Welcome to the “Basics of Sitting” Series. These next few posts will focus on that most basic-of-basic daily action of sitting. But before we can jump into the actual “sitting” part, it’s time to take a look at the “main players” involved.
What it involved in sitting
Ideally, sitting requires a flexion (coming closer together in the Sagittal Plane) action at three joints:
- The Hips
- The Knees
- The Ankles
The knees and ankles pretty much just follow the lead of the hip. And whether it’s conscious or not, a lot of problems come from a misunderstanding of the hip joint. So… let’s take a look at it.
I will often ask my students, as a group, to close their eyes and point to their “hips.” These are the most common responses I get:
This is probably the most typical answer, which is understandable. When I was young I was told that these bony places just below the waist are my “hip bones.” These are actually landmarks on the pelvis known as the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS).
This is another answer, not quite as popular as the first. With the image of an “hour-glass” figure, it’s not too surprising that some people think the widest spot would be the location of our hips. (After all, if you are measuring your “hips” this is where you are told to wrap that tape measure around.)
This is the least common response, but I have seen it nonetheless. Unsure what the “hip” really is, some people just point to a general area, hoping the answer lies somewhere around it.
This is where an important distinction must be made. For many, the concept of “hip” denotes an area of the body (and in certain contexts that is true). Beyond the mass that generally gets lumped into our idea of the hip region lies the actual HIP JOINT. (A joint is the location at which two or more bones make contact—in this instance the femur and the pelvis.)
So why does this matter?
If you hold the idea, whether you are aware of it or not, that your hip joint is somewhere it isn’t, you may find yourself using different parts of your body (like part of your spine) to perform the role your hips were intended to perform. More on this later.
So where is the hip then?
Take a look at the anatomy of the pelvis and upper leg. Most people are usually surprised to see how much lower and closer to the midline the hips really are.
So where does that translate to us fleshy people? Please excuse the somewhat awkwardness of this next photo:
Your hip joint is a lower and closer to your mid-line.
I’ll address the actual “sitting” part in the next post. In the meantime, get to know your body a little better (specifically the hip joint) by trying the following:
Whether you can sense it in your own body, or see it in someone else, notice where the movement is initiating as you walk, sit down, or climb stairs. Do you notice a tendency to swing the leg from the outside of your leg or is there a connection from the inside? Does movement start at that low level of the hip or is it happening a few inches higher?
Move your hip joint. Consider the roundness of the head of your femur and the concavity of the acetabulum (the place where it articulates with the pelvis). Your hip is a true ball and socket joint which means it has a wide repertoire of movement possibilities. Notice what it feels like to explore the actions of the leg as it moves free in the hip socket.
The average person uses that pure femoral flexion action (aka: bending the hip) countless times in a day. Taking the time to better sense your own movement will not only give you a better respect for what your body can do—it is also a great step toward more efficient and graceful movement.
Check out the next post where I will discuss sitting, “posture,” and our spines!