Hooray for Hips!
©Yoga People, LLC 2017
The Traveling Yogi is taking a pit stop and reflecting on the hips!
Yes, it ’s HIP CITY here on my end- excuse the pun. Lets just say I’ve become obsessed about the hips lately since starting anatomy study, yet again in my life. Its quite interesting, now that I am learning it in a different light it almost seems so very new to me.
I’m noticing hips everywhere! Hips that bend forward, hips that externally and internally rotate, hips that walk and some that even talk. Hips are a huge factor in Yoga practice. They involve a lot of different movements and actions. So read on and get hip on hips! ;)
Hips and the Female Body
Hips on women are usually regarded as “sexy, and quite the center of female sexuality. Hence the reason the sacral chakra of sexuality is housed here. As much fun as the hips are, they serve much more than just a tool for flirting with the opposite sex. The health of your hips will determine the health of your back and entire spine. Keeping this area mobile, and free of tightness will encourage low back pain to heal, and tight hamstrings to release. Healthy hips also means greater FREEDOM in all your poses.
Their kinesiology is quite a complex ordeal and they are involved in many yoga poses i.e : standing, sitting, twists, back bends, forward bends and inversions! I won’t bore you with the intricate anatomical names and all the landmarks here.
Begin to gain awareness of your hips. Go deep within, and feel where it is that you are holding tension. Where are those deep tight spots? How can you move even slightly in each pose to feel the hips opening more?
YOGA will help you connect to the bones, joints and muscles involved in this area. AGAIN I can’t emphasize this enough healthy hips means a healthy low back and overall spine.
I notice that I often feel soreness in my low back when I don’t consciously move my hips properly and in good alignment with the rest of my spine. Asanas (postures) will give you an opportunity to properly tilt the pelvis in the appropriate direction depending on the which pose you do.
For example I discovered in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward Facing Dog, the moment I began to tilt my hips posteriorly, thereby tucking my pelvis under,I felt all pressure on the lower back release. Its not an overly exaggerated tuck, just a subtle tilt that creates less arch in the lower back .
All back bends can potentially put strain on the lower back. SO it is vitally important to place the hips in a proper tilt, to reduce any possible strain to this area. This pose can also be modified, by leaving the thighs on the ground.
Upward Dog - Upward Facing Dog
These are the exercises that anyone with tight hips should do on daily basis. “Hip openers” as they are called in yoga lingo, will allow you to gain more flexibility in many other poses primarily forward and back bends which rely on the hips a great deal.
Tight hips can occur for many reasons:
* Sitting too long at a desk increases tightness of hip flexors or the iliopsoas muscles.
Sitting also keeps the quads in flexion, tightening these as well
* Running long distances. Runners know very well what I am talking about here. Thats why you often see runners stretching their hip flexors more than any other area. Runners engage the hip flexors, TFL and hamstrings quite intensely in their training. TIGHTNESS is inevitable if you don’t stretch and lengthen these enough
* Also the SACRAL CHAKRA is found in this area of the sacrum and hip joints. There can be emotional issues around sexuality and relationships that often result in alot of tension, and constriction to be held in this area. Often this results in low back injuries, pain and hip and pelvic problems. Exploring your emotional health and resolving any issues you may have been neglecting or unaware of , may alleviate the any troubles you experience in this area.
The hip is a multi joint compromising the sacrum, ilium and femur bones in the most basic terms. The hips move anteriorly ( forward), posteriorly( backwards) and rotate or twist.
The femur (thigh bone) connects to the acetabulum of the pelvis in a ball and socket type of joint. So there is a lot of actions and counter actions possible here. That’s why it is very important to work on the hips as they support the rest of the spine. You will improve your practice if you work to improve the opening of this area. Your alignment in the rest of the spine will change in every posture when the hips are healthier, and more mobile.
HIP OPENERS- SOME SUGGESTED ASANAS
1) Baddha Konasana- Bound Angle Pose
The key in this pose is to keep the sit bones or hips grounded into the mat beneath you in. You want to feel the hips on the ground throughout the whole asana. You are lifting up and over the hips reaching the sternum forward. If you feel the hips coming off the ground, you have gone to far. Retreat back a little and stay a little more upright. The goal in every pose is to keep the spine in its fullest integrity and not to compromise the lengthening of each vertebrae. So think of elongating from the sternum towards the feet instead of reaching the head towards the ground in front of you. Read more details on how to do this pose.
2) Pigeon Pose
This is my favourite hip opener of all! It has proven personally to really access the very internal tight spots of my hips. Be very aware of your knees in this pose. If you have knee pain or issues, bring your ankle close to the hips and the shin angled in towards the straight leg. Also keep the foot of the bent leg flexed to minimize pressure on the knee joint. There are many other variations you can explore with this pose.
Begin to shift your weight and move your hips to find where you need to release more. Just keep asking yourself ” WHERE AM I HOLDING ON?” You always get an answer if you listen carefully! GO INWARDS!
3) Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Read details on this version and variation.
In this pose you aim to open the hips and you will also get a nice stretch of the hamstrings. Important things to remember with this one, is to keep the straight leg on the floor pressed into the mat. You do this by grounding the heel and flexing the foot, as is you were standing in tadasana. Also as you stretch the leg over to the side, keep the opposite rooted into the mat as well. If your hip starts to elevate you have gone too far over. Keep the leg a little higher, in time the hips will open and you can eventually bring the leg right to the ground.
4) Supine Ankle over knee Pose
Lie on your back, bend legs and cross ankle over the opposite leg, to rest on the knee. “thread” or reach through and hold the bent knee or shin trying to bring it closer to torso.
5) Seated Forward Bend- Seated upright with ankle of one leg crossed on opposite knee. The shins are parallel to the width of your mat. Begin to lengthen in the direction of the wall or area in front of your chest. You want to keep the chest open, the sternum lengthening up from the spine, allowing the back spine to remain long and flat. Bend over, a little more with each exhalation. You can out stretch the arms here for a deeper forward bend. Switch legs and repeat on other side.
6) Happy Baby Pose
This is a great pose to finish your hip opening sequence. Its a natural movement we often see little babies do in their cribs or while they lie on their backs and are playing.
Lie on your back, bend needs and widen each knee towards each shoulder. Reach and hold the inside of the arches of your feet while maintaining proper spinal integrity. This means you want to keep your sacrum and pelvis rooted into the ground beneath you. The aim is to keep the lower back pressed into the mat, and the inner groins and hips widening. Lengthening the low back helps also to keep it safe and stretching in the proper direction.
So there you have a ready to implement HIP OPENING sequence and asana practice. Use the above poses to improve your hip joints and watch your practice unfold with greater freedom and space.
Now back to those thick anatomy books…. Stay tuned for future Blog posts on Shoulders, chest and upper back,
and much more!
Thanks to author Piera Bonventre is a Homeopathic Practitioner, raw food connoisseur and a travelling yogi. She also tweets ( as @yogaheals ) energy healing and daily yoga instructions- encouraging you to include yoga anytime of day. See her blog at http://yogaheals.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/hooray-for-hips/