When you get up from a marathon writing session, do you ever struggle to stand up nice and straight? Has your doctor, yoga instructor, or pilates instructor ever told you you have tight hip-flexors? Then, this series is for you.
This column is the first in a three-part series about loosening up that pesky hip and pelvis area.
I don’t know if it’s years of “core” exercises or too much time spent sitting, but most of my clients seem to have forgotten how to move their bodies between their waist and their mid-thigh. I can’t promise a second career as a belly dancer, but I can promise that in a few minutes a day, you’ll see your body tension go down and feel more ease in your day-to-day movements.
First, let’s find your hip-joint. It’s where your thigh-bone meets your pelvis—and it may not be where you think. Since you are probably sitting while you are reading this, this should be easy. Put both legs in front of you, facing straight ahead. Now, take your hand and follow the large thigh muscles (your quadriceps) up to the bend in your leg. You should feel a couple of bony protrusions: Voila! You have found your hip-joint!
Now that you know where your target is, let’s get to work.
Note: By now you should know my rule: Never move in to pain. If these exercises hurt, stop. You can try them slower or do fewer of them, but never move in to pain. It may mean you aren’t ready for the exercises, and that’s fine, too.
1. Find the back of a chair, door frame, table, wall, or some other support, and stand up nice and tall next to it. Rest your hand on the support—it’s just for balance in case you need it.
2. Lift your left leg into the air, knee bent, so the thigh is at about 90 degrees (or as high as you can get it comfortably). The knee should be relaxed with the calf and lower leg loose.
3. Rotate the upper leg from the hip joint, left to right, left to right (you can also think “clockwise, counter-clockwise” if that helps). You want to think of your lower leg as the pendulum on an grandfather clock. It will likely be a fairly slow movement as you start, but it should speed up as you get comfortable with the motion. The leg won’t go more than 45 degrees in either direction. The most common mistake on this is moving the upper thigh too much—it is literally JUST a rotation. You only need to do a handful of swings with each leg. Just until it feels LOOSE.
4. Repeat with the right leg raised.
5. As a bonus, repeat on each leg—BUT, I want you to swing your thigh out to the side and rotate from there. Be sure to keep your pelvis level and don’t be afraid to hold on to something for support.
For lasting results, do these every day for a few weeks. Next month, we’ll add in another one of my favorites, the Hip Circle. In May we’ll look at the pelvis, and try a couple of new exercises. Once we are done, we’ll have those hip-flexors working like new.
Jen Waak is a Seattle-based movement coach who uses a system that combines eastern philosophy with western medicine to reprogram the nervous system and get people out of pain, moving better, and feeling younger. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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