Posted by terrepruitt on May 24, 2012
Just a few posts ago I talked about simple stretches that could possibly bring relief to tight hip flexors and lower back pain. I referred to a yoga pose called the pigeon pose. This pose is where one leg is stretched out to the back and the front of the leg (the front of the thigh, the knee, the shin, and the top of the foot and toes) are on the ground, touching the ground, and the other leg is bent at the knee with foot towards the body, but the shin at a right angle to the body. The hand can hold the foot. The back is long and straight and upright. There are variations. Some are where the leg is bent more and the foot is more pointed toward the opposite hip. In some the back is still long and straight, but the body is lying over the bent leg.
In Nia the variation is called a Side Yawn. The leg is bent so the foot is near the opposite hip, as I mentioned above. The arm on the side of the bent leg is bent while the arm on the side of the outstretched leg is straight with palm on the floor. As the body lowers to the earth over the bent leg the outstretched arm moves on the ground reaching out further. Allow the entire body to sink into a comfortable fold. The lengthened side of the body yawns open.
For the more athletic version there is more weight on the bent leg and instead of just stretching out over the bent leg there are push-ups involved. Pushing away from the earth and sinking slowly back into it. After a few push-ups then allow your body to release to gravity and lay over the bent leg.
This is one of the moves that I mentioned were in the back of The Nia Technique Book. Both the classic version and the athletic version of this move open and release the hips. With the classic as you sink to the floor the side of the body is receiving a long stretch. The athletic version enables strengthen of the arms and core. This move is one where you would do as many repetitions as you would like and then switch to the other side. Or you could do one side then switch and do the other side. The point it to be sure that you do both sides. I would bet, as with most of us, one side is more flexible than the other.
In the Nia routines I do we are often in the pigeon pose or the side yawn pose, but we do not always sink into the yawn. Often we are dancing with our hands on the floor, not necessarily doing straight up and down push-ups, but using our arms to lower us to the earth and push-off again. As with all moves each individual is invited to do what is best for their body at that moment in the Nia class. So some might sink into the yawn. So usually in addition to stretching our hips we are using our core and our arms in our cool down or floorplay.
Do you ever sense your hips are tight and need stretching? Might you think to use this stretch to loosen up?
Posted in Nia | Tagged: Athletic Nia, classic Nia, cool down, flexible, floorplay, Hip flexors, lower back pain, Nia, Nia class, Nia pose, Nia routines, Pigeon pose, side yawn, simples stretches, stretching, The Nia Technique book, tight hips, yawn the body, Yoga, Yoga Pose | 2 Comments »
Posted by terrepruitt on May 12, 2012
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?
Posted in Training and Exercise | Tagged: back pain, butterfly stretch, Debbie Rosas, groin area, groin muscles, Hip flexors, hip movements, hip muscles, hip shake, hip shimmy, lunge, Nia, Nia cycles, Nia exercise, Nia floorplay, Nia White Belt, Pigeon pose, spinal twist | 2 Comments »