We Pilates folk are always searching for ways that we can most effectively describe hard to imagine technical info as part of our education. One of these Pilates technical concepts is hip disassociation.
Whilst this terminology sounds very ‘science nerd’, don’t run screaming for the hills just yet, all it really means is that we are trying to teach our bodies how to move our legs in isolation to our pelvis. Why would we want to do this, you ask? It is a crucial part of having a strong and stable core. Proper core control is being able to move all your limbs freely around your centre or torso and if you can master great hip disassociation, your body will move with much better balance and agility. If you are someone whose hip flexors are often screaming at you during your exercise, this is a sure sign that your muscle balance around your hips is out of whack and this article will help you enormously.
To imagine this concept more easily, we will draw inspiration from our trusty little Lego Man (Our model is a James Bond Lego Man courtesy of Hilary who has these cuff links!!). Check out the picture below and notice how he has a hinge at the hip joint where he is able to move his legs without affecting the rest of his torso. Now that, is impressive hip disassociation!
Now that you can imagine what you are trying to achieve, lets tackle how to actually apply the Lego Man leg movements. There are so many of the Pilates exercises that include the concept of hip disassociation but the best place to start with teaching yourself how to do this is using the exercise Single Leg Lifts.
Lie on your back in neutral pelvis with the knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Feel as if your thigh bones are sinking down into the base of your pelvis (like where the Lego Man hinge would be if you were made like him), as opposed to the thigh bones feeling pushed forward to the fronts of your hips. You should feel like you have lots of ‘space’ at the fronts of your hips and not like the thighs and muscles are bunched forwards.
Once the thighs are set correctly in the hip sockets, engage your pelvic floor and transverse abdominus muscles and then hinge one leg at the hip and float the leg to tabletop, feeling as though the leg is being lifted not by the hip or leg itself, but from the central abdominal control. The back or your pelvis should feel heavy and melted into the floor and there should be no movement or change of the pelvis from that neutral position at all during the movement of the leg. Then you can float that leg back to the floor to it’s start position with that same feather light hinging at the hip, control from the abdominals and stable pelvis. Repeat a few times and then try the other side as well.
If your thigh and hip muscles at the front of you feel like they do all the work, check to see whether your thigh bones are remaining angled more into the base of the pelvis with space at the front of the hips, like you had in the start position and try to work on keeping the thighs positioned like this in the hip sockets even as the movements are occurring.
This is the challenging part and what takes practise and training. It’s so worth the effort though, because once you have learned how to move this way, you will be able to access your core muscles like you never have been able to before and your results will sky rocket. Trust us, each of the PFI Pilates instructors (including myself!) have been through this training process in our own bodies and can vouch for the incredible difference this makes.
Get the Lego Man going in your Pilates training today!