Foundational Practices for Hips: A 3-Part Series – Part 2

Getting to the Core

With your growing awareness of what conscious foot placement feels like (see Part 1), let’s work on another important stabilizing part of the body: the core.

There are many muscles and joints that are involved in what we call “the core.” As the picture below illustrates, your core is made up of the abdominal, back, hip, and leg muscles. When developed in conjunction with each other, these muscles align, move, and support the spine, hips and to a lesser extent the knee joints.

Anatomy-Core-Muscles

Having a “strong” core means having balanced muscle development, mobile and stable joints, and responsiveness in the connective tissue. Just like building awareness of foot placement, before improving core strength it is important that we first have a sensory awareness of the parts of our core. There are several ways to do this. I will offer one practice that has, over the years, proved very effective for students in locating the key areas of their core.

Strange as it may sound, to find your core we will begin with your legs. The thighs and especially inner thigh muscles (adductors) have a significant role in providing support to all the other core muscles and joints. These adductor muscles are also attached, by way of the calf, to the foot. And thus, we started with your feet and now we move to the adductor muscles of your thighs, the foundational muscles of your core.

groin-muscles700

bricks

 

For this practice you can either stand or sit. You will require a Yoga brick or similar prop. It shouldn’t be heavy but does need to be about the width of the narrowest part of a Yoga brick.

 

 

Tadasana with block (Standing)

  • Stand with conscious foot yoga-block-between-the-thighsplacement (see Part 1) and your arms at your side, palms facing forward.
  • Place a block between your thighs (above your knees).
  • Release any lock in your knees so that you feel weight being supported in the feet and not in the knee joints.
  • Take a few breaths like this and feel your feet, legs, back, shoulders and neck placement.
  • Squeeze the block with your inner-thigh muscles.
  • Feel the strength of these muscles. You may notice that one side squeezes the block more than the other side. You may be challenged to maintain this engagement. That is OK, do the best you can and release when you need to. Simply come back into the practice when you are ready.
  • As you continue to squeeze the block with your adductor muscles, can you feel other muscles also working? Maybe you feel your pelvic floor muscles or hip muscles working. Do you feel any back muscles or other thigh muscles trying to help out?
  • Maintain this muscular effort for 5 – 10 breaths noticing what you are feeling: What muscles are working, how your joints feel, and how your breath moves.
  • Keeping the knees unlocked and the feet aligned, begin to subtly draw the back ofhow-to-fix-anterior-pelvic-tilt your hips downward toward the back of your thighs, a slight posterior pelvic tilt. This is not a very big action and involves a tilt of the hips down the back not a pressing of the hips forward. So be sure to keep your hips over top of your heels. As you take this action while maintaining the squeezing of the block, you may notice the lower belly muscles join in to the work, as well as more of the back and side muscles.

 

  • Ensure you stay upright in your torso and open through your chest as you sustain all this work for another 5 breaths.
  • Release the muscle activation and slide the block out from between your thighs.
  • Return to your Tadasana, releasing the activation and any possible tension from the muscles that were working so hard just a moment ago.
  • Take 5 – 10 breaths here, allowing the muscles to relax.
  • Repeat this practice 2 more times.

Tadasana with block (Seated)

  • Sit in a chair with your hips centred on the seat of the chair and yourChair tadasana spine upright. Extend your arms at your sides, palms forward.
  • Place your feet in conscious alignment (see Part 1) with your heels below your knees.
  • Place a block between your thighs (above your knees).
  • Take a few breaths like this and feel your feet, legs, back, shoulders and neck placement.
  • Squeeze the block with your inner-thigh muscles.
  • Feel the strength of these muscles. You may notice that one side squeezes the block more than the other side. You may notice a challenge maintaining this engagement. That is ok, do the best you can and release when you need to. Simply come back into the practice when you are ready.
  • As you continue to squeeze the block with your adductor muscles, can you feel other muscles also working? Maybe you feel pelvic floor muscles or hip muscles firing up. Do you feel any back muscles working or other thigh muscles trying to help out?
  • Maintain this muscular effort for 5 – 10 breaths, noticing what you are feeling: What muscles are working, how your joints feel, and how your breath moves.
  • Keeping the feet aligned and begin to subtly draw the back of your how-to-fix-anterior-pelvic-tilthips downward into the seat of the chair. This action is not very big and involves a tilt of the hips down the back not a pressing of the hips forward. As you take this action while maintaining the squeezing of the block you may notice the lower belly muscles join in the work now, as well as more of the back and side muscles.

 

  • Ensure you stay upright in your torso and open through your chest as you sustain all this work for another 5 breaths.
  • Release the muscle activation and slide the block out from between your thighs.
  • Return to your seated Tadasana, releasing the activation and any possible tension from the muscles that were working so hard just a moment ago.
  • Take 5 – 10 breaths here, allowing the muscles to relax.
  • Repeat this practice 2 more times.

With the help of the block you were able to engage many of the muscles that make up your core. As well you may have felt how, when these muscles are working in conjunction with each other, there is an expanding and supportive effect on the embedded joints (hip, spine, knees).  Using a block in this way is very helpful for many students in activating their true core muscles as well as heightening the awareness to this area.

Part 1

Part 3

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