If you stood up right now, would it take a few seconds to work out the kinks in your hips? When you watch Dancing With the Stars, do you think, “Um, yeah, my hips and torso don’t move like that.”

If so, this series is for you. This is the second in a three-part series dedicated to loosening up the hip and pelvis area. Last month, we did an exercise called hip pendulums, and you can get caught up here. I can’t promise you a reality-show dancing gig, but I can promise that in a few minutes a day you’ll find that it’s easier to get up after your marathon writing and editing sessions, your body tension will go down, and your day-to-day movements will be easier.

In case you missed last month, we’re going to take a minute and review where you hip joint is (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. About dead-center across your thigh you should feel a couple of bony protrusions there—that is where your hip joint is!  It’s where your thigh bone (femur) comes in and meets the pelvis.

Now that you know what 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. If you cannot, it means you aren’t ready for the exercise, and that’s fine, too.

Hip Circles
1. Find an short object to stand on. It can be a book, a foam yoga block, or just about any raised surface — just as long as it’s flat, sturdy, and clear on all sides (so, stairs are out).

2. Now, stand nice and tall on the object, with one leg on the object, the other hanging off the side of the object and unsupported. Make sure you still have your chair, wall, or table nearby to help with balance!

3. Now, draw a large circle with your free leg, thinking about that hip joint really moving as much as it can. Keep the knee locked, and go nice and slow. This is a lot harder than it sounds—the most common mistakes I see are:

a. People making a D-shape rather than a circle. They will get their leg out to the side, and then just slide it straight across instead of going behind them.

b. People who short the circle by not going to the back. Similar to the D-shape, but it’s actually a lovely circle, just not quite where I want it. Your leg should extend behind you. If you are one of those “tight hip flexor people” then you may doubt that this is even possible, but I assure you, it is. Your body has just forgotten it can.

c. Using your pelvis to help. The pelvis needs to remain stationary and level. The only thing that should be moving is your leg. If you find you can’t do this without moving your hips and pelvis, slow it down or draw a smaller circle until you can.

4. I want you to do three repetitions with each leg in each direction. Be sure to turn around to do the other leg, or you may find your balance support object in the way.

Now, go walk around a little bit and see how that feels. If you have done it slowly and with intent then you will likely feel that you are walking just a bit different, and that it’s simply easier. I want you to add this on to the hip pendulums, keep doing both of them every day.

In case you are starting to wonder if I’m going to ask you to do these exercises forever … No, I’m not. It just takes some time to re-teach the body. If you are consistent about doing them, your body will actually tell you when it’s been enough.

Next month, we’ll look at the pelvis, and try a couple of new exercises.


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. jen@movefitfun.com.

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  1. […] Jen’s Gems … For the Healthy Writer: Are Your Hips “Hip”? by movement and fitness coach Jennifer Waak […]


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