Where is Dorothy and her oil can when you need her? It is obvious that it’s not just the Tin Man who has rusty joints and hinges. Most of us lack mobility in our hips. And because our hips are tight and we grip our tailbones, we bend forward from our backs and not from the hips.
- Unfortunately, rounding the back at the ribs and the low back causes long term negative effects on our backs.
- It pulls on the vertebrae and can lead to herniated discs.
- If you have osteoporosis, it can lead to spinal fractures.
- Long term rounding leads to posture that makes it very difficult to look up without straining your neck.
- And rounding your back sets you up for chronic soreness and pain. Your back muscles get pulled long which makes them increasingly weak and unable to hold you up.
Find Your “V”
What can you do? The first important step is to find your hip crease! Your hip crease is the “V” where your legs attach to your pelvis. This is the place from which you should tip forward. Many people bend from their waistline or the top of their hips. That is what causes rounding instead of lengthening.
When you want to hinge forward, reach your buttocks behind you and keep your spine straight. Bend your knees to come closer to the floor. Don’t lead with your head; that pulls your shoulders and upper back forward and causes them to round. Instead, keep your head back and your neck long. Don’t swan dive with your ribs poking forward. That will pull on your low back.
Relearning how to tip forward instead of bending takes time and effort. But, like anything worth doing, the long term benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Not only will you become more graceful and use your body the way it is meant to be used, you’ll save your back as well!
Oil Your Hinges!
Here are some poses that will help you learn how to hinge from your hips, and make hip movement smoother and easier.
Downward facing dog is a classic hip-hinging pose. Dogs–and many other animals–love to lift their hips to stretch their backs. We can learn from their example by lengthening our spine with our hips lifted first in puppy pose and “L” pose as well as down dog.
An easy way to learn to lift your hips without tight hamstring muscles getting in the way is to come onto hands and knees. Pad your knees if you need to. Keep your hips over your knees as your reach your arms forward. Find length in your spine without letting your ribs hang down by the floor. You want your back to be straight. In this position, you stretch your back and arms.
You can also try this at a wall. Stand facing a wall and walk back so that your hips are over your feet and your arms and torso are parallel to the floor. Again, the idea is to maintain a straight spine and not let your ribs collapse down toward the floor. In this position, you stretch your back, arms and legs.
If you are flexible in both the hips and legs, and strong enough in the shoulders, you can come into the full pose. From a hands and knees position, curl your toes and lift your hips as high into the air as you can. Reach your arms forward and make sure you aren’t pulling your shoulders up around your ears; that will round your upper back. Keep your low back safe by drawing your ribs away from the floor to prevent arching. Again, the idea is to maintain straight lines in the legs, spine and arms.
As you gain strength and flexibility through continued mindful practice, you’ll be able to do beautiful yoga poses as well as hinge forward to pick something off the floor safely and smoothly.
I specialize in helping people with low back and hip pain jump back into the activities they love. If pain holds you back from living the life you want, contact me today!