Opening the Inner Thigh
If you have been following along, I have been breaking down each of the sessions in the Rolfing 10-Series. Today we are focusing on Session 4 of the Series, which is known as the session balancing the pelvic floor, or another way of saying it, the bottom of the core. It helps to think of this as your inner thigh. Session 4 is the first of four sessions centered on the core. Low back pain, knee pain, ankle and foot dysfunction, hip pain, pelvic discomfort…just to name a few, can be related to imbalances in the pelvis and lower core structures.
What’s My Line?
Dr. Ida Rolf stated, “man is an organism built around a line.” To her point, much of Rolfing sessions is looking to see where you fall on your “line”. If we were to drop a plumb line through the top of your head, down through your body, falling between your legs to the floor, this would represent your “line”. You might find you are leaning in front of your line, shifted to the left or right, or rotated around your line. One of the goals of your Rolfing 10-Series is to bring more balance and congruency relative to your line. In bringing this balance to your overall structure, you will have more energy, move more effectively and fluidly, and feel more resilient throughout your body.
So how does all this fit inside the 4th hour in the Rolfing 10-Series? Well, as far as your line is concerned, the 4th session is focused on the mid-line, the seam running up the inside of your leg up to your pelvis. To give you a visual, below is a breakdown of the muscular structures within the leg.
Musculature of the Upper Leg
This is what most people are familiar with when it comes to understanding their legs. The back of the thigh (on the left) is comprised of the superficial gluteal muscles (gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus), and the hamstrings. We will save the deeper muscles for discussions with Session 6 in the 10-series. The front of the thigh (on the right) is made up of quite a few muscles, but most people are familiar with our quadriceps.
Then there are the muscles of the inside or medial thigh. These are what I like to think of as the seam between the front and back. The image below is looking at the back of the left thigh, with the hamstrings removed from the image.
If only our muscles stayed where they are supposed to–be it on the front or on the back, but oftentimes these soft tissues can get wrapped around the body. This can be a result of trauma in the body, sport activities we engage in that create imbalances in our muscle development, or even patterns of movement we have learned over time in how to stand, walk, and generally occupy our bodies.
In the 4th hour of the 10-Series we want to help better differentiate the leg from the pelvis, bring greater stability to the knees, and bring better support to the base of the pelvis. This is done by addressing the fascial relationships between these structures, helping to get tissues unstuck and opened up, back to where they belong on the front or back of the leg.
The result are ankles, knees, and hips that track and move more fluidly and greater stability and support in the lower core.
Stretches For The Inner Thigh
There are many stretches for the inner thigh, so you may already have some you like to do, but I have include a few that are great for stretching the inside of the legs. It is great to do quad and hamstring stretches, but be sure to incorporate some stretches for the inside of the leg so you addressing the balance of the whole leg.
- Take a wide stance with your feet, with toes pointing out.
- Begin to drop your bottom down in between your heels; knees should be tracking in the same direction as your toes and stay stacked above the ankles (you don’t want your knees traveling out in front of your toes, which can hurt the knees).
- If you want, you can keep your hands gently resting on your thighs or waist.
- Holding this stance is great for building endurance and strength in the legs, but that isn’t our goal today, so slowly move up and down in this pose to feel the pelvis start opening with each movement.
Lateral Groin Stretch
- Creating a wide stance with your legs, have your feet angled out to help open the hips.
- Begin to bend one knee creating a stretch in the straight leg.
- Similar to above, your want your knees tracking in the same direction as your feet, and not to travel over the toes; this will protect the knees.
- As you sink deeper into the stretch, you will feel the stretch in the straight leg.
This stretch may not be doable for some people, but something to definitely work towards in opening up the hips. You can modify by holding onto a chair, table, bed (as long as it is sturdy enough to support you!) until you build the balance and openness to do this hands-free. If you have painful knees, you might just skip this one, or try it and if it bothers your knees, definitely stop.
- With feet at least shoulder-width apart, feet slightly angled outwards, start to squat deeply.
- You might move around in this posture to find the right distance between your feet for your balance.
- If you are hands-free, you can bring your elbows inside your thighs and start to apply some outwards pressure to further open the hips.
- Sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees out to the side.
- This may be enough of a stretch for your inner thighs, but if you are ready to take it a step further, with a straight back, start to hinge at the hips towards your feet. A way to help ensure you are keeping a straight back is to lead the forward movement from your sternum/chest.
Happy Baby Pose
Who doesn’t like a happy baby?! When you do this stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking, “Geez, babies sure do make this stretch look easy!!!”. But, we can work to gain the openness in our hips, too–just takes practice!
- On your back, bend your knees into your belly.
- Reach and grip the outsides of your feet, and bring your knees wider than your torso–aiming towards your armpits. If you can’t reach your feet, you can use a belt or yoga strap over your feet to get the stretch.
- The goal is to get your shins perpendicular to the floor, so start to bring your ankles directly above your knees.
- With flexed ankles, gently push your feet into your hands or the straps, while you simultaneously gently pull down with your hands.
- Feeling adventurous, you can rock side to side, or even as a baby would, begin to straighten one leg out to the side, and then switch sides.
I hope you find all this helpful as you work to help bring better openness to your pelvis and legs!