Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How much flexibility do you need for King of Dancer's Pose?

When I got into King of Dancer's pose for the first time I was confused--I had no idea I was anywhere near getting there and was just preparing. I was convinced you needed to have some incredible degree of flexibility absolutely everywhere. And possibly also be a ninja. It always seems those that can do it are human pretzels, after all. Luckily, you need just a few main points of flexibility:

Leg flexibility

You don't need full splits. Really. I haven't done any sort of a stretching routine since before my nine-month-old was born... so my right front splits are missing and if I twist way out of a squared position like I did in the video I am still a handles width away. Obviously, the more the better! The further your legs can split and the  higher you can get your back leg, the less your shoulders need to stretch down and back plus the less your back has to arch. I have about the bare minimum leg flexibility necessary because I can "cheat" with my very flexi shoulders and back.

Back flexibility

Try this: stand next to a wall, pole, or other support and stand on one leg. Hold your leg so the thigh is parallel to the floor and your foot is pointed to the ceiling. Push your chest out and up and your toes to the ceiling (or to the stars, that's what I like to think of). Does your back resist the position? How much? You need to be able to hold this position, more or less. (More if you want to breathe I it, less to just snap a picture and celebrate. And yes, both are huge accomplishment!) A good indicator that you have enough flexibility for it is being able to do a nice backend like wheel pose (usually called a bridge but wheel pose is really like cow pose upside-down). If you're still working on it, keep faith that you will get there gradually.

Shoulder and arm flexibility

From what I hear, this is the major stumbling block for most. You absolutely do not want to force your shoulders into this. I can grasp my hands behind my back easily and without a warm up so I recommend that if you are working towards shoulder flexibility you should warm up with arm rolls, arm and shoulder stretches, and only then go for it. If you have better leg flexibility than I do you will not need as much shoulder flexibility. You do absolutely need to be able to do an external rotation of the shoulder (that's the twisting motion I make with my shoulder). Biceps also need to be flexible--your biceps need to allow your hand to move down your back and then stretch away from your back.

This pose may seem daunting, but do not underestimate the value of repetition for this one. Trying it out gives you a better indicator of which areas need the most work on your body and gets your brain trained for making the right motions. Remember that a lot is going on in this one, with different muscle groups working together so you can get it even with slightly less flexible areas. Keep at it and you'll get there!