When we’re thinking about doing asana, or yoga poses, we are often inclined to think about the shapes our bodies are making, or maybe what muscles are contracting or stretching.
If we want to move and feel better, however, it might be helpful to think instead of the bones.
In today’s post, we’ll be taking a look at another one of the key hip movements: flexion. This is the movement where you take the thigh bone towards the abdomen. Bertha happens to be pretty good at this one, as you can see below.
Just like rotation, we sometimes develop movement patterns where we habitually pair hip flexion with other movements. This might be to compensate for hip movement that’s lacking, or it might develop for other reasons. I’d like to reiterate here that there’s nothing wrong with pairing movements. It’s a naturally occurring movement strategy, and is one of the ways that our body is very clever and adaptable to different situations. Yay, body!
As always, it’s a strategy that works until/ unless it doesn’t. I’m a huge fan of learning to un-hook or differentiate movements from each other. First, over-relying on a compensatory movement strategy – perhaps while pushing ourselves to achieve the “perfect” shapes in our postural yoga practice – can sometimes be associated with pain or injury. In addition, being able to choose whether or not to combine movements gives us more movement options – and that is always a good thing!
Hip Flexion in Asana Practice
This movement of the hip comes up all the time in our asana (postural yoga) practice. Here are just a few examples:
- Poses where one or both legs are extended in front of the body, including:
- Seated poses like Dandasana (Staff Pose) or Navasana (Boat Pose)
- Standing poses like Uttitha Hasta Pandangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose) with the leg out in front, or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) in the standing leg
- Supine poses like Supta Padangusthasana (Reclined Hand to Big Toe Pose) or Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall)
- Poses where the knee is bent and drawn toward the abdomen. These can include the front leg in lunging poses such as Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1), poses done in a quadruped (all fours) position, and poses that combine flexion with other movements, such as Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Differentiating Hip Flexion
When we’re working on differentiating hip flexion from other movements in our asana practice, there are a couple of different things to notice:
- Is the spine moving when we move the thigh bone in the hip socket?
- Is the leg doing other movements (rotating or moving to the side) when we’re trying to flex the hip?
It’s always important to also notice any signs of gripping, strain, or discomfort during the movement, including pain, holding the breath, tension in the belly or jaw, etc.
The following video shows one way we can explore hip flexion within our yoga practice. If you enjoy this work and want to see more about how to integrate it into a full practice, join me online for a group class or a private workshop. Let me know how it goes!
The information, instruction, and advice contained in this video and post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.