Mobility well into our 90s and beyond is all about hip fluidity. It is essential to facilitate fluid movement in everyday life. Sitting for long periods of time shortens the hip muscles and can lead to hip mobility problems. Moving the hip 360 degrees in our yoga practice will strengthen and stretch all the muscles of the hip joint. When the hip is rotated outwards the inner muscles of the hips (the groin) are stretching and the outer muscles of the hips (the glutes) are strengthening. This principle of opposing muscles (agonist and antagonist) works for all movements in the hip. Yoga is not about opening the hips and hanging out on the ligaments and tendons – first we must connect to the muscles to switch them on to take a safe stretch and keep the integrity of the connective tissue ignited.
HIP & SPINE RELATIONSHIP
Hip mobility releases physical and emotional tension, relieve stress and anxiety, aid digestion, and enable freer movement to everyday activities. Incorporating hip mobility into your practice releases the muscles of the hips and help you with backbends, forward bends, inversions and finding optimal alignment for you body in your practice. It also helps create a neutral spine and builds good posture. The pelvis and the spine are closely related when it comes to movement. When the pelvis tilts forward into an anterior tilt the curve of the lumbar spine increases, and when the pelvis tilts back into a posterior tilt the curve flattens. If you suffer from back problems you might notice your habitual standing stance is for the pelvis to be tilted slightly forward or back – compromising the vertebrae and discs of the lumbar spine causing your pain.
EXPLORING HIP MOBILITY IN YOUR PRACTICE
This sequence will move the hip in all directions using the weight of the leg to build strength and facilitate stretch where it is needed. Stay within a safe range of movement at about 90% of your full stretch. Feel strength in the muscles that are flexing and a contained supported stretch in the muscles that are extending. Get familiar with how this feels and how this principle might work in all your poses for a more sustainable lifelong practice and the ability to tie your own shoe laces on your 100th birthday and beyond!
Start lying on you back with the knees bent and tilt your pelvis forward and back into anterior and posterior movements. Connect with a visual of your deep ball and socket of the hip joint. Move slowly and with control. Notice what is happening on opposing sides of the joint. What do you feel stretching and what do you feel strengthening and stabilising the joint. Below is the peak pose of the sequence Eka Pada Rajakapotasana/One Legged King Pigeon which is a deep hip opener. Take your time getting into the pose and as you explore the stretch remember to keep an element of muscle integrity to protect the connective tissue.
From Adho Mukha Svanasana, place your right foot behind your left hand and your right knee behind your right hand.
Right foot flexed, working towards your right shin being parallel to the top of the mat.
Place your hands either side of your hips, walk your left leg out behind you in line with your left hip as you lower your hips down.
Draw your left hip forward and your right hip back, let the weight of your upper body help to gently lower your hips down.
Stay here, or for a stronger stretch, exhale, fold forward, interlock your hands and place your head on your hands, gaze down.
Squeeze your outer hip muscles your glute to open the hip out.
Contract your muscles, draw your front knee back and your back knee forward. Lift your pelvic floor, draw navel to spine, hold for 6 seconds.
Exhale and release for 30 seconds.
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Ruth Delahunty Yogaru