Locating Your Hip Joints and Why It Matters

In News by Ira Feinstein

By Angela Alston, GCFP

The Feldenkrais Method® has no set lesson plans. We don’t have a school board. There’s no one dictating to me what themes to choose when teaching.

So, after six years of teaching, I follow my hunches when planning what to teach. I listen to my private clients, to students in my classes. I continue with my advanced study. Patterns emerge. Something comes into the foreground. Now it’s hip joints which keep presenting themselves to me.

Connecting with Your Strength

My ongoing interest remains to uncover innate strength. And clarifying the use of our hip joints is vital. The pelvis is our power center. Those bones are the biggest we have. The lumbar vertebrae are enormous, compared to our cervical vertebrae.

The head of the femur is spherical, almost. It has the potential to rotate in nearly any direction; most of us use only a fraction of the potential. Watch a dancer or gymnast to see the hip joint exploited to its fullest.

Most of us don’t have hypermobile joints like acrobats. Yet we can still find more range of motion than we’re currently taking advantage of. For example, we can find the top of our hip joint, that place around which we can pivot freely and discover what Moshe Feldenkrais called good posture: the ability to move in any direction without preparation.

Why Study Anatomy?

I’ve been going back to the transcripts of the lessons Moshe Feldenkrais taught years ago in Jerusalem. We have roughly 600 of these lessons, from the time he spent teaching on Alexander Yanai Street. I’ve found gems in his comments to students. He repeatedly said that we don’t know where our hip joints are. We can’t accurately locate them on ourselves. We think our hip joints are located where our pants crease at the top of our legs. They aren’t. Because we move from a faulty understanding of our anatomy, we damage our hip joints and low back. Moshe said that 60 years ago, and it’s still true today.

The heads of the femurs point towards your sacrum. Your hip joints are located where they can direct ground forces up and into your spine on either side to help you stand erect and move your spine freely.

When you stand using your skeleton without unnecessary activity in your core, you’ll feel support flowing up from your heels to your hip joints, all the way to the crown of your head.

It’s literally a heady feeling.

So why do so many of us lack or forget that connection? Many reasons: injury, prolonged sitting, inactivity in general. I also think the English language doesn’t help.

Basic Pelvic Anatomy

We have one word, “pelvis,” for what are actually three bones: the sacrum in the middle and an ilium/ischium on either side. To add to the confusion, we don’t have one word for the hip bones on either side of the sacrum. Each is composed of three elements, the ilium, ischium, and pubis. These are separated in newborns and become fused by adulthood. The three parts form a deep socket called the acetabulum where they meet. The acetabulum articulates with the head of the femur. In front, the pubic bone on either side is connected by cartilage. So each of these three parts of your pelvis has the potential to move independently. To see that potential exploited to its fullest, watch an experienced belly dancer. 

Why isn’t study of basic human anatomy required? How we’re put together is fascinating. When kids meet my skeleton, Heinrich, they can’t stop touching him, moving his bones around, asking questions. It’s absurd and a profound disservice to allow children to reach adulthood in ignorance of how their physical selves function. The point is, understanding and clarifying function of our hip joints is key to improving our movement and self-use.

Going Deeper with Anatomy

If you’d like to study human anatomy on your own, there’s no better place to start than Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain. Her analysis focuses on function, not the study of anatomy for its own sake. She’s a dancer and physical therapist. The book is full of great illustrations. It’s organized so you can easily pick it up and read the section dealing with the pelvis. Or go cover to cover, if you like.

Angela Alston, GCFP, MFA works with clients to discover how their movement patterns aren’t serving them and find better choices. She’s used the Feldenkrais Method® since 1996 for her own self-study and improvement. Her focus: uncovering the innate strength and capacity for learning which lies hidden in most of us. Angela offers workshops, group classes and private lessons in Dallas, TX, and beyond. Learn more at https://www.dallasfeldenkrais.com/angela-alston-gcfp/