This past week in my live stream Zoom class, we worked on full dancer (Needle) with a heavy emphasis on front splits instead of the usual thoracic spine and shoulder prep in order to increase our range of motion on our standing leg. This topic deserves some exploration! Here it goes:
The more open your standing leg’s hamstring is, the closer you will be able to get your chest parallel to the floor in standing dancer. If you can get your chest parallel to the floor (perpendicular to the wall behind you), you more closely emulate front splits on the ground. Therefor, the line from your standing heel to your top knee will more closely resemble your actual flexibility of your legs instead of relying heavily on your shoulder and spinal flexibility to get deeper in the pose. Take note that we are talking about the line from your standing heel to the top knee and not to your top foot. This is where shoulder and spinal flexibility come in to play. Your top leg is going to bend to meet your shoulders and back at their comfortable range of motion. You can also work with a strap instead of hands-to-foot in order to work the top leg straight without being limited by your shoulder/spinal ROM.
Spinal and shoulder flexibility is still vital to your progress in full dancer! But sometimes you need to put a pause on spinal/shoulder work and focus on the legs. Or spend 2 hours training to cover all the bases….
An interesting experiment to gauge what you are capable of in standing dancer is to take a picture of your best front splits. Then, rotate it so that you are upside down as if you were standing on your front leg’s foot. This tells you the angle from front thigh to back thigh you should be able to achieve in standing dancer. Take note of the angle of your torso to front thigh. In front splits, we need to work our torso perpendicular to the floor so that we keep our shoulders stacked over our hips. Standing dancer is really similar, except our torso needs to get perpendicular to the wall behind you. The point is, it is all relative. We are just working with gravity differently.
I shouldn’t HAVE to say this, but I want to make sure it’s in your mind - KEEP YOUR HIPS SQUARE. If you work square hips in your front splits on the ground but then open your hips in your standing dancer YOU ARE NOT WORKING THE SAME MUSCLES. Work square hips for both or you get no dice.
PRO TIP: To work this in the On Demand library, Go through “Front Splits”. Then, begin “Standing Dancer” starting at 13:05. It’s only 70 minutes or so of work 😆.