Creating Space in the Hip Joint

This post is related to AIS but is also very important in “technique free” body context. It relates to the hip socket. In one of the exercises that we were doing at the AIS workshop, a cross body leg stretch that used the adductors (inner thigh) to stretch the abductors (side of the buttocks/hips) one student commented that she felt a binding sensation in her hip.

She was fairly flexible anyway and so she was probably reaching the limit of active mobility-the point at which the muscles that she was using to move the leg got in the way of the leg itself. (Like someone moving a big piece of furniture backed up against the wall so that neither they nor the piece of furniture can move any further.)

One potential solution to this is to learn how to “reach” out of the hip socket.

The feeling is similar to that of spreading the shoulder blades. With your arms out to the sides if you spread your shoulder blades (causing the shoulders to move forwards on the ribcage) the arms reach further out to the sides. Maximum reach is when your collar bones, upper arms bones and forearm bones are all more or less in one line.

Obturators and

With respect to the pelvis and thigh bone, we can actually use muscle to pull our thigh bone out of the hip socket. The amount of movement is small but perceptable. To perceive the action simply put your awareness in the area of your hip socket. When standing you can try pushing you pelvis up off of your thigh bones. When sitting with your legs forwards you can push your thigh bones forwards away from your pelvis (or you can push your pelvis back away from your thigh bones.) When standing you use the obturators and gemellus to lift you pelvis off of the thigh bones.

With your legs forwards it is more likely that it is the psoas and obturator externus that does this action. With the leg forwards and crossing to the opposite side it is possible the pectineus, psoas and/or adductor brevis that does this action.

While this action is useful when you find that your hips are binding you may find that in some situations it isn’t openess that you need rather it is stability.

Stability and

If you want more stability in the hip joint you can the opposite and pull your thigh bones into your hip sockets. This feels like you are “sucking” your thigh bone into the hips socket. This can be a handy action is you are balancing on one leg. You can stabilize the hip of the standing leg. With the free leg you can try both actions to see which one is more suitable.

Being able to do both of these two actions you can choose from among them. You can keep your hip stable when it needs stability and you can create space in your hip joints when they need room to move.

Basic Principles

This is an unusual posting. If you are solely interested in meridian stretch, brain training or yoga then please ignore this posting. It contains an excerpt or the beginnings of a book I’m writing about “Basic Principles.”

Leading the Life
we want to Lead

Basic Principles are a set of guidelines that we can use in any area of life to make what we are doing easier. It would be like buying an Apple computer and being able to use it straight out of the box.

Likewise with basic principles. Rather than wasting time figuring out how to figure out what we are trying to do they are to help us know what we are doing. Once we know what we want to do the idea is then to provide the tools for how to do what we want to do.

The ultimate goal of these principles is to help us lead the life that we want to lead.

Living Life

The basic idea is finding the simple, easy or elegant way to do things or to get things done. But as well as applying to how we do things it also applies to how we relate to others. The idea isn’t to liken people to things (or things to people) but to derive the principles that are common in our relationships to both.

And if we just use that word, relationship, if we focus on that idea then this book is about making every relationship we are a part of a positive one.

And for those that we can’t make positive (after all it does take two to tango) then it offers ideas for how to disconnect from those relationships.

Another way of looking at these principles is as tools for being more conscious.

so we can

Why might we want to be more conscious?

First and foremost so that we can choose the life that we want to lead. That is part of what being conscious is, being able to choose. But prior to choosing we have to be aware of what the options are.

Being conscious means opening our eyes, and opening our heart or mind so that we can sense what is truly possible. Then we can choose.

As an analogy, driving on the road when it is foggy we have to drive slowly because it is difficult to see the limits of the road. However if we drive slowly because we imagine that it is still foggy even though it isn’t, well that is being unconscious. That doesn’t mean that we have to drive as fast as it can. It means that if we notice the fog is gone, if we can then see the edges of the road (and the gaps between the traffic that is on it) then we can drive as fast or as slow as we like. We can choose.

Looking for
Room to Move

Another analogy relates to the “cup is still full” story. In this story the teacher keeps filling the cup even though it is still full. The “lesson” is that if the student doesn’t empty his cup, how can his teacher fill it.

Another point of view of this story is that if the teacher is aware he will notice that the cup is full and stop pouring. If the student takes time to empty his cup and the teacher takes the time to notice when it is empty then the two can work in harmony.

And in that lesson is a principle. Use your senses. Direct them. If you are pouring tea make sure the cup is empty. Or watch for the cup to become empty and then act. (And be sure that the recipient actually desires more tea.)

If we use our senses we can wait for the opportunity to act. We can look for the “room to move,” In this case, a cup that is empty.

We can also look for the way to create room to move.

“You’re tea is getting cold.”


Basic principles are a way of practicing inner skill. Rather than brute forcing something to happen it is about finding the easy way to allow what we want to happen. That isn’t to say that effort is not required. It is to say that when it comes time to apply effort, that effort isn’t wasted. It has maximum effect and maximum benefit.

We get a really big bang for our buck.

In the next installment of basic principles I’ll talk about the basic building blocks of the universe.

In the meantime the regular installments of the email plan you are a part of will resume.

Thank you for your time.


Neil Keleher

Creating References for Change

One way of looking at a yoga pose is that it is a change that we are trying to create.


Triangle Twist

Side Angle

Standing Side Bend

In the process of going into a yoga pose we create a change because we are moving our body from one position into another. We are also changing the parts of our body, streching some muscles while strengthening others. We can also be changing our state of mind, perhaps going from lethargy and unhappiness to a more awake and happy state of being.
In doing a yoga pose (or in doing anything for that matter) we are creating a change, and a question we can ask ourselves while doing a yoga pose is
“What is the change that we are trying to create?”
One simple answer to this question is that given the particular “shape” of the yoga pose we are doing we can be trying to create as much space in our body as possible. As an example, in any pose, no matter which way we our bending our spine, or even if it isn’t bent, one thing we can try to do is make our spine long. In so doing we make our waist long, we open the ribcage and we lengthen the neck.
The degree to which these parts lengthen or open will vary depending on the pose we are in but it is still something that we can try to do.
As a compliment to creating space within our body another change that we can create is that of “letting go.” Having lengthened our spine in a pose we can then relax it, either while we are still in the pose or after we come out of it.
Why try to create space in our body?
Why then let it go?
For the experience of it and because it is what we chose to do. In addition, by using yoga postures as a way of practicing creating space within our body we can learn to carry that openness into anything that we do. We can look for the ways to create space within ourselves or around ourselves so that we have room to do what we are trying to do. (Then afterwards we can let the experience go.) But for now lets get back to creating change.
Having chosen (or been told) the change that we wish to create in a pose we can look for the way to create that change. So that it is easier to create the change that we desire we need references for this change. As an example, if we want to lengthen the spine, one of the ways that we can do this is to divide the spine into parts and then pull these parts away from each other.
Focusing on the part of the spine between the ribcage and the pelvis we can lengthen this part of the spine by keeping moving the pelvis in one direction and the ribcage in the other. We then lengthen our waist. So that we lengthen our neck we move the two parts that it connects away from each other. We move the head away from the ribcage or we move the ribcage away from our head. In either case we lengthen our neck. We create the change that we desire.
How do we create space in the ribcage? We create space between each adjacent pair of ribs. We open the spaces between our ribs. Because of the way the ribcage is structured it is a little bit difficult to do this one set of ribs at a time so we do them all at once. We bucket handle all of our ribs so that they move up and as they do so they separate and so we get space between each set of ribs. We open our ribcage.
While working at lengthening our neck it is relatively easy to pull our head up and away from our ribcage but one other thing that we can do to maximize the length of our neck and to make the lengthening even at the front and back of the neck is we can pull our chin in slightly as we pull our head back and up. Not alot but just enough that our head is level from front to back. Then our neck is maximally long not just at the front but at the back as well. Then not only have we lengthened the neck (and straightened it) we have also created a firm foundation from which the muscles that connect the neck to the shoulders can act from. As an example, the trapezius and the levator scapulae both reach down from the neck to the shoulder blade or scapula. With the neck straight and long and stable these muscles then have a firm foundation from which to pull up on the scapula. Because the neck is long they also have lots of room to pull up on the shoulder blades. As a result we can pull our shoulder blades up to our ears without these muscles “jamming up” for lack of room.
All well and good for me to say “move one part of the body away from another part to create space” but how do we know when we’ve created this space and how do we know if we are continuing to create space?
We feel our body. In this instance we feel our muscles or we sense the information that our body sends us about the state of our muscles. We also feel our joints and if we want to go even further we can also learn to feel the weight of our bones.
If we don’t already know how to feel our body, whether it is our muscles or our joints or even the weight of our bones then we practice. We practice moving the parts of our body so that we can learn to feel them so that we then have references for knowing when our muscles are active or relaxed or stretched or flacid or when our joints our open or closed, or straight or bent. As an example, we can get used to feeling our lumbar spine by tilting our pelvis back and forwards in time with our breath. Whether we inhale as we tilt our pelvis forwards or whether we exhale, what is important (in this instance) is noticing the changes that happen in our lumbar spine as we tilt our pelvis forwards and as we tilt it backwards.
Initially all we may notice is some sensations but we have no way of knowing what it is that these sensations are telling us. So we look in a mirror. With our pelvis tilted fully forwards, we notice that our lumbar spine is bent backwards and we may also notice that the back of our lumbar spine feels a little “jammed up.” We then have a reference for knowing when our lumbar spine is bent backwards.
Going the opposite way and tilting our pelvis backwards we may notice that the back of our lumbar spine feels long or stretched. We then have a reference for noticing when our lumbar spine is bent forwards. Practicing our awareness more and more we then may develop the ability to sense not only when our lumbar spine is bent forwards or backwards but when it is straight.
Using movement and to move between extremes and noticing the way we feel as we do our movements we can learn to feel the parts of our body. One important thing when using movement is to move slowly and smoothly. The slower the better. Then not only are we giving ourselves the opportunity to learn to feel our body we are also practicing our ability to control our body. To move slowly takes control. Once we’ve learned to feel our body we won’t have to move it slowly to keep on feeling it. We can then practice moving faster while still sensing the parts of our body, where they are in relationship to each other and where they are going.
So lets say that we can feel the parts of our body (or at least some parts) and that in the pose we are doing we know the changes that we are trying to create. How do we go about creating all of those changes?
If we are driving from one place to another the important thing is to know where we are going. Also important to know is where we are in relation to where we are going. If we are going to be travelling over a long distance what is also important is having stopping points or references along the way. These are places not only for us to rest but for us to check that we are where we think we are so that we can continue to head to where we are going. So for example, if we are heading from Toronto to Chicago and one of our stopping points along the way is Detroit, then if we somehow end up stopping in New York then we know we have gone wrong. And even though we have gone wrong at least we know how we have gone wrong so that we can correct. If we find that we are still on course then there is no need to correct ourselves. We can admire the scenery and then carry on with our journey but while being aware of where we are so that we can continue towards where we want to go.
Getting back to yoga, so that each change connects to the next or provides a reference for the next change what we can do is travel through our body, creating the changes that we desire as we go along.
We adjust one leg and then that leg becomes the reference for adjusing the other leg. Then we use both of our legs as our reference for adjusting our spine. Then our spine becomes our reference or jumping of point for adjusting and changing our arms. And then we are done. Or we can go back through our body again and fine tune the changes that we have made.Although I started with the legs we don’t always have to do so. We could also start by adjusting our spine first, and then do our legs and then our arms. We could also start with our arms, then adjust our spine and then adjust our legs.
If we know the change that we are trying to create then we can go about creating it, in any order that we choose.
Then if we feel our body at the same time we can experience the change that we create.
To read more about using references for change and experiencing change in specific yoga postures, click on any of the pictures below.

Warrior 1

Triangle Twist

Side Angle

Standing Side Bend

Having references for the change that we want to create is useful for more than just doing yoga. We may use “references” to measure change without even knowing it. For example, measuring our speed while driving if we see that we are moving at 100 mph then we are moving at 100 mph relative to the earth or relative to someone who is standing still. Measuring the speed of a ball we’ve just hit, what we are measuring is the speed of that ball relative to the earth, and relative to ourselves if we are standing still. If we are driving at 100mph and someone drives past us going at 200mph then relative to ourselves that person is going 100mph.
Measuring temperature using the Centegrade scale, if we see that it is 32degrees centigrade then that temperature is 0.32 times the difference between the temperature that water freezes and the temperature that water boils at.
Having a means of measuring temperature, not only can we measure change, but we can also create change. We can check when the oven is at a desired temperature so that we can bake our cookies. If we see that our oven is too hot or too cold we can adjust the heat so that the oven cools down or heats up to the temperature taht we need.
Having a means of measuring speed we can see if we are going faster than the speed limit and slow down. Or if we know how much time we have to get to somewhere else, we can calculate what speed we need to travel at in order to get to that place on time.
In either case, having references for change, being able to measure it, we can go about creating the change that we desire.

Basic Principles for Life

Learn more about “References for Change” in

Ultimate Simplicity and Efficiency
Ultimate Simplicity and Efficiency is about a set of Basic Principles that can
be applied to any aspect of life so that we can simplify it and get on
with living it. Among these principles is that of creating references for change, not just for doing yoga but for use in any aspect of life whether leading, teaching, learning, creating, designing, building or just having fun.
Learn more…

Unifying Opposites with a Clear Intent

One definition of yoga is that it is the union of opposites.
Two of the opposites that yoga can unify are yin and yang. We can think of yin as a more cooling style of yoga where the focus is on letting go while yang is more heated and perhaps a little more forceful. Another definition of these two opposites, and one that hopefully allows us to unify the two is that yin is using our senses while yang is responding to what we sense.
I believe that one of the keys of doing anything well is developing our ability to both to sense what we are doing our ability to respond to what we sense. The idea that ties these two opposites together is knowing what we are trying to do. By knowing what we are trying to do we can give ourselves the room to do just that or look for the way to create that room. Rather than forcing what we are trying to do we can listen and look for the easy way to get what we are doing done. Doing a yoga pose the thing that we can learn to sense our control is our body. The thing that we can be trying to do is a yoga pose. If we talk to our body while we are doing yoga, telling it what we are trying to do and then listen the response we can find the way to do the pose to the best of our bodies ability.

Doing a low lunge, perhaps with the hands on the floor, our intent might be to let the pelvis sink down so as to stretch the front of one leg and open the back of the hip of the other. Being relaxed enough to be able to feel the weight of our pelvis we can allow it to sink down. We can at the same time notice if we are holding tension that inhibits our ability to let our pelvis sink down. We can let that tension go by a slight (or major) repositioning of our body that allows the muscles that are tense to “let go”. Or we can simply become conscious of the fact that we are holding tension and let it go. Or we can try squeezing and then relaxing the tense muscle, perhaps in time with our breath. With a clear idea of what we are trying to do we can guide the way we direct our senses and also how we respond to what we sense. We can let tension go. We can also use it.

Being able to feel our body and control it and understand it we can also use muscular tension to help us get deeper into a pose. Again using the lunge as an example, say we still want to sink our pelvis down. Adding a little more intent to the pose we might imagine the back leg lifting, trying to use the muscles at the back of the back leg to lift that leg. Not a “contract everything” contraction, but a controlled contraction, just enough to cause the knee to straighten and to make the back leg feel as if it is lifting. But instead of lifting the leg, by activating these muscles, we add weight to our pose. We use the weight of the back leg connected (via muscle contraction) to that of the pelvis to help our pelvis to sink lower. We can hold the contraction and then release it or we can pulse it with the breath.  We can also play with the amount of contraction while noticing the effects of what we are doing.
Developing our ability both to sense and control our body while leading it with a clear intent we are not only unifying yin and yang, we are also unifying our mind and our body. Instead of them being two separate entities, we help them work together. The mind can sense what the body can do while the body is able to easily respond to what the mind requests.
By using our senses we can then direct the energy we send outwards in such a way that we do what we are trying to do.
We get to the point where there is no lag between the mind sensing and choosing and the body responding. They instead act as one.