The Anatomy of Directing: The Hip Joints


Part of the Da Vinci Project, this series of posts will clarify anatomical points for the purposes of functional mechanics and directing.  If you’re new to directing, check out this post, or the book, Neurodynamics: The Art of Mindfulness in Action. Click on any image to see it in full size.

Part 3: The Hip Joints

A third and crucial feature of the musculoskeletal system that relates to directing is the hip joints. When asked where the hip joints are located, many people point to the pelvic bones—the big, bony rim along the top of your pelvis that forms your waist. Technically speaking, twhere is the hip?hese are not your hips but the crest of the pelvic or iliac bones; the word “hip,” as any doctor will tell you, refers not to the iliac crest but to the hip joint, which is much lower than the upper rim of the pelvic bones. The confusion between the two is echoed in the linguistic similarity between the names we use for two very different parts of the pelvis (“hips” versus “hip joints”).

In practical terms, this misconception translates into the tendency, when bending or sitting, to create a joint at the waist, which causes the trunk to shorten and collapse. To maintain the proper length of the trunk when bending, we must appreciate that, for all intents and purposes, the pelvis functions as part of the back, and that bending or flexing the trunk should take place not at the waist but at the hip joints. Maintaining the full length of the trunk requires that we know where the hip joints are located and how to use them properly.

where is my hip jointThere is a corollary to this principle of understanding where the hip joints are located. If the pelvis is connected to the spine, and if bending takes place at the hip joints, then the back of the pelvis, or sacral region of the spine, functions not as part of the legs but as part of the length of the back. We discussed this idea in part 1 of this series.  Again we see here that the pelvis functions as part of the back and must be thought of this way if we are to maintain a fully lengthened trunk.

To experience how we flex at the hip joints, let’s take an exercise from part 1 of this series, and add another step.

Exercise: Monkey with sit bones at a table surface

1. Stand with your back to a table that goes no higher than the tops of your legs. Place your feet about shoulder width apart so that you can bend at your knees without jamming your hips. Be aware of your feet on the ground and, without lifting your chest up or puffing it out, come up to your full stature.

2. Think of releasing the knee joints forward to bend them so that you lower your entire trunk in space; let your pelvis come back slightly as you adjust your weight evenly on the front and back of your feet. In this vertical monkey position, with your trunk lowered in space, your sit bones (that’s the bottom of your pelvis) should be very nearly, if not actually, in contact with the table.

3. Notice how, in this position, your sit bones clearly function as the bottom end of your back and trunk. In this position, you should be able to very clearly feel the entire length of the back, and have a much fuller kinesthetic sense of how long the back really is.

4. Incline forward carefully, in such a way that you do not lose the length of your back by bending at your “false hips.”

In this position, you can see clearly that, when you bend at the hips, you are bending not at the waist but hinging at the hip joints, with the pelvis clearly functioning as part of the trunk an back and not the legs.