Stretching Tight Hips Might Not Be the Answer

Last week on Facebook, I shared a post from a fellow yoga teacher about identifying imbalances in your hips. Which hey, we’ve all got from roller derby, right? I think it’s great info for figuring out what’s going on with your hips, but the conclusion–“So, spend some extra time each day “opening” your hips in whatever range of motion (and on whichever side) is most challenging for you, which will help ease those imbalances over time”–had me feeling pretty uncomfortable. Stretching tight hips might not be the answer.

Our bodies have “typical” ranges of motion. Yes, there’s some variation depending on bone structure, and yes, everyone is different! As skaters, extreme flexibility isn’t necessarily going to help our game as much as balanced bodies and functional movement will; in other words, more hip openers isn’t necessarily the way to go. It’s important to know whether a muscle feels sore or tight because it needs to be stretched, or if things are feeling off because the muscle is weak or fatigued (or something else entirely).**

Want to know more about the range of motion for internal and external rotation of your hips? Check out this video and play along to learn a little more about how your derby hips move.

**I am not a medical professional, and I can’t diagnose conditions in your body. I can tell you that if you’re noticing a really extreme imbalance, it’s worth seeing a physical therapist if you can to start resolving things.

Unwind after Practice…in Bed

It’s 10:00 p.m. (or 11:00 p.m., or midnight) and you just got home from another late night roller derby practice. You have a snack, shower, lie down in bed, and…nothing. Your mind is racing, and sleep isn’t happening. You need something to help you unwind after practice, and you have no idea what that would be.

Sound familiar?

Exercise later in the day–especially when it’s a high-impact sport like derby–triggers our bodies to produce more of our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. If these are bumped up right before bed, chances are, you’ll have a harder time falling asleep. Enter: restorative yoga.

A restorative yoga practice is generally slow, gentle, supported stretches; you’re not trying to go deep into poses. It’s designed to help calm your nervous system! Basically, it’s a lot more about being comfortable and letting your breath get slower and steadier, which can help chill out your stress response. (Think about it: when you get really anxious and hyped up, it can be harder to breathe. Calming your breath can make a big difference.)

This video is a yoga practice that you can do in bed! It’s targeted for the parts of your body that you use at practice–just in case you didn’t stretch–and, even more importantly, it’s slow and steady with some breath focus to help you settle down for bed. Take a hot shower, get cozy, and give it a try.

Hip Flexor Magic

Don’t let the featured image fool you: you’ll be doing some lunges today, but they might be nothing like the ways you’ve done lunges in yoga before!

While I’m a big fan of constructive rest for hip flexors, it’s definitely only one piece of the puzzle. I bet you can relate to the feeling of “I’m sore–I should stretch!”and sometimes, stretching isn’t the needed solution. If that’s the case, give your hip flexors a break in one of the rest poses from my last post, and then give this awesome hip flexor magic that I learned from Jules Mitchell a try.

When you give this a go, move slowly. Slooooooooowly. Even if you don’t have someone’s hand there, pretend someone’s hand is pressing on the back of your thigh and you’re trying to move it. Create your own resistance!

As I mention in the video, it could be really helpful to have a teammate or partner around to place their hand at the back of your pelvis so that you have some resistance and become aware of when you’re actually moving! That will help with proprioception–knowing where you are in space–and won’t let you cheat.

And last but definitely not least, don’t worry if your movements are really, really tiny when you try this. (I’ve taught this in a lot of classes already, and most of my students don’t go very far.) Over time, as you strengthen and stretch your hip flexors in this new and exciting way, you’ll have more control and range of motion.

Like I said: magic!

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