Your hips aren’t the only joints that need some compassionate attention.
This week’s newsletter continues my series on hip mobility stretches for meditation. I’ll start with a gentle reminder though. You can meditate in any position that is comfortable for you: sitting, or lying down, or sitting on high cushions or a meditation bench.
The truth is, each one of those positions has its own challenges. My focus on the sitting position is because so many people want to be able to do it better – but don’t know how to get there.
The video shows you how to deepen hip flexibility by transferring weight out of your hips, onto your hands, to free up your feet and crawl backwards. There is a whole universe of movement between sitting in a chair and getting your butt down to the ground! If you have kids, watch them and learn.
You need mobility in lots of places to accomplish this – wrists, elbows, shoulders, 364 joints in your spine (yup!), hips, knees, feet, toes…you get the idea. Your hips are not the only joint that needs help, so hip opening stretches need to include the rest of your body, in my view.
I’m also introducing internal and external rotational mobility in the hip joint – not just folding forwards and back. That’s going to make it possible for you to extend one foot behind the other and move backwards. It’s not a motion that lots of folks practice regularly, so it can take a little getting used to, but it feels really good!
Unfortunately, these two ideas might be getting in the way of your ability mobilize all of your joints, including your hips:
- Keep your spine straight
- Keep your hips even or square
Let me explain why these two ideas suck, regardless of how flexible you are. They are common in meditation and fitness instructions that I hear/see, and I think they are meant well, but we interpret them in ways that make sitting very difficult.
Don’t keep your spine straight, ever, especially when you are “still”.
Your spine has forward and backward curves and 364 joints. Why would there be curves and joints if they weren’t needed for some reason? They move subtly every time you breath, no matter what position you are in. And it takes a lot of tension to try and straighten them.
You can see how my back transitions, in the video, from a more curved, spring-loaded state as my legs come forward under my body – to a more extended shape as I transfer weight forwards onto my hands. I wanted to use the movement to clarify this wave like motion and how it facilitates forwards and backwards crawling.
That backwards and forwards motion would be impossible to do if you were trying to “keep your spine straight.” You’d be unable to move your limbs at all (I dare you to try). You’ll also see it when my cat enters the frame, he does it with every step.
Don’t try to keep your hips square in meditation. If your pubic bone and nose are lined up, you are “centered” enough.
If you are flexible, you might be able to “square off” but if you are not, one of your hips will be slightly spiraled in front of the other. The head of your femur bone, and the shape of your hip joint, is round. That’s so you can roll side to side and turn! That motion is clarified as you transfer weight from one foot to the other before crawling.
There will be more about this rotational motion in the third video and post. The important point here is that hip mobility stretches should include side to side rotation too.
If you try to keep your hips square and limit the movement to the forward/backward plane, you will be effectively tightening your hips even more than they already are, and you will not be able to move or sit cross legged with ease.
Your back will be tight if you are pushing one hip to be even with the other as well.
Tight hips and tight backs make true hip opening stretches impossible. They cause difficulty breathing – and breathing is the focus of most meditation traditions. If breathing is difficult, that means you’ll be centering yourself around distress and discomfort instead of ease and flow.
Stay tuned for the next and last video where I finally get my butt on the cushion!