In most yoga classes or yoga books, you’ll frequently hear or read, “Hinge your hips.” For intermediate and advanced students, it’s a good reminder for an important technique. If you don’t hinge your hips, you end up flexing (or bending) your spine anytime you bend forward. This can lead to some serious problems, including herniated discs, down the road. Understanding the concept of hinging is essential for back health. The good news is, if you’re sitting down right now, you’ve already mastered the art of hinging your hips. Getting this action during yoga poses is the next step.
Let your fingers do the walking. Your fingers can help you identify the proper location of the hinge. Sit in a chair and lengthen your back so you’re sitting up straight. Take your fingers and place them in the crease between your thighs and your upper body. This crease is where you have to hinge. Without moving your fingers, stand up. Keeping your back long and straight, bend your upper body forward so you recreate that same crease you had while sitting down.
Stick out your bum. You likely don’t hear these exact words very often in your yoga classes, but in essence, that’s what you have to do. Think for a minute about the basic anatomy of your hip joint: here, your thigh bone connects to your pelvis. If you want to change the angle of the joint and one part of it -- the thigh -- can’t move, you have to move the other part, which includes your bum. Just don’t stick your bum out so far that your back arches. Just let it move slightly back while you create that crease at the top of your thigh.
Recognize your limits. Anytime you do a forward bending posture, keep your back long and only move as far as you can before your back begins to round. As soon as your back rounds, you’ve stopped the movement in your hip joint, and you’re putting your lower back at risk for injury. If you can’t hinge very far before your back begins to round, your hamstrings -- the muscles on the backs of your thighs -- are likely tight. Keep working your forward bending postures with the proper hinge at the hips, and your hamstring flexibility will naturally increase over time.
Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.