Health & Body

Ask Deb: How Can I Help My Student With Her Tight Back?

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I have a dancer who has a very tight back. She can't even touch her toes. She says it doesn't hurt, but she feels no stretch. I am able to push her back down further (with no pain for her), but she just can't do it on her own. How can I help her? —Anna


It sounds like she has really tight fascia, which can be very challenging to release.

Try this:

1. Have her slowly round down to touch her toes, noticing how it feels while you take a close look at the shape of her back—how rounded or flat it is—and what angle her hips make with her legs.

2. Now, grab a pinkie ball and have her gently roll out the bottom of each foot.

3. Place the ball under the arch of one foot and have her lean forward enough to place her arms on the seat of a chair, or higher if that is too much pull on her hamstrings.

4. Tell her to stay on the ball, relax and imagine herself rounding down further (even if she isn't moving). All stretch sensations should be comfortable.

5. Do this for about 60 seconds on both sides.

Have her round forward again, and note any changes in the shape of her back and whether she feels any less tight.

Now let's see if when she mobilizes her spine it makes a difference in her forward flexibility.

1. Have her sit toward the front edge of a chair, lengthening her spine up toward the ceiling.

2. Keeping her pelvis facing front and her spine long, have her rotate to the right as far as it is comfortable.

3. Tell her to inhale slowly, and then on the exhale, use her arms on the chair to gently encourage a little more rotation.

4. Repeat one more time before releasing the rotation and return forward.

5. Repeat the same action rotating to the left. Notice if rotation is more challenging in one direction, and if so, do that an extra time.

Have her round forward again. Are there any changes?

The ability to rotate easily is so important for spinal health. I've been pleasantly surprised that some of my dancers have improved their spinal mobility by focusing primarily on increasing their rotation.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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