Hip problems, arthritis and osteoporosis are very prevalent in later life. It is very important to strengthen your hips by carefully applying specifically chosen muscle activations in an intelligent combination of postures and movements. As exercise-based physiotherapists and long standing yoga teachers and practitioners Bianca Machliss and I (Simon Borg-Olivier) have seen over and over again the need to not simply restrict oneself to passive stretching of the hip joint as many exercise and yoga practitioners tend to do.
It is important to activate all the major muscles groups around the hip joint complex in both their shortened as well as lengthened (stretched) state. The following Table comes from our book ‘The Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’. When applied correctly these practices will not only improve the strength of the joints, but also increase bone mineral density (thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis) and circulation (thus nourishing your joints and keeping hip cartilage healthy).
The hip joint complex has three main movement pairs and three main opposing muscle group pairs. In total there are six (6) main muscle groups.
1a. Hip Flexors are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will flex your hips (bring your knees closer towards your chest). These muscles are mainly located at the front of your hips.
1a. Hip Extensors are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will extend your hips (lengthen the front of your hips or groins and bring your knees away from your chest). These muscles are mainly located at the back of your hips.
2a. Hip Abductors are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will abduct your hips (bring your thighs away from the sides of your trunk). These muscles are mainly located on the outsides of your hips.
2b. Hip Adductors are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will adduct your hips (bring your thighs closer together). These muscles are mainly located on the insides of your thighs.
3a. Hip External Rotators are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will externally rotate your hips (turn your thighs outwards). These muscles are mainly located around the rear outsides of your hips.
3b. Hip Internal Rotators are the muscles that, when left unrestricted, will internally rotate your hips (turn your thighs inwards). These muscles are mainly located on the insides of your thighs.
Instructions in the Tables above can help you find ways of activating (‘turning on’ and thus strengthening) these muscle groups in both shortened and lengthened (stretched) positions.
It is important to note that you do not have to be able to do the difficult versions of any of these postures. It is enough to apply the principles described here in the simplest most versions of these postures. Simpler versions of these posture are easy to make by just bending each joint less, activating each muscle group less and sometimes even removing an element of the the pose (for example in a forward bending ‘stretch’ you may bend your knees to eliminate any intense feeling of over-stretching the hamstrings at the back of your legs)
If you wish to learn more about this subject please consider doing one of our comprehensive online or live training courses on the ‘Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga’, ‘Essentials of Teacher Training: Yoga Fundamentals’, ‘Yoga Therapy as well as Teacher Training.
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