In which Mrs. Chili finally figures out the description of movement.
… or not…
I’m very good at describing things. I don’t think it’s boasting to say that I have a talent with words, or that my command of my language puts me in a position to be expressive and eloquent. My background in literature and writing has pretty much ensured that I can get some rather complex ideas out of my head and into others’.
What’s not always a given, though, is that information moves as smoothly and easily in the reverse direction. Sometimes, it takes me a while to clearly see what I’m reading or hearing, and I think this is what happened when I tripped up on several of the test questions that dealt with the mechanics of body movement.
A series of questions asked me to decide whether a certain muscle shortened or lengthened as a result of a particular movement, and I found myself guessing on a lot of them. Frankly, I was more than a little surprised that I got as many of those questions right as I did; toward the end of the series, I lost all confidence that I understood what was being asked and figured I had a 50/50 shot at getting the correct answer. Not admirable or particularly teacherly of me, I know, but there you have it.
In an effort to finally understand what is meant by some of these descriptive terms, I’m going to do my best to illustrate each of them with something that I – and you – can picture. I’m pretty sure that if I could have seen the movement in my mind’s eye, I’d have scored higher on the test (and this essay would have been unnecessary, but that’s neither here nor there).
Flexion is simply the reduction of the angle of a joint. Flexion of the knee, for example, is bringing the heel closer to the bottom; flexion of the elbow brings the hand toward the shoulder. In contrast, extension is the increase of the angle of a joint; bringing the foot back to the floor in our first example would be extension of the knee.
Demonstrating an anterior tilt to the pelvis would involve the pelvis being forward and downward, resulting in a hyperextended low back:
Conversely, a posterior pelvic tilt brings the hips upward and backward, causing a flattened back:
I find I have the most trouble when the movement involves the hip. My hips don’t move a whole lot – I suspect most folks’ don’t – but I’ve come to understand that it’s not necessarily the hip joint that we’re talking about when we’re talking about describing movement. For example, medial rotation of the hip involves turning the thigh inward:
Extension of the hip involves bringing the leg back:
Hip adduction is bringing a leg back toward midline (I remember the difference between adduction and abduction from my primary fitness certification days; the trainer who led my PFC course told us that AD-duction is “a DREAMY date” – we’d want to pull the object of our affection toward us. AB-duction is “a BAD date” and we’d want to push the boor away):
So, abduction of the hip is the opposite of adduction. Imagine the arrow in the image above pointing the other way.
Finally, lateral rotation of the hip involves rotating the thigh outward away from the midline of the body, and would look something like the movement indicated by the top arrow in this image:
The upshot of all of this is that I’m still not sure I completely understand movement when it’s described in this way. I have been told that, as a yoga instructor, I have a way of making movement cues seem logical and easy to follow. I’ve had several people come to me after a class to tell me that they didn’t understand how to express a pose until they came to my session; that I was able to get them to think about their bodies and where they were in space that helped them to figure out how they could best get into a pose that had eluded them.
I’ve never managed to get anyone into a pose by telling them to laterally rotate their hips, that’s for sure!