One of the things I enjoy most about teaching Pilates is when you ask questions. Asking this one about your hips helps you learn more about your body and movement. This gives you a deeper understanding and helps you remember! Building hip strength is important for core strength and activities like walking, running, cycling and many more!
This is a great question! I love asking questions to learn more and also love when clients ask questions. This is one I’ve been asked a few times.
I remember the first few Pilates classes I took and this was one of my own questions. One instructor told me to leave my hip on the mat while circling. Another told me to lift my hip.
So which one is it? You should lift your hip when circling your leg.
Why? Because you can!
Our bodies are designed to move this way and I encourage you do so. There could be a couple reasons why this is difficult or challenging. One reason can be due to back pain. Another is hamstring tightness. Lastly it could be hip tension.
The good news is there are ways to relieve hip, back, and hamstring tightness!
I’ll start with hip tension and hamstring tightness. Often times they go together especially if you have a desk job. Sitting for long periods can actually tighten our hamstrings making them weak. This means straightening your leg might be difficult. Since we’re sitting that also means are hips are flexed for long periods of time. The more you move the better you feel which is why sitting for 8 hours can leave you stiff and tight.
If you experience back pain when lifting your hip to circle it’s because the back is working instead of your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
Another reason you might ask this question is because you want to do the exercise correctly.
Ok so how does our body move during single leg circle? Your hips are actually moving in different directions. There is a slight twist happening in your pelvic halves. It’s small and not noticeable but when you know this and think it, your movement is easier. Also when you lift your hip to circle, your lower spine twists one direction while your upper spine twists the other way. Think of a washcloth twisting opposite directions to ring out the water, this is what your spine is doing. Trust me, it’s a good thing and feels good!
To help you understand your hip movement, especially if you’re a visual person, check out this tutorial.
It includes stretches for your hamstrings and hips before circling your leg. I use a magic circle for the stretches and this is a great prop to have at home when practicing Pilates. You can also use a towel or theraband for the stretches.
Some of the benefits to this movement include loosening your hips after sitting, walking, or running. You are also strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and hips. These are part of your core which help relieve low back pain. When you have stronger hips it prevents knee pain too! Additionally, this helps relieve stress we hold in our hips and pelvis!
How the hip, knee, and ankle work together.
Your hip, knee, and ankle work together as part of the kinetic chain for your body. The hip and ankle joints are mobility joints and the knee is a stability joint. The knee joint supports the femur (the biggest bone in your body) above it and the tibia and fibula below it. Our hips and ankles are mobility joints meaning they are mobile and flexible compared to the knee. The knee is not something we can strengthen, but if our hips are tight or weak, our body may try to use the knee as a mobility joint.
It is important for our hips and ankles to continue working as mobility joints. If they stop, we could injure our knee, ligaments, and more. This is where movements like single leg circle during Pilates are very beneficial to keeping the hip joint free and mobile!
Would you like a Healthy Hips class to learn more?
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