I’ve been talking about the Spiral Line, or how collapsing into the Spiral Line causes a downward spiral. I hope that what’s coming across is the fact that you are not just a series of parts fixed together, and that a holistic, whole body approach is necessary to address injury or pain.
Today I’d like to look specifically at the Hip and it’s role in the Spiral Line.
The hip is involved in the Spiral Line at two major points: the outer side, by the ASIS, and the back and lower side, by the sits bones. These two points are directly related to the arches of the feet via the Spiral Line.
If you put your hands on your ‘hips’, you’ve most probably placed your hands on the pelvic crests (The Illia). If you trace your fingers to the front of these two bones, that’s the ASIS. This point is connected fascially to the inner arch of the foot. The Spiral Line runs from the ASIS down the outside of the leg (the ITB), then crosses forwards from below the knee across the front of the shin and down to the inner arch (via Tibialis Anterior).
Tibialis anterior hooks under in the inner arch of the foot where it meets the tendon of Peroneus Longus at the base of the first metatarsal. Peroneus Longus runs from this point towards the outer side of the foot and up the outer (lateral) side of the shin bones. The line then continues towards the back of the thigh up the hamstrings and towards the sits bones (ischial tuberosities).
As you can see from the diagram, the tendinous insertions in the foot create a stirrup around the arch of the foot. However the really interesting thing is that this continuous line connects the pelvic placement with the arches of the feet in a sling like structure.
This is super important!!!!!!!!!!!
If the arches are dropping inwards there is a fair chance that your knees are rotating inwards and that your pelvis is tilted forwards. If you’re rolling onto the outside of your feet, there’s a fair chance that your knees bow outwards and your pelvis is in a backward tilt (also known as tucking under).
Remember that these are simplifications and no body is 100% of one thing.There are millions of variations of the above. Sometimes one side of the line is tight on one leg and lax on the other leg. (I will talk about this later when I look at whole body movement and the spiral line.)
Since my series has been focusing on the “Downward Spiral”, I will give you a few tips on how to work with the first of these patterns, where the arches are dropped and the pelvis is in a forward tilt.
- Do not stretch the hamstrings!* I often come across people with this pattern who insist that their hamstrings are tight. Actually, if your pelvis is in a forward tilt, then your hamstrings are too long, ie: they are in a constantly lengthened position under load. If you stretch them any more then they will just tighten up against this. They are actually too weak and need to be strengthened to encourage the pelvis to come more towards a neutral alignment. I’m sorry to say that this is a really tricky thing to achieve because the Hip Flexors at the front of the hip are often tight and therefore stop people from being able to access the gluts and hamstrings in exercises that should target these areas. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that people just arch their backs instead, which just causes more problems. So before you can tackle the hamstrings themselves you will need to:
- Lengthen the Hip Flexors. The kneeling lunge is probably the best option, however if your knees are dodgy you can lie on your back with your pelvis slightly raised on a cushion and hug one knee in towards you.
- Engage the sits bones. Now obviously the sits bones are bones and cannot contract, but this image, that you often hear me give in class, is a key one for the functional integration of the hamstrings and gluts in hip extension. When you ‘narrow the sits bones’ you engage the top attachments of the hamstrings and the lower fibres of the gluts. This anchors the lower end of the pelvis so that the front of the hip can let go. You need to find this connection first before going into hip extension exercises like the bridge. My favourite exercises for this are either footwork on the Reformer or the matwork version which is supine leg slides.
- Do the Bridge.
It’s so difficult to describe these exercises in any detail. So ask me in class if you’re not sure about any of these.
*Generally speaking, if you notice that you have one area of your body that constantly feels tight, it’s a sign that it is being asked to do more than its fair share. A muscle that is constantly tight is essentially very weak. Stretching constantly is not a good idea. By looking at whole body alignment you can learn to achieve a more functional distribution of effort so that no one area ever feels constantly stiff. But that’s a point for another post altogether.