“Line” is a term that came to us from the world of ballet, where it’s traditionally been used to describe the outline of a dancer’s body and how aesthetically pleasing to the eye the way it takes up space is. Dancers are taught to seek “long” lines, to extend and lengthen whenever we can, to hold our head up high, maintain our posture, and in general keep 1000 different details in mind when practising and performing.
The problem is that ballet is generally anatomically awkward for most people. It was created to be pleasing to the eye - not to prioritize health & wellness. Ballerinas’s bodies, especially in the past, were literally broken into the perfect shapes for ballet. So when we look at the esthetically pleasing “long” lines of a professional ballerina, we don’t see what’s behind them: a life of incredibly hard, sometimes torturous work. Prioritizing the expectations of their line of work over their health: both short- and long-term. And a multitude of injuries: some which may have healed, some they likely pushed through, and others that are yet to manifest. No wonder most ballerinas retire in their 30’s!
At FLEXSPACE, we have zero intention of making all of our students have ballerina lines (for obvious reasons - we prioritize health & wellness over everything else). But we still want them to strive to create the best version of their own lines. Why?
Because working towards your own best lines will inevitably lead you to greater muscle awareness.
And greater muscle awareness, in return, leads to a multitude of beautiful things:
Greater improvements in strength + flexibility
Easier self-correction when it comes to form and posture
Stronger confidence levels when it comes to movement
How do we work towards our best lines then?
Here are Zhana’s top 3 tips:
Learn which muscles are responsible for the creation of the lines you seek to improve, and train them - for example, if I am working to improve my standing leg extensions (lift my leg higher, eliminate a micro-bend in my knee), I will focus most my attention on strengthening the hip flexors and quadriceps as well as stretching the hamstrings of the top (working) leg. I will also work on stretching the hip flexors and quadriceps and strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and the entire lateral subsystem of the bottom (standing) leg. My training plan will then include specific exercises targeting those muscle groups. Doesn't mean I stop training everything else - but once you break any move down and understand what the drivers behind it are, the rest becomes easier. In other words, know exactly what your destination is before you start carving out the path to it!
Create short, easy-to-remember cues that you can say out loud to yourself every time you practice - for example, any time I get onto my mat, I tell myself things like “Pull up your kneecaps” and “Chin up, buttercup”. This is much easier (and more fun!) to remember than “Engage your quadriceps”
Learn from the best - just because we don’t want to go to the lengths a professional ballerina would in their training, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from them at all. Take an adult beginner ballet or BarreFit class lead by a professional dancer to learn all of their top tips & tricks for creating beautiful lines
What are your top tips for achieving your best lines?