Balancing Out Your Hips: Stretching and Strengthening
Having healthy hips is a hard to come by luxury! But with how dependent we are on them as our center of gravity, it’s important to take the time to balance out the hips and all its components. I’ve put together a sequence of stretches and strengthening exercises that take 10-30 minutes, and will leave you with a more lengthened and stabilized pelvis. These pain free, supported exercises can be done 1-2 times a day. You will gain the most benefit if they are done in order, but can certainly be modified to best suit your personal needs.
Start by lying on your back with the souls of your feet planted parallel on the floor. Push through your heels to move your pelvis to just left of center. Keep both of your shoulders planted firmly and comfortably on the ground as you slowly let your knees fall over to the side. Your hips should be directly in the middle of your shoulders, supporting your lower and mid back.
This is a passive stretch, so just relax into it and use your breath to fall farther into the twist. If your knees don’t reach the floor, you can place a pillow under your knees to avoid any strains. This stretch will be felt in your lower back, around your hip, and possibly across your chest.
You can hold this stretch for up to 3 minutes, but keep in mind that it should remain a pain free stretch without any discomfort or pinching in your lower back or hips.
INHALE: INTO HIPS; EXHALE: RELAX DEEPER INTO THE TWIST; REPEAT ON THE OTHER SIDE.
Figure 4 Stretch
Lie on your back again with you feet planted parallel. Bring the outside of your left ankle and place it above your right knee.
**KEEP YOUR LEFT ANKLE FLEXED THROUGH THE WHOLE STRETCH (this stabilizes and protects your knee from twisting).
Reach through with your hands and grab the front of your right shin. Your hips will come up off the floor, but to increase the stretch you can power your tailbone back down towards the floor. You will feel quite an intense stretch in the outer part of your hip and possibly around towards your tailbone. There should not be any pain in your knee or back, so if you experience any discomfort come out of the stretch until it’s more comfortable. Your breath should anchor directly into the area where you feel the most tension and your exhale will allow you to relax more comfortably into your hip socket.
**Another option is to place your right foot on a wall and letting your arms lay comfortably beside you. This creates a more passive and relaxed position so you can focus more on anchoring your tailbone down. Allow enough space between you and the wall so your lower back is flat on the floor. To increase this stretch variation, push your toes against the wall.
**REMEMBER: keep your left foot flexed at all times to protect the knee.
The figure 4 position should be held for 1-3 minutes. Be patient with you body, if you feel frustrated or anxious while in the stretch, deepen your breathing and try exhaling with a sigh. Before switching to the other side, rock your knees from side to side to allow the connective tissue and muscles to relax. Then repeat everything on the right side!
Bridge Pose: Strengthening Glutes and Core
Lie on your back again, with your feet hips distance apart and planted parallel on the floor. Rest your arms comfortably by your side, and tuck the wings of your shoulder blades under your back to open up the front of your chest.
Root and push through your heels to lift your pelvis up towards the sky. Your pubic bone will tilt towards your chin as your glutes tighten. Your arms can stay beside your body on the ground, or interlaced under your pelvis with your shoulders tucked under your heart.
Inhale: Stretch your chest towards your chin (keeping your neck in a neutral and pain free position with your eyes gazing towards the sky).
Exhale: Push through the heels, firm your glutes and push your pelvis more towards the sky.
This exercise should be held for 3-5 breaths (about 30 seconds). When coming out of the pose, decline one vertebra at a time with your tailbone touching the floor last. Rest with your knees lightly touching at the midline and your hands on your belly for a deep inhale and exhale. *Repeat 2 more times (total of 3 sets).
Low Lunge: Hip Flexor Opener
In this pose the focus is to feel a stretch at the front of your hip and up into your abdomen. Start by coming onto all fours (hands and your knees) and then lunging your right foot forward. Relax your back knee and foot behind you, and sink into your front hip. You can support your torso with your hands planted inside your right foot. Inhale and Exhale deeply, focusing on sinking the pelvis down.
If your left knee is sensitive, place a pillow or towel under the patella for comfort.
Start with your back leg and arms straight. Turn your ribcage towards or away from your front leg, noticing how certain positions can intensify the stretch in your low abdomen.
To increase the stretch further still, lift your left arm up and back on a comfortable angle increasing the length of your left side. Be mindful of your lower back, and if there is any pinching or pain back out of the stretch until it is more comfortable.
Hold for 1-3 minutes (preferably the same amount of time that you used for the figure 4 stretch) and repeat on the other side.
***After the hip flexors have been stretched on both sides perform the laying down side twist to both sides for up to 3 minutes, followed by the bridge pose (holding for 15-30 seconds; 3 sets).
Vancouver Registered Massage Therapist