leaning forward over their desk.
Hold these stretches for 20–30 seconds periodically throughout the day. The dancers should start to see a difference in about a month. Most importantly, remind them to sit up straight and avoid slouching even when they aren't in dance class.
To your success,
Director, The Body Series
Got a question for Deb? E-mail email@example.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.