Our hips are the biggest joints in our bodies. They are situated deep within our core. They have an amazing range of motion, and can be kept very mobile with regular yoga practice.
Emotional traumas, big or small, often physically express themselves as stiffness in the hips; and sometimes this is demonstrated by ‘not being able to let go’. Our common daily activities don’t challenge our hips much at all. We mostly sit on chairs, which shorten our hip flexors a lot, and this is not so good. Walking and running are the other main activities, which again demand only a limited range of movement.
Our hips can do so much more than that! For greater mobility treat yourself to sitting on the floor as often as possible, and of course plenty of yoga practices.
At the beginning of the asana practice, the sun salutations – with which we express our devotion and warm up the body – already include an opening of the hips. The warrior poses in sun salutation B, beautifully stretch our hip flexors and provide a deep opening of the hips. The standing postures which follow, are very powerfully addressing the flexibility of the hips. Amongst other stretches, even the inside of our legs are lengthened. We are also challenged to put our legs into the half lotus posture, which is for the hip and knee a very complex movement.
What’s beautiful about yoga is that it very wisely provides you with not only flexibility of the hip joints, but it also greatly strengthens the area around them. They have to work together with both strength and flexibility; otherwise you are setting yourself up for trouble.
The standing postures have moved our hips in all directions possible: – flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, medial & lateral rotation i.e. from standing moving the leg forward, backward, upward toward the outside and away from the body, upward toward the inside, plus internal & external rotation.
We are now moving onto the floor, where the hips are increasingly challenged with further opening. This culminates in a strong twist, a ‘favourite’ of many Ashtanga practitioners – Marichyasana D. We then put our feet behind our head in the turtle pose, which is a combination of both a strong hip opening and a forward bend. Finally the full lotus = padmasana. This is the most delightful posture, equally grounding and creating lightness in the body; the perfect, stable seat for meditation. Baddha Konasana, the butterfly, is also the ideal and unique opening for the inside legs.
Even towards the end of the primary series, when we come to bend ourselves backward – although we might not be acutely aware of it – stiffness in the hips can be very restricting. The groin often feels tight, accompanied by the feeling of not being able to lift the hips high enough. This is where you might have experienced stiff hip flexors at first hand.
As always, regular practice will help you address those restrictions. You will feel connected with the deeper layers of your being, both physically and emotionally. You will move with a lighter step, and more gracefully – something one notices – and you will feel more capable in many ways. It’s a wonderful experience to get a sense of connection with, and an understanding of the core of one’s body.
Get onto the mat! Then later when relaxing at home on the couch – with your legs up of course – will be an even more pleasurable experience.