The final challenge!
We've been building up to this challenging hip flexor stretch... Can you do it? :)
In the past few weeks, we explored the anatomy of the hip flexor muscles and two stretches to help alleviate lower back pain and increase range of motion around the pelvis. This week, the most challenging hip flexor stretch – I can't even do this one perfectly!
Hip Flexor Stretch #3
Some may recognize this as the pigeon pose in yoga; it's such a fantastic stretch that those of us not involved in a yoga practice can benefit greatly from it.
Begin by sitting on your knees on the floor. Move toward laying on the top of the right leg: Place your hands on the floor, and put the left leg in front of your body, laying the leg on the floor with the lower leg as perpendicular to your body as possible. (You may find that keeping the foot closer to your body, or even under your body will make the stretch easier. If that is the only initial flexibility your hips allow, modify the stretch accordingly.) Straighten the right leg and point the toes, if possible.
Settle into sitting on the left leg, and gently push off the right leg with your fingertips, stretching the front of the hip.
(Angled front view)
(Another angled front view)
You'll notice that this stretch concurrently works both the front of one hip and the back of the other. A little bonus. :) Breathe deeply, don't arch your back, and relax into the stretch. Repeat on the other leg.
You may begin to notice how related the front of the hip, back of the hip and low back truly are; it's difficult to affect one of these areas without affecting the others. When you come into my office for a massage therapy session, we'll address all of these areas to best alleviate pain from all angles. And you can watch me attempt this stretch! I'll see you in my Westport office!
This is 2 out of 3 in our series - see if you can do all 3!
Last time, we learned how the hip flexor muscles affect the alignment of the pelvis, and how tension in these muscles can relate to lower back pain. This week's stretch for the hip flexors is a bit more advanced, and can therefore lead to greater flexibility. Next week's stretch is the most advanced in my opinion; see which is easier for you! Perform these stretches in conjunction with simple low back stretching and you'll begin to notice easier motion walking, and even less pain sitting and laying.
Hip Flexor Stretch #2
(NOTE: This stretch may compress the low back. If you've had any lower back injuries or surgeries, it's probably not a good idea to perform this stretch, as it may aggravate previous issues. Remember to keep your abs tight (by pulling your belly button into your spine) and support your lower back as you stretch. As always, we can discuss which stretches are appropriate for you and which are not after your scheduled session at my office. Please, use good judgment and respect your body when performing any stretches.)
Begin by sitting on your knees on the floor. Reach behind yourself and hold onto your right ankle with your right hand.
Take a deep breath and raise your left hand, pointing your fingertips to the ceiling.
Slowly move your left hand diagonally toward your right foot, reaching backward and trying to touch that right foot (which is almost physically impossible). Maintain space in your low back, NOT compressing the spine at all. Reach back as far as possible, stretching the front of that hip, breathing deeply and focusing on the muscles being stretched. Repeat on the other side.
This is one of my all time favorite stretches after a long day. It almost feels as if you can breathe easier after releasing the body in this way. Relax and enjoy it! Next time, we'll explore the most challenging hip flexor stretch so far – are you up for the challenge? As always, I'm happy to demonstrate these stretches and discuss your personal flexibility more completely during your scheduled massage therapy session. I'll see you in my Westport office!
I'm writing 3 entries to help you open up this often chronically tight area
Many of us spend a large part of the day sitting. This shortens and tightens the muscle group called “Hip Flexors”, which include psoas major, psoas minor, illiacus, and a little of pectineus, predominantly. These muscles work together to flex the leg, that is, move it into the position of sitting, with the upper leg in front of the hip. Often, we're not aware of the actions these muscles take, because they are small, and seemingly insignificant compared to our large posterior hip muscles, like the gluteal group. But these muscles can become very tight and pull down on the pelvis, creating an increased tilt and causing back pain. In fact, I check the tension in this muscle every time a client comes in to work on lower back pain, because it's often implicated.
Stretching the hip flexors will help to alleviate lower back pain, and even help you walk more upright and comfortably. Ideally, the pelvis will be neutral, with no tilt. Such as below:
But tight hip flexor muscles lead to an anterior (front) pelvis tilt, which increases pressure on the lower back:
By keeping the hip flexors loose and functioning properly, the pelvis maintains its proper position. Since the pelvis is like the fulcrum of the entire body, this makes walking, standing, and even laying feel easier. In the next few posts, I'll explore three hip flexor stretches, starting with the easiest and moving to more advanced positions. Accept my challenge and see how many you can do easily!
Hip Flexor Stretch #1
Sitting on the floor with your leg bent at the knee on the side of your body, hold your right ankle with your right hand and move your leg toward your back, letting the movement of your upper leg push your body onto the left side. Rest on your right arm and increase the stretch by pulling your ankle toward your back. Ideally, the foot would be able to touch the low back (although that almost never happens!). Breathe into the stretch and attempt to pull the ankle closer to the back, gently. Repeat on the other side.
Balancing the pelvis is beneficial for almost everyone, but especially those who work at a desk or sit most of the day. To see if you've made a difference in flexibility, perform these stretches on the front of the hip, and stretch the low back by simply trying to touch the toes. Ideally, the stretching will help you to have greater low back range of motion, and definitely decrease in pain and tension. When you come in for your scheduled massage therapy session, I'm happy to help you explore these stretches more and help with any complicated low back issues you may be experiencing. I'll see you in my Westport office!