The fascinating hips!
The hips, can in yoga especially, often be a challenge. They can be irritating stiff, hurt if you push and just a plane hazard to work with. Maybe you want them to go much wider than they do and when you first feel more movable in one hip-pose you feel stuck in the next hip-pose. Why hasn´t that one progressed at all? Does it seem familiar?
There is of course a logical explanation to this phenomena. First, the hip is known as a ball-and-socket joint. It means it is very movable, it can move in several directions; out to the side, forward, backwards and inwards. Unlike the elbow joint (hinge joint) can only bend back and forth. Since it can move in so many directions it also has loads of muscles to move the joint!
We have 4 muscle groups around the hip: The gluteal group, adductor group, iliopsoas group and lateral rotator group.
The gluteal group consist of the biggest muscles in the body gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus (your but muscles) and the tensor fascia latae. I love the last one which I remember as a latte (coffee) – it starts at the front pocket of your jeans and go downwards and attaches to the iliotial band (IT-band). TFL flexes the hips, abducts (they move away from the body central line) and medially rotate the thighs. But when can we get in trouble with the TFL? It normally steadies the pelvis in walking, and when the glute medius are weak or inhibited the TFL can become very tight so when you sit a lot normally the TFL get tight. It is very normal and also to have different tightness in left and right. To stretch the TFL, like any muscle we have to do the opposite of its action. So start by putting the left knee on the mat and put the right leg bent in front of you in a low lunge. Lean forward and raise your left hand up and let the right hand rest on your right knee.Bend over to the right and enjoy!
TFL Stretch -> Smile!
Adductor group consist of 5 muscles: adductor longis, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, pectnineus and gracilis. They are found in the inner thighs and their task is to move the foot toward the body central line; basically inwards. Often very stiff with most people and is several good yoga poses: The frog – Sit on your knees and let the knees come out to the side. Let the ankles be straight under your knee and support with palms or forearms. If you feel like more you can stretch out the hands in front of you and let the head rest on the ground.
The iliopsoas group are iliacus and psoas major. The psoas is a very deep-seated core muscle and is very important in yoga asanas. It helps pull the thigh and torso toward each other. It can become very tight if you sit a lot and repeatedly do sit-ups or bicycling. If it is tight it can cause lower back pain and stiffness! Who wants that? So how can we reverse the process of sitting . We can do Lunge pose and Warrior 1 which is great for the psoas! Just notice that the back knee doesn´t have to be all straight, a bit of a bend can be better for the psoas.
The externus and internus obturators, the piriformus, the superior and inferior gemelli, and the quadratus femoris are all part of the lateral rotator group (I know – a lot of muscles!). The quadratus femoris is often stretched in yoga. It is located in the back of the hip joint and connects the ischium of the pelvis to the back of the femur head. The best poses to stretch it is the poses butterfly and pigeon.
The best is to stretch in all of the groups – as a whole they affect each other. Remember to sit with the poses for a while, let them sink into the body and you will feel a releasing effect after some minutes!