Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
Hips are powerful things. But when we use them in a limited way, we cut off a lot of that power. Most of us don’t allow our hips to move in the full range that they are designed for. This might happen due excessive sitting (think chair, car, couch), movement in limited directions (think sit, stand, walk, maybe run and bike), and even societal pressures (think zip up those hips, don’t wiggle when you walk).
If we look at the hip’s design – a ball and socket joint – we can see that they are meant to move in all directions. Knees and elbows are hinge joints designed to move in one plane and one direction only, and often we use the hips as if they were a hinge joint!
Below some sketchy characters and I offer 10 ways to juice up your hips. Play around with these movements and stretches gently and see what feels good both during and after. EveryBody is different so not all movements and stretches work for all. Experiment with curiosity and kindness. Your hips deserve it.
Movement – Your hips are designed to move, not to just stabilize!
1. Turn toes in and out (avoid twisting on your foot, pick up and place it instead)
2. Release the low back and wag your tail
3. Move the thigh across your body with knee sweeps
4. Build power with kicks in all directions (flex your foot to protect your knee)
5. Sink and rise up and down out of any stance
Stretch – The hips are wrapped in muscle and connective tissue. Give them time to release and open with gentle stretching.
6. Open the outside of the hip with tailor sit (aka sitting cross-legged), figure 4 stretch (pull your thigh gently toward you and keep your bent knee from collapsing in) or pigeon pose (front thigh should be parallel to your spine, for more intensity, move the front knee closer to 90 degrees and always keep the front foot strongly flexed to protect the knee)
7. Open the inner thigh and hip by stretching with one leg out to the side, or straddle stretch
8. Open the front of the hip (rarely done in every day life) with lay back stretch (you can rest on your hands behind, on the elbows or all the way back but keep the knee on the floor), or bridge pose (feet parallel and not overly squeezing the butt).
Passive Stretch – One of my favorite ways to release the hips is with these two passive stretches using a bolster or firm pillow for 5-10 minutes.
9. Release hips with bolster under hip bones, tummy down (alternate ear down)
10. Release the deep and essential core muscle called the psoas (connects the upper and lower body from low back to hip) with bolster under knees. Let go, let go, let go.
A great way to gently and naturally open the hips is to do the 5 Stages of Self-Healing: 5 simple movements that take the body through the evolution from infancy to walking. You can watch the sequence here – then do it yourself!