We all do it—we stretch in the morning to get our blood flowing, we stretch our legs after a long drive, and we stretch our shoulders after sitting at our desks for hours. Stretching is an intuitive movement, not only for humans but for animals as well. (Try doing some yoga on your living room floor without your dog or cat coming by to stretch alongside you!) We stretch because it is a simple and effective way to loosen our muscles and invigorate our bodies.
Working in the pelvic region is not easy for many therapists and clients. There are cautions and borders that need to be addressed and talked through before addressing these muscles. There are emotional and comfort aspects about working in the lower pelvic region. Some clients find this area too personal or private to allow the therapist's hands in this area. Other considerations are the internal organs such as the intestines, uterus, kidneys, and bladder. As the iliacus and psoas travel under the inguinal ligament and insert into the lesser trochanter of the femur, there is also the femoral triangle, which needs to be worked around. Body positioning can be useful to help access these muscles in a less invasive way while protecting the comfort of the client.
Well, most of us work the hip flexors (including the psoas and iliacus) most of the time- sitting, practicing while seated, cycling, driving...but only in a limited range, i.e. knees and hips bent to 90 degrees. We need to balance out the movements of the hips a bit more- add more extension and more varieties of flexion. For example, sitting cross legged, sitting on the floor, squatting, kneeling, etc. all require more varieties of hip movement. To get more hip extension in your life, you can add some restorative exercises like standing apanasana, lunges (lots of lunges!) and go walk (not on a treadmill). That way, you don't lose your capacity to move those joints to their full capacity, and you will have loaded the tissues in more diverse ways.
Start kneeling on your mat with knees hip-width apart and hips directly over knees. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the mat. Bring your hands to your low back, fingers pointing down, and rest palms above glutes. Inhale and lift your chest, and then slowly start to lean your torso back. From here, bring your right hand to rest on your right heel and then your left hand to your left heel. (If you can't reach your heels, turn your toes under; it will be easier to reach your heels in this modification.) Press your thighs forward so they are perpendicular to the floor. Keep your head in a relatively neutral position or, if it doesn't strain your neck, drop it back. Hold for 30 seconds. To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips and slowly, leading with your chest, lift your torso as you press the thighs down toward the floor.
4. Just swing it. For the front-to-back hip swing stretch, lie on the left side with hips stacked, propped up on the left elbow. Bend the left leg to a 90-degree angle and raise the right leg to hip level with toes pointed. Keep abs tight and swing the right leg all the way in front, then swing it all the way to the back, squeezing the booty along the way. Switch sides.
Athletes with marked weakness of the hip abductors will exhibit the classic Trendelenburg gait pattern. Hallmarks of the Trendelenburg gait pattern are depression of the swing phase pelvis (as the stance phase hip abductors cannot resist the pull of gravity on the unsupported side of the body).4,8,13 Athletes often find ways to compensate for a relative weakness, such as with a compensated Trendelenburg gait pattern. With this pattern the athlete exhibits increased deviation of the body in the frontal plane toward the stance leg. This causes a decrease in the moment arm of gravitational forces pulling on the unsupported half of the body and a relative decreased load on the stance phase hip abductors (Table 12-1).8,13
How to: Get on your hands and knees, in a tabletop position (a). Slowly widen your knees out as far as they can go and bring your feet in line with your knees. Your shins should be parallel with one another (b). Flex your feet and ease yourself forward onto your forearms. (If the stretch is too intense, try putting your arms on a block or firm pillow.) Hold for eight to 12 breaths (c). If holding the stretch for longer, try slowly moving your hips forward and backward to bring the stretch to different parts of your hips.