Today’s posting looks at another way to help get your extensions higher and développés even smoother and more controlled. It has to do with the wonderful iliopsoas muscle that you hear so many anatomists and body workers talking about!
I know I’m someone that always looks at this muscle carefully when I am assessing someone’s standing alignment. It is such a major postural muscle and so strongly influences how the pelvis sits on the legs that deserves some extra attention. When overly tight it can pull the lower back into a swayback. When it is overly weak it makes it hard to get the leg much over 90 degrees. The quadriceps which also are hip flexor muscles like the iliopsoas (or psoas as many people shorten it to) are working hard, but they simply don’t have the leverage to get the leg up as high as what is necessary for dance today.
I was recently in Seattle working with students from the Allegro Performing Arts Academy and showed them a way to inconspicuously strengthen their iliopsoas while sitting in school waiting for class to begin. By the way…. these students were wonderful! So curious, open, and willing to work hard to improve their technique by understanding how the body really works!
The picture below shows them sitting on the front edge of their chairs, with their arms folded in front, keeping weight on both sits bones (or ischial tuberosities as they are called) Without shifting backwards on the pelvis, or over to one hip they lifted one leg up and then lowered it to just touch the toe to the ground before repeating it 10 – 15 times. Didn’t take very long to feel that very deep ‘tired’ feeling deep in the front of the hip. That’s like practicing lifting the leg into the beginning stages of a développé before extending the leg (of course without dropping the knee… at least that’s the goal:)
It’s such an easy way to work strengthening the iliopsoas, and then you can simply swivel around and do a sitting lunge stretch to release the tightness form the iliopsoas.
A different way of strengthening was shown in a previous post and I’d like to repost that video in the newer format for all those who had trouble opening it. You can use a theraband wrapped around the thighs and then slowly working to come more upright to simulate doing an extension to the front. Of course the more you are upright – the harder it is! Remember to slightly turnout the leg when practicing these as well as doing them in parallel. It won’t take long…. just 3 or 4 weeks for you to see and sense improvement in the control and height of your extension.
Have a great week!
“Education is the key to injury prevention”