It’s “hip” to be “aware”!
A physio-yoga approach to HIPS!
Hips are the largest joints in our bodies. The muscles surrounding the hips are important for stabilizing as we move through our activities, and can play a role in back pain and knee pain if they are not working optimally. Often, when the hips feel limited, we do large stretches or exercises which can easily be compensated – which means, we aren’t actually stretching or strengthening the hips. If we move with compensations, we are not getting the full benefit of moving purely. Learning to have better awareness of movement at your hips can help you quickly increase stability and mobility. This can bring you better efficiency of movement (using the muscles as they are designed to be used, and not expending extra energy with compensatory muscles), better function, more ease in activities, and reduction in aches and pains. Hurrah!
From a physio-yoga approach, my goal is to help you get in tune with your body. Notice subtle sensations or movements, explore your breath and how it may change with certain movements or thoughts, and discover a deeper and purer sense of relaxation that carries over into everyday life and activities. Awareness is key – you can’t change something if you aren’t aware of it.
To get more in tune with simple movements at the hips, try these exercises:
Between each one, pause and notice any effects.
Hip abduction – laying on your back with your knees bent, place a strap or exercise band around your thighs. Gently press your legs outwards. Keep the movement small enough that only your legs are moving (not your pelvis, belly, back, chest, shoulders, etc). Put your fingers at the front of your hip crease, and feel if your hip flexors are firing. If they are, you will feel them tighten under your fingers as you press outwards. Only press as hard as the hip flexors can stay quiet.
Helpful imagery: Imagine the ball and socket joint of the hip. Gently draw the ball out of the socket as you press outward.
Hip adduction – laying on your back with knees bent, hold a yoga block or rolled towel between your thighs. Start by simply holding the block or towel, with no added pressure. Notice what muscles are engaging to enable this movement. Slowly, start to bring the thighs together. Make sure that the buttocks are relaxed.
Helpful imagery: Imagine the ball and socket joint of the hip. Gently draw the ball into the socket as you move your thighs together.
Hip rotations – lay on your back with knees bent. Place one ankle over the opposite knee, and let the top leg start in a natural resting position. Start to make small rotations with the hip. Notice if the pelvis is moving with the leg, and move small enough that the pelvis is still. No need to push or pull the leg forcefully, keep it small.
Mini bridge – lay on your back with knees bent. Lift your hips a little. Move small enough that the lower back does not have to grip. Feel your buttocks doing the work in this movement. For some people, it is very difficult to lift the hips using the buttocks. Play around, noticing the subtle difference between lower back gripping and a nice gentle glut contraction.
Feet on wall, hip flexion – lay on your back with your knees bent to a 90 degree angle, resting your feet on the wall. Gently press your feet into the wall. Notice if your pelvis moves. If it does, keep the pressure through your feet small enough that there is no pelvis movement. Then, slowly start to lift one leg off the wall, bending at the hip. Again, only lift as far as the pelvis doesn’t move. For some people, this may mean only slightly shifting the weight off the foot.
Pendulum – stand on a block or a step with one foot. Allow the other leg to hang freely. Start to bring a small amount of movement into the hip, swinging the leg forward and back like a pendulum. Make sure you are not moving your pelvis or lower back as you do this.
Remember, to improve function at the hip, you have to move the HIP! Watch for compensations.
Move small (sometimes really small!), move slowly, feel your ball and socket joint.
Make sure your breath is easy and relaxed. No pain, strain, gripping or forcing.
At the end of the session, take a moment to lie down. Notice how your body feels. Notice if there are any changes. Is there a sense of relaxation, a new awareness of movement in your body, or a connection you haven’t noticed before? Congratulations! This is progress.
Take a moment to thank your body for the function it provides for you, it is truly remarkable.
If this article has sparked your curiosity, and you want to learn more, call the clinic (344-6654) to book a private yoga therapy session with Kristie.
Here’s to better movement, awareness, and function!
Written by Kristie Norquay – Physiotherapist, Yoga Instructor, Yoga Therapist