Between the splits and the tumbling, cheerleaders are typically expected to be flexible. However, a scorpion, an impressive move that requires extending one leg up behind you and reaching over your head to grab your ankle, is even more advanced than most cheerleaders realize.
It requires strength and flexibility in multiple muscle groups, including your back, which must have an extreme arch. Part of your conditioning process to improve your scorpion — or simply achieve it at all — should include back stretches.
The Cat and Cow poses, which are typically paired together, provide a gentle warmup for the spine and surrounding back muscles before moving on to more intense poses.
Get on your hands and knees, positioning your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. On the inhale, lift your neck up and look toward the ceiling; press the bottoms of your ribs down to the floor to create a downward arch in your spine. Pull your shoulders back away from your ears to complete the Cow pose.
On the exhale, arch your back up toward the ceiling, rounding your spine. Drop your neck to release your head down toward the ground to complete the Cat pose. Repeat at least five times.
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Performed on your knees, Camel pose often serves as a starting point for even deeper back bends.
To do this pose, kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart. Press your shins and the top of your feet into the floor and place your hands on your tailbone, so your fingers are pointing down. If you're a beginner, you might want to stay here, leaning back only slightly to feel a slight stretch.
If you're comfortable, reach back and hold onto your ankles. Lift up through your pelvis, opening your chest and releasing your neck so your head goes back, taking care not to strain your neck or harden your throat. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
In some intermediate classes, Bow is the "peak" back-bending pose, according to Yoga Outlet. It stretches the whole front of your body while strengthening and creating flexibility in your back muscles.
To do the Bow pose, lie facedown. Reach back and grab your ankles, bending your knees so your back begins to arch. Press your feet toward the ceiling, and keep the knees hip-width apart. Lift your chest off the ground for a deep arch in the back. Stay in this position for five deep breaths.
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
This pose mimics a scorpion, but you remain on the ground.
Get into Downward Facing Dog and sweep your right leg forward so the shin is nearly parallel to the front of the mat. Keep your left leg straight behind you as you get into position, and then bend your left knee and bring your toes up toward the ceiling.
Lift your arms up over your head, arch your back and reach back to grab your left toes with both hands. If you need assistance, use a strap and loop it around your foot. Stay in the pose for five deep breaths, and then come out of it slowly. Repeat on the other side.
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