Stretching helps keep you flexible and counteracts the repetitive movements of a dance class. Static stretches can lengthen tight muscles, improve your balance, and prevent stiffness and soreness. A good stretch session also helps relieve stress and tension.
To perform a static stretch, you should get far enough into the stretch that you feel a slight pull but no pain. It helps to exhale as you get into a stretch. When you're holding a stretch (for about 30 seconds), breathe normally and avoid the tendency to hold your breath.
Foam Rolling is another way to release tightness in soft connective tissues and muscles. It is comparable to a deep-tissue massage. Foam rollers come in different densities and are commonly 6" in diameter. A PVC pipe can be a less expensive, effective substitution (this is what I use). A tennis ball or lacrosse ball can also be used.
To foam roll, apply moderate pressure to each muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. Roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. Maintain pressure on the tender area (trigger point) for a few seconds until you feel the muscle releasing. It should feel uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better. Never roll a joint or bone.
Static Stretching Example
More Stretches and Exercises
Take care of your body so you can enjoy dancing the rest of your life. Dance instructors should teach students how to warm up and stretch properly.
There are many educational resources online regarding joint stability exercises and stretches. One that you might find helpful is Ask Doctor Jo. She has videos that address shin splints, knee and leg pain, ankle strengthening, foot cramps, and more. Leigh Boyle is another physical therapist with an informative site-- Athletes Training Athletes. In her foot self-massage video she shows how to use a tennis ball to treat sore feet.