Exercise of the Week – Mermaid Stretch
The Mermaid stretch is a great exercise to fluidly work internal and external rotation of the hips while opening up one side of your waist from the hip all the way up through the ribs and shoulder blade. It lengthens and opens the side of the body while also stretching and facilitating healthy movement for the inner thighs (a place that doesn’t get enough healthy movement). If this mermaid sitting position is hard at first on the hips, read on for how to modify.
The Set Up:
Following the picture above, position your legs into what is called a z-sit position or the mermaid sit position. If this is uncomfortable at first, see if you can ease into it allowing your hips to get used to the external and internal rotation of the legs. It is not a common way to sit for many, so no worries if it feels awkward at first. However, if this position feels impossible on the hips and/or you have had a hip replacement, you can try sitting on your knees with your bottom back on your feet.
Reach the arm that is on the same side of the leg that is turned out (the leg where you can see the foot in front of you) out to the side and sweep it up and over to the opposite side. Inhale as you ease into this side bend stretch, exhale as you return to the start. Repeat the same side 3-5 times. Then, switch the legs in the sitting position and repeat with the other side.
It is best to try and keep the reaching arm as straight as possible reaching out from the body. The arms are an extension of the body and an integral part to engaging the core when used properly. The moment you break (bend) at the elbow of the wrist, there is a loss of connection through the core and thus to the side stretch in this exercise specifically. Also, the same can be said for anytime the shoulder pulls up to your ear – there is also a loss of congruency though the body and the integrity of the stretch/exercise. Perform this exercise in front of a mirror so you can take stock of how your body wants to move here. Keep the hip down towards the floor on the same side that is stretching. Ideally, there should be no change in the hips while moving in and out of the side bend.
Think of keeping the shoulder blade connected to your back and rib and thus your whole core while reach the arm up through the fingertips. Then, allow the arm to guide you gently into the side stretch. You might get the desire to want to reach far, but we really do not need to go too far to find the stretch. The best way to reign in the movement is to think of the hip pulling down towards the floor while the arm reaches up and over – feeling an oppositional pull along the side of the torso.
I would love to hear if you try this stretch exercise and how it felt for you. This is a great floor exercise that can be done daily. Keep in mind, the more it is practiced, the more your hips will find it easier to sit in this position.