Ballet stretches are an important part of every ballet dancer's routine. It is possible to improve your flexibility with the right practice, but you must know HOW and WHY before you start.
Every ballet dancer is always trying to increase their flexibility, mostly to increase the range and build control in your extensions. However, it is also important part of your routine to keep your muscles lengthened and to prevent injury.
Ballet stretches elongate your muscles and allow more flexible through your body.
The four main muscles to stretch for ballet are the Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes and Quads.
If you stretch your muscles correctly on a regular basis, you could become less vulnerable to injury.
I am sure EVERY dancer has said at some point, "How can I become more flexible?" or "I wish I was more flexible!". Especially nowadays, there seems to be a flexibility in ballet dancers that is very extreme and beyond most people's limitations.
However, it is important for you to remember how each dancer has different facilities. Even if you really want to get more flexible, do not push your muscles too much in one stretch.
Flexibility is a gradual process that can be achieved if you stretch regularly each day, when your muscles are warm.
When I was a young student, I strained my upper hamstring whilst stretching in a deep ponche position. I pushed to far in the position and went too far beyond my physical abilites.
That is why you must be attentive when you are stretching, so you don't risk straining your muscles. It is best to stretch deeply after or during your ballet class when you know your body is warm and ready.
You can stretch in deeper positions like the splits and 'shoulder the leg', where you hold the leg with your hand beyond your usual range to get a more extreme stretch.
You can think of stretching like a way of training your body. During all your ballet classes, you focus on perfecting the steps and it improves with time and practice. Stretching, is the same scenerio where you have to be patient to see the results.
I suggest to hold the stretch for 30 seconds or so, and then gently release. It's also important to maintain your natural breathing... don't hold your breath - relax into it!
As well as doing separate ballet stretches, your ballet classes is a key time to increase flexibility.
During the exercises where you raise your legs higher like adage or grand battement, you have to work your muscles extremely hard to gain the strength.
If you always remain comfortable with the height in which you place your legs, then you can't expect the flexibility to improve. You have to always strive for more and each lesson try to get your legs that little bit higher.