Since I joined this yoga teacher course in September, the mostly heard phrases from the masters are “Engage your hip flexors…”, “Fold from your hips…”, “Feel the pelvis tilt…”. Hence it is all about hip flexors!
Hip flexor comprised of several muscles – iliopsoas, iliacus, tensor fasciae latae, pectineus, sartorius, rectus femoris and adductor longus. These muscles create hip flexion, pulling the thigh and trunk toward each other. In a standing position, the hip flexors lift your leg when you step up on a stool. If you are lying flat on your back, the hip flexors can either lift your leg or lift your torso into a sit-up. In yoga, Navasana (Boat Pose) is especially good at strengthening the iliopsoas because it demands that the muscle isometrically contract to hold up the weight of the legs and torso.
If left unstretched, shortened hip flexors affect the position of the pelvis, which in turn affects the position and movement of the lower back. If the iliopsoas and other hip flexors are tight, they pull down and forward on the pelvis, which tilts the pelvis forward and compresses the lower back. Prolonged standing or sitting in this position increases pressure on the facet joints of the lower spine, which can contribute to arthritis in those joints. You will face difficulties in certain yoga poses as well.
Constant stretch of hip flexors and increasing its flexibility are very important especially to working people who sit at the desks all day long. The following yoga poses can help to stretch the hip flexors – Supta Virasana, Virabhadrasana I and King Arthur’s pose and protect you from compression and pain in your lower back.