How are your hips feeling today?
When I ask for requests, one thing I hear over and over is “hip openers”. For sure, our hips often have something to tell us about the things we are doing or not doing in our daily movement. Sometimes they feel stiff or tight, sometimes they hurt – and sometimes they are implicated in pain that comes up in other parts of the body.
Somehow, in the yoga world, the solution to happier hips has gotten reduced to “hip openers” – and that has come to mean stretching the back of the hip. If we look at how our hips actually work, however, we might consider adding a little more variety to how we address the hips in our asana (postural yoga) practice.
As you can see from my friend Bertha here, the hip is a ball-and-socket joint. This means there are quite a few ways we can move the thigh bone in the hip socket:
- Extension – taking the leg behind us
- Flexion – taking the leg out in front
- Abduction – taking the leg out to the side – for example, taking the right leg to the right
- Adduction – taking the leg towards the midline – for example, taking the right leg to the left
- Internal and external rotation – turning the leg bone like a door knob in the hip socket
- Combinations of two or more of these movements
Ideally, all of these movements would occur smoothly, easily, and in a coordinated manner. Because the pelvis connects us to the ground via the legs and feet, it’s also built for a certain amount of stability. When we lack mobility and/ or stability in the hips, this can have an effect on how we’re moving and feeling through the whole body.
When our hips are not moving well, we might “borrow” the movement we need from other parts of the body such as the spine.
When our hips are not stabilizing well, we might use other parts of the body (tight hamstrings anyone?) to help create that stability and control through the pelvis.
It’s important to note that these are not necessarily a problem. They are part of the natural adaptability of our bodies, and they are wonderful strategies – until they’re not. If your hips (or back, neck, knees, feet, etc.) are not feeling the way you want, and you’re noticing limitations in your hip mobility, you might work on moving these joints through their full range of motion in all directions. You might also add some strengthening and coordination practice as well as stretching and see how you feel.
Want to know more? I’ll be posting on this blog every Monday in July about simple hip movements you can try. To see how to integrate these into a full asana (postural yoga) practice, join me for an online group class or sign up for an online private workshop on the hips for an assessment of your movement patterns and a personalized look at how to adapt your asana practice for your body.
The information, instruction, and advice contained in this post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.