This is the second-to-last blog for 2017 and I thought I’d revisit the exercise posts from the beginning and throw another one in.
At the beginning of this year, I started blog posts with some basic exercises, found easily in any of Katy Bowman’s books, but sometimes seeing them in different pictures, reading the directions from another source, can be helpful. The exercise portion was followed by a post outlining the part of the body that would benefit, and that in turn was followed by a post showing how you could reap those benefits in your daily activities. I will link to the exercise posts below so you can follow them in the New Year if you want to build a nice, gentle but effective practice suitable for all bodies and ages.
Today I’m going to talk about the Hip Hinge, which is not an exercise per se, but a skill. Even if you think you do a hip hinge correctly now, I urge you to go and stand sideways to a large mirror (in your bathroom or hall perhaps) and watch yourself hinge from the side; really watch!
To start, you stand with your feet about hip distance apart, and facing forward (not turned out). If you are already standing beside that mirror, you can check if your leg is vertical or if you are standing with your pelvis over your feet. Back the hips up until your leg looks straight up and down and not forward at the top. This might mean your weight is back towards the heels instead of over the forefoot, and if you leave your shoulders where they are (instead of bringing them back with the hips) you’ll already be in a bit of a forward bend; a mini bend.
It helps to have a counter stool or an actual counter in front of you. Now continue the bend forward and STOP when you feel your pelvis stop moving over the top of the legs. At this point, the whole spine should be at a steeper angle and you can rest your hands on the stool. The distance you travel is equal to the amount your hamstrings can lengthen.
I don’t have a chair to rest my hands on in this photo, so my back muscles have to work to keep me in this position. If I rested my hands, my back muscles could relax a little. But notice the shape of my spine; I have the normal curvatures of the lower back and rib cage area that I would if I were standing or sitting upright. It’s not rounded or bent over. Now check your spine in the mirror. I find that most people go further than they should (and truth be told, I may be going too far in that photo), perhaps because they are seeking the stretch sensation in the hamstrings. This skill is not about stretching the hamstrings, although they might feel a stretch, but about isolating the movement at the hip joints and taking the entirety of the trunk over in one piece. There is no flexion of the spine, just the hips!
Now if you find this difficult (and for such a simple seeming exercise, most people find it so), you can do this at first. Get on your hands and knees and look at your spine now. Keep watching – and now let your lower back relax forwards (in the direction of the floor), untucking the tailbone and letting the tailbone lift upwards. You shouldn’t need any muscling to do this, good old gravity (gog) can do it for you.
Notice how your hips are bent and your spine curves are neutral. This is the look you want when you are bending forward standing up, but you won’t end up with your spine parallel to the floor (unless you do, but be careful not to go to far – those hamstring tendons attach to the bottom of your pelvis and you don’t want to just hang from them!).
Now repeat standing and see if you can do it from the hips only.
The ability to determine how you want to bend over is important for many tasks. Flexing the spine is not problematic in and of itself, but it can become problematic if you never use your hips and only your spine, or think you are bending at the hips and you are not!
Work your way through these posts for more: