Yoga Teacher Training taught me many things. One of the most interesting was that we hold a great deal of emotion in our hips.
Think about it… when your body is stressed your nervous system primes itself to fight or flee. The hormones you need do do those things rush to your biggest muscles (like your quads, glutes, hamstrings), so that if you had to take action either running or punching your muscles would be ready. But, what happens when you don’t fight or flee? What happens when your boss pisses you off and you have to just go sit at your desk and get over it? Well, those hormones “sink” into your muscles and start to build. Over time, that gunk can make us feel really tight and uncomfortable.
As we release our hips, it can be a very emotional experience. Ever feel like crying when you stretch your quad? Ever get really angry when you come out of reclined bound angle pose? Good news- you’re not crazy! We can feel all kinds of emotions that we weren’t expecting as we start to move those muscles.
Here are three of my go-to hip exercises to help release any built up gunk.
- Move your left knee flush with a wall behind you and bend your right leg, stacking ankle under knee. If you’re really tight, place your hands on blocks or books. If it feels ok, bring your hands onto your bent right leg and see if you can lean back into the wall. This may feel really intense, so find that sweet spot between ease and challenge. Hold for at least 3 minutes if you have the time before switching legs.
- Lay on your back and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. If you have a bolster, or pillows, lay back on these with the top of the pillow at the back of your pelvis. If your hips are really tight, place blocks or pillows under your outer thighs. If you want to challenge yourself, place a blanket (or someone once recommended sandbags!) over your thighs. You can also lightly drape your hands on your inner thighs. Hold for 5-7 minutes and then use your hands to slowly guide your knees together. Notice the sensations in your hips. Give yourself a few breaths to feel those feelings.
- Lunges are your hips friend and there are so many variations. If you like low lunge, place a blanket under your back knee and don’t be afraid to bend over your front knee (the risk of knee injury is lower in low lunge than in a high lunge because there isn’t as much body weight pressure on your front knee). Bend until you feel your hip flexor fire up and then stay there for 3-5 minutes. If you like runner’s lunge, bring your hands to the inside of your front leg and lift your back leg. Reach your collar bones forward and imagine a thread pulling your back hip flexor in line with the top of your head. This will help you reach forward. Stay and breathe for 3-5 minutes before switching sides.