Assisting people in finding their hip joints is one of my favorite things to teach! I am always in awe of the changes throughout the body that emanate from simply releasing the hip joints.
Hip joints are powerful joints for moving (walking, running, doing a split), with global implications for ease or patterns of tension in the body. Often misperceived as “hips” – a part of the body whose existence most would rather not acknowledge, the hip joints are the connection between the torso and the legs, the anatomical middle of the body from top to bottom. One’s hip joints can be the source of movement joy or a source of movement misery.
I HATE MY HIPS! In an effort to create the illusion of smaller “hips” many people tighten their hip flexors, pulling the legs in, therefore restricting the natural range of motion of the joints. This wears the joint irregularly, and causes discomfort, aches and pains.
WHAT TO DO? Find your hip joints! Locate the place where the ball of the upper leg bone meets the socket on pelvis. You can do this lying down in a semi-supine position, and palpating the “hip” area as you move a leg. The front of the joint can be found in the angled crease between the leg and torso. Notice how far in from the outside of the leg your hip joints are located. (I bet they are closer to your midline than you thought.) From these ball and socket joints, the leg moves forward, back, out to the side, across the midline and in rotation. Explore movement! This is also the place where the torso is designed to bow in relation to the legs. (I like to use Pilates exercises such as “leg circles”, and “single leg stretch” to locate and increase hip joint awareness and range of motion.)
Now that you have located your hip joints, you can learn to move the legs with precision and ease, and you can release from a locked hip joint position into balance when standing. To find balance from a locked position, simply allow the hip joints to move back in space an inch or two. Notice how this frees muscles throughout the body, which can be the key to avoiding or healing from the tension that limits musical and athletic performance, and is often the root of back, neck and arm pain and injury.
Working on my “split gazelle” on the static trapeze, and performing reminds me again to move from my hip joints. My split gazelle is not a full split yet, but the angle of my split increases each week. On stage, I return to balance at the hip joints over and over, in order to free the muscles of the pelvic floor for better breathing, and access the long arm lines that support my instrument and technique without unnecessary work.
Body Mapping is a great way to learn more about your hip joints and learn to release them. If you or your performance suffers, the Flutistas can help you to learn more about the power (and freedom) of your hip joints!