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Friday, October 28, 2011

How can I get more hip and pelvic movement?

Every student wants to move their hips and pelvis like the instructor.  Here are the directions you need, but remember, besides know-how, you need flexibility.  So always stretch your hips after your workout, when your muscles are warm, for increased flexibility at your next dance session.  At the end of each hip movement section below, I have included a stretch that goes with it.  I will also show the movement on a skeletal hip joint model in the video http://www.youtube.com/user/SheilaLebedenko?feature=mhee#p/u/6/UpmOsE8yE8A

Hip bump 
     The hip bump is the first of many hip articulations extremely common in Zumba, in almost every type of rhythm.  Bring the femur or thigh bone up into the hip socket.  Imagine you're bored, waiting at the bus stop.
     While we could do this with straight legs for a particular look, we usually bend our knees to do this movement. 
     Most students do well up to here, but I seldom see a student who couldn't learn from the next suggestion.
Focus on the foot of the hip you want to bump up and press down with the ball of that foot into floor.  While everyone sees your hip going up, up, up,  you should actually be thinking "My foot is going down, down, down."  This alone will increase your hip movement and caloric output significantly. 
     After you've put your miles into practicing the hip bump and feel confident with your hip bump, an advanced ad-on is to focus on your the side of your chest opposite to your working hip.  You'll look more dramatic by working your chest in opposition to your hip.  For example, a right hip bump happens at the same time as a rib cage slide to the left.
     A great stretch to work on your hip bump is an s-shaped cleopatra pose.  Make sure your nose is alligned over your navel; that's how you know you're standing up straight.

Hip slide
     This hip movement reminds me of a motorized Santa Claus display figure that moves its hips from side to side to beckon you into the Christmas ornament shop. 
     The most common mistake I have seen with the hip slide is that students will do a chest slide instead, or a hip slide when they're supposed to be doing the chest slide.
     To learn the hip slide, try doing a simple side plank on the floor.  Hold up only your side with your forearm.  Leave your hip and legs on the floor.  Now lift up only your hip to make the side plank a little more difficult.  Release and lift.  This is a hip slide.  Try it on both sides and memorize the feeling so you can repeat it standing up.
     When standing up, imagine someone someone is pulling a string attached to side of your hip, one side at a time.  And remember that when you slide to the right, your body weight transfers slightly more to your right foot, and vice versa.
     A great stretch to work on your hip slide is to stand with your left side to the bar, left arm extended, feet under your arm pits - or close to it.  Raise your right arm over your head and point your right hand toward the wall with the bar.  Let your entire right side stretch to the right, like it's falling away from the bar.  Even your hip will slide to the right, just like in a hip slide.  Your right arm stretching to the left will counterbalance your right hip moving right, so you won't fall over.  Repeat on both sides.

Hip twist
     This is common in belly dance. Try practicing on the floor first.  Lie on your left side with your knees together, right left on top of left leg.  Then bring your right knee forward onto the floor.  Now bring your right knee back to neutral (on top of the left knee) and then backward till it is several inches above and to the right of your left knee.  Repeat on the other side and memorize the feeling so you can do it standing up.
    
     To me a hip twist feels like rolling a snake out of play-doh.  My hips are the play doh.  Imagine there is a coffee cup holder on one of your lower spinal vertebrae.  Then someone uses the holder to turn you from side to side.  Try to isolate your lower body;  keep your upper body still while learning the movement.  Your waist will be turning and working. Even your thighs and knees will turn gently.  Your feet will gently roll from side to side and give you a wonderful foot massage if you focus on pressing them (not the toes- don't curl your toes) into the floor  But try not to move your hands (unless you're imagining rolling the play-doh snake.)
     A great stretch for your hip twist is to sit on the floor, lets straight in front of you.  Raise one knee and cross over the other leg so that you knee touches the floor.  Feel the twist.  Repeat on the other side.

Hip rotator
     Rotation joint movement is common in samba and hip hop and any Latin move where you want to make an extreme figure 8 movement.  Overall, students seem to be successful at the basic movement, turning the leg from side to side at the hip joint.  But I have both a safety tip and a power tip:
     safety - Always keep your knee and toes pointing in the same direction!  Some people think they can't do this move because it will hurt their knees, but this movement has nothing to do with the knees- it just looks like it does.  Only your hip rotator is moving, not your knees.  If you don't keep your knees aligned with your toes, you could torque your knee.  This safety tip is much easier to follow if you have proper shoes, with smooth, low tread soles and a pivot point, such as Nike Musique or Ryka Transitions.
     power - Since you're usually only in class for an hour, let's not waste any time with floppy, lower calorie burning movements.  Press the ball of your foot (keep your toes up, not curled) into the floor as it twists from side to side, as if you want to squish a cockroach.  You'll use your muscles more, make more dramatic movements and have better control over your movement to protect your knees if you follow the "cockroach" advice.  There is a Latin dance movement called the "cucaracha,"  which is based on this piece of technique.

Pelvic rock
     Pelvis movement is very common in Zumba!  You'll need this to do a body roll, which I'll explain in another blog post.  Some consider the pelvic rock "dirty" or inappropriate.  This is unfortunate because it's an extremely healthy movement and great for you back and abs.  Don't be ashamed.  Those who don't practice moving their pelvis will only grow older faster. 
     Practice on a chair.  Sit up straight.  Then slouch. Go back and forth between these two movements.  Everyone knows how to do both of those, though they may slouch more than sit straight!  After a minute, try to focus on the pelvis and less on the chest.  Slouching involves lowering your chest too, but try to isolate just pelvic movement.  Memorize the feeling of your pelvic movement by repeating several times. 
     Practice on the floor.  Relax and notice how you can place you hand under the small of your back. Now the bottom of your pelvis is tilted back and the top is tilted forward.  Now press the small of your back into the floor so that your hand can't fit underneath anymore. (This is the correct position for abdominal work by the way.)  Go back and forth between these 2 positions.  Memorize the feeling in your muscle memory so that you can do the same movement standing up.
     Variation:  If I swing my upper body back and forth and the same time as the pelvic movement (upper body forward when the bottom of the pelvis goes back and vice versa), I'll get a different look that really engages the ab muscles.  I use it a lot for calypso or even hip hop.

Knee raise/swing back
     Your hip joint lets you move your knee up and down as well.  I won't focus on that because students are generally great at it!  Just lift your knees higher to get more workout!  Hug your knee up to your chest for a good stretch.  The opposite, swinging your knee backward will stretch your hip flexor.  Grab your foot behind you and feel a great stretch through your thigh and hip flexor.

Conclusion
     Yes, there's a lot of information here.  The video, coming soon, will help you by letting you watch segments over and over to practice.  This blog entry will be the script for my video.  In another blog entry, I will show advanced hip movements that involve combinations of the above elements, such as circles, figure 8's and shimmies.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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