This week's Movement Mondays is one of my favourite stretches. It is one that both opens and strengthens, getting into tight hips and builds a strong butt. It's called the Number 4 stretch because when you are in it, your legs look like the number four... easy peasy.
From all that sitting we do as a culture, our hips are chronically tight and our glutes (muscles in your derrière) are chronically weak or turned off. Our hip joints have a wide range of potential for movement but we rarely give the joints and the surrounding musculature the opportunities to move as they could. As a result, we loose the ability to move our body in functional ways.
I watch the way my almost 5 year old gets up and down off the floor. He rarely uses his hands to bring himself up (like many adults have to) and instead does a variety of squatting and kneeling movements all borne from the strength and mobility of his legs and hips. He does these movements naturally, to him it isn't an exercise, it is just the the most efficient way to get up and down. We lose that ability once we stop doing natural movements like that, and instead spend most of the time in chairs, cars or couches.
One of the many ways to regain your hip mobility along with leg strength and stability is the Number 4 stretch. What I love about this stretch is that you can do it anywhere; at home, the office, on a hike, after a long car ride. It keeps your hips mobile and not to mention can help relieve some low back discomfort. One main alignment point is to keep your knee over your ankle, which will invite your glutes to the party as they get to do the fun work of helping to hold yourself up. This way your knee is more stable and aligned and the glutes get to do most of the work.
- Hold onto a table or chair. I'm using the edge of my kitchen sink for support. Trees work great when you do this outside.
- Place your left ankle over top of your right thigh.
- Un-tuck your pelvis so that you can maintain the curve in your lower back.
- Pull your hips back so that your knee is over top of your ankle. Try to get your shin as vertical as possible.
- Bend through the hip joints while keeping your knee over the ankle.
- Ribs down.
- To add a nice stretch to your upper back and shoulders, pull back little more with your hips, but keep your shin vertical.
- Breathe deep as you allow your hips to open and your standing leg does the work of holding you up.
- Repeat on the other side.
Do this a few times a day. For another challenge, try to do this without holding onto something and yet keep the alignment points the same. Enjoy your happy hips and feel free to share!