Are Your Hip Flexors Tight From Sitting Too Much?
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
Your hips change a lot during pregnancy and birth.
The bones have to widen during pregnancy to support the baby, then open and pivot to let your baby out of the birth canal.
All these changes can affect how the muscles in your hips function and you can be left with hips that aren't happy and balanced and always feel tight - especially in the front.
All the sitting that comes with looking after a baby doesn't help matters either.
Your hip flexor muscles can get locked in a shortened position putting extra strain on your lower back.
Stretching out the front of your hip can give you some temporary relief- but it doesn't always last. I see a lot of this in my yoga and group fitness classes.
People drop deep into a hip flexor stretch looking for relief but only end up feeling tight again a few hours later.
All that stretching doesn't give them long term relief because:
Tight hips are often unstable and crave stability- not more flexibility. But if something is tight it needs to be released and stretched out right?
Well, not always. If your hips end up tight again hours after stretching or foam rolling them, then your brain is telling them to tighten up to create stability and so it can feel "safe" (your brain loves to feel safe). Basically, if you have a weakness or imbalance in your hips, core or lower back and your body is compensates for it by overworking your hip flexors.
So what's the answer? You need to work on re-balancing your glutes and hip muscles by building strength. This will eventually give you enough stability that your brain will feel that it's safe to let go of those tight hip muscles. This is a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario. (What comes first?) You need to release the tight muscles to re-balance your hips, then build strength so that your hip flexors can stay relaxed. As with most rebalancing exercises after having a baby, this takes consistent work over time to achieve.
Little and often is the key - especially for sleep deprived, exhausted new moms.
You will find that your hips will regularly tighten up again, while you work on building strength and stability, until one day, they don't. Love you hips with Lunges
One of my favorite yoga poses for working on hip stability is the low lunge.
This is a great exercise for moms as you just need some clear floor space and you can do it in a couple of minutes whenever you feel you need it.
Most "I'm tight, I need to stretch" people will typically drop down as low as they can in a low lunge, hanging into their hips, trying to get as much length in the front of their hips as possible.
(Notice the angle on my lower back in this picture.
Hanging into your hips cranks down your lower back muscles by tipping your pelvis forwards.
If your lower back is already unhappy, this forced shortening of your lower back muscles, going from one extreme to the other, can cause more discomfort and pain.
Compare this to the lengthened position of my lower back in the second picture which allows your lower back to relax as you work on your hip stability. )
The better way to do this pose is to stay high with your hips and focus on creating stability. Start by kneeling your knees at 90 degrees and paying attention to your hipbones. Are they level from one side to the other? If not, even them out. Is one hip slightly higher than the other? Drop the hip that is higher down to level.
(It's is usually the hipbone leg that's forwards that lifts up). Is one of your hipbones twisted further forwards than the other ? Again even them out. Now you hips should be even side to side and front to back. Squeeze your glutes on back leg (this is the one with your knee on the floor). This will stabilize your pelvis in a neutral position and tuck your tailbone slightly forwards and under creating a stretch on the front of your hip in the hip flexor. Breathe deeply into your diaphram for 5-8 breaths, then repeat with the other leg forwards. This stretch should be enough to get rid of any tight feelings and is a great way to build awareness of your hip position while starting to create some stability.
The low lunge is also a great warm up drill - especially if you are going to be doing any leg exercises like squats or lunges.
Want to know more about how to rehab and strengthen your body after having a baby?
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