In response to many of your enthusiastic requests, the next few Stretches of the Week will focus on the HIPS.
But before we get started: Check out the Stretch of the Week: Start Here! if you haven’t already – especially the part about being ‘warm’ before you stretch!!!! I must also emphasize: Some stretches aren’t right for some people. If you are in pain, or something feels wrong, just stop. There will be another stretch next week. If you don’t feel anything, that’s fine. You don’t need the stretch. Move right along, and have a good day. If you love it – bookmark it! If you bookmark your favorites, then in 6 months, you’ll generate enough stretches to easily assemble a post-workout stretching routine (or two!).
Background: Many of you folks are excited about a stretching series (LOVE IT!), and the most commonly requested stretches have been for the hips/piriformis. This makes perfect sense: Many of my readers are female runners. Females – especially female runners – tend to have tight hips. Now, I’m not going to fuss too much about hips vs. piriformis – some of the hip stretches may do a great job on your piriformis, others may not. But there are lots of small muscles in your hip area, and the tight muscle(s) you are feeling may or may not actually be (only) your piriformis. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter – we’ll stretch them all!
Contraindications: If you have chronic knee pain, or have meniscus issues, enter and exit this stretch cautiously. I have one client who suffered a torn meniscus several years ago, and she finds that this stretch just doesn’t “feel right” for her knee, so we skip it. I have another who has no problems with it. Listen to your body.
Also, if your hips are VERY tight, you may not have enough rotation in the hip joint to comfortably assume the starting position for this stretch. See the modification at the bottom for an alternative/preparatory stretch.
Sit on the floor
(Slightly soft surface)
Center weight evenly on sitz (sitting) bones (the bone in each butt cheek that you sit on)
Bend knees, soles of feet on floor
Stabilize core, sit up straight
Relax right leg outward, onto floor
Adjust so the angle formed ankle-to-knee-to-hip joints is 90°
Tip: Align calf (ankle to knee line) parallel to front edge of mat and thigh (knee to hip line) parallel to side edge of mat
Stack left leg over right leg (ankle over knee, knee over ankle)
Check posture: Sit up straight
Stretch: For some people, sitting this way will already be a strong stretch.
If you want more stretch, sit straight and tip forward from your hips (back straight). You will likely only need to tip forward a few degrees before you feel a stretch.
Most people will feel this stretch in the hip area of the top leg – however, sometimes people feel it in the hip of the bottom leg, too (I do, when my hips are tight). The stretch may extend down the outside of the thigh a bit, in the IT-band area. That is fine – wherever you feel the stretch is the place that you need it the most!
This stretch will probably require a bit of extra concentration. You must mindfully relax the hip area during this stretch. As bipeds (two-legged animals), whenever we sit or stand, we maintain some degree of tension in our hips – this is a natural, necessary reaction that helps us to maintain a strong base and to move safely and with stability. However, to get the most out of this stretch, think about your hip joint, and concentrate on relaxing the muscles around it. Yes, your hips may feel uncomfortable, and perhaps slightly painful – don’t push past this point.
Length of Hold: I start this stretch sitting tall and consciously relaxing my hips. After about 15-20 seconds, I am relaxed enough to lean forward a bit. I continue this process, tipping a bit more as I am able, for 1-2 minutes.
Release: Use your hands to gently remove the top leg. Be careful, as your hip(s) may feel quite fragile. Set both feet on the floor, hip distance apart (or wider), knees bent. Lean back slightly onto your hands, and move your legs slowly in whatever motion seems comfortable: Rock knees from side to side, straighten legs out in front, pull legs in to chest – whatever feels best to YOUR body. After ~30-45 seconds of recovery, repeat with the other leg on top.
Modifications: If the stacked leg position is uncomfortable for your knees or hips, simply sit cross-legged on the floor, draw yourself up straight, and tip forward as described. Everything is precisely the same as described above, except the legs are in a slightly different position. When you switch legs, just put the other leg in front.
This whole stretch series will take about 5-6 minutes, and after a minute or two of recovery, your hips will probably feel looser and more mobile.
So what are you waiting for? Sit down and give it a try!!
How did the stretch feel while you were doing it? How did your hip area feel afterward?
Take it, or leave it?
[This is for my own data gathering purposes. I won’t be offended if you don’t like it.]