The aim of this 90 minute masterclass was to teach a little about the anatomy of the hips, legs and glutes to aid the understanding of how they’re all connected, with one having an impact on the other. We were hoping to increase the mobility and flexibility of our hips to better support movement without pain and prevent injury during exercise.

We started with a quick anatomy lesson.

Here you can see how part of the quadriceps cross both the hips and the knee, so tight muscles in this area can cause knee pain, and increased curvature of the lumbar spine (twisting of the hips and pelvis and uneven impact when walking or running).

In the lower leg, the calf muscle crosses the knee and ankle joints and if tight, can put pressure on the sole of the foot and Achilles tendon. Tight muscles on the front of the shin can irritate the fascia membrane at the front of the shin, contributing to shin splints.

And now the complicated hips and pelvis! There is a question mark by Psoas Minor as some people, possibly even 60%, do not have this muscle… But notice the cross-over of joints, muscles and many ligaments. An imbalance in one of these intricate areas can cause discomfort and pain, poor posture and reduced mobility.

What’s the difference between flexibility and mobility?

Flexibility is the degree of movement your muscles and tendons will allow through stretching.

Mobility is the degree of movement you can achieve without discomfort in your joints.

With that in mind, we started the masterclass by sitting in the yoga pose, Fire Log, to measure the distance between our knees and the floor. This is a screen shot of one of my members before we began the exercises. You can see the knee is at the top of the ruler.

A series of strengthening exercises were then done, including everyone’s favourites – squats and lunges, playing with differing heights of mini-bands around our thighs, lower knees and ankles. We also did a series of hip opening exercises, again using our mini-bands for resistance, working one side at a time and being mindful of the range of motion we were achieving.

Hip openers

Starting with the band around one ankle and just above the other knee, feet flat on the floor at a comfortable distance away from our bodies. The knee with the band drops to the floor, under control, working the abductors, adductors and glutes.

Follow this with a series of ‘fire hydrants’, in table top position with bent leg and then straight leg, at right angles to the body.

Next, squat and then lift the leg, drawing circles with the knee in one direction and then the other, noticing any clunks and clicking as you move.

Then, do a standing figure 4 stretch with one ankle on the lower thigh, flexed foot and then squatting down on the supporting leg, both sides.

Finally the yoga Goddess pose and a series of wide leg forward folds completed the hip opening section.

Hip stretches

In this section we worked on the groups of muscles to stretch and improve flexibility.

Kneeling hip thrusters that are similar to shoulder bridge in Pilates worked on extending the hips, and what I call the 90-90 stretch released any tension.

Whilst in this position we leaned over the front leg, then sat up straight and stretched overhead with one arm, then the other.

We then returned to Goddess pose, and then into a yoga squat adding some movement, circling the hips whilst in the low position, shifting the weight and varying the height of our hips.

Rolling – to stretch, lengthen and massage

We concluded the hard work part of the hips and legs masterclass with a session on our foam rollers, prickle balls and massage balls to work in to the muscles and release any tension, from our feet to our glutes.

We then returned to the measurement of our knees whilst in fire log pose to see where the improvements were evident.

Here’s the same member, in the pose after 90 minutes of work:

I was very pleased to say that while results varied in everyone who took part, all of us gained additional flexibility and mobility in our hips, myself included!

Everyone was bid farewell with some homework to work on and I look forward to seeing the results of that too.

This was the first masterclass from Ad Astra Yoga & Pilates, if you would like to take part in the next one, please follow us on Facebook and look out for the information posts. In the meantime, like the page and find us on Gymcatch to book classes or download from the on demand selection.