We move our hips A LOT in Nia. With all the hip movements we do I say we have juicy hips. Not only do we shake and shimmy our hips we take time to stretch and open our hips. Hip flexors are a group of muscles that move the thigh towards the chest. These muscles can get short and tight, especially from sitting. Office jobs usually mean sitting in a chair all day while at work. Add the commute time to the sitting on the job and many people end up sitting over eight hours a day. Sometimes the hip flexors can become so short and tight they can keep an individual from standing up straight. In addition, the origin of one of the muscles in the hip flexor group is in the lower back, if this set of muscles is short and tight it can sometimes result in lower back pain. For many individuals stretching and lengthening these muscles can bring relief from back pain and help individuals stand up straighter.
There are a lot of stretches that can help lengthen this group of muscles. The yoga Pigeon Pose comes to mind. This is a great pose because the leg that is straight out towards the back get the lengthening benefit and sensation, while the bent leg assist in opening the groin area and stretching those muscles. The butterfly stretch really stretches the groin area, too. The closer you can get your feet to your pelvis the bigger the stretch, and the close the knees to the ground the bigger the stretch. This is a great stretch you will definitely feel in the inner thighs. The spinal twist both supine and seated can bring great relief. So whether you are laying down and allowing your legs to be on one side of you or whether you are sitting up with one leg out and hugging one bent knee, you still get a nice stretch for the pair of muscles whose origins starts in the lower back.
One stretch I love to do is somewhat like a spinal twist in that you let the legs twist to one side, but instead of bringing them over to one side as a pair you let one leg start its journey to the other side of your body and the other one follows in its own time. Think of your legs as pages in a book.** One leg goes then the other leg flips (as a page) slowly. No rush. Also if you allow one leg to fall to one side while the other is on the first side (think open book) it is similar to the butterfly stretch but with hips completely open. Then ”close the book” having your legs end up on one side while gently twisting to the other, you get the nice gentle stretch in your back. In Nia our floorplay cycle often includes many of these.
Swinging your leg from front to back either in a standing position or lying down on your side can stretch the muscles. Let the leg swing as far to the front as comfortable and then as far back as is comfortable. In both the standing and lying position you want to keep you back straight. Don’t let it get into the swing of things, just let your leg swing.
Some exercises can assist in stretching the muscles too. The lunge, especially a long lunge, helps stretch and lengthen the muscles and open the hips a bit. The leg that is stretch back with get the stretch in the front. You can either do the lunge stepping forward or back, but the longer the step the bigger the stretch.
These are just some simple stretches that might help loosen up your hips if you have tight hip flexors. If you tend to sit at a desk that could be something that is happening. Make your hips juicy and happy by stretching them a bit. It might even help you walk taller and with more ease.
**This image I learned from Debbie Rosas at my Nia White Belt Intensive. I use it all the time in class.
Do you ever sit so long when you stand up you kind of are bent over at the hips?