You improve all aspects of your yoga practice!
In Part I we discussed how crucial opening the hips is to the mobility and ease in the rest of the anatomy, and the pelvis is the foundation of alignment in many poses. So if yoga is your passion and what you hope to keep developing, it goes without saying that if you focus on your hip mobility in your practice, many other poses which don’t immediately appear to be influenced by the opening of the hips will start to become easier. Backbends like Full Wheel and Dancer for example (and our ability to breathe in them well) rely so much on the opening of the hip flexors (Psoas) which not only connects into our spine, but also into the diaphragm by connective tissue or fascia – if we can start to release this very deep muscle with poses like… we find our backbends and breathing come so much easier. A little secret which will be discussed further in the workshop is ALL yoga poses are hip openers, but at times we focus too much on other aspects of a pose and neglect our awareness of releasing or activating the hip muscles that could open our bodies further.
You also see improvement in your training/sport beyond yoga
It is very intriguing that those who are the most healthy and active in their sport/training need hip openers just as much as those who spend most of their days sedentary, and those who need it most? The healthy 9-5 warriors who spend 1-2 hours of their days very active with training/practice and the rest of it in their car and at work on the computer. Overall, those who cross-train with yoga as a part of this lifestyle, and who particularly focus extra on hip opening through some home practice, or yin yoga, will find that they see the most results in their performance in their other training and sport. The most common mobility deficiency resides in the hips, and by training in certain ways which don’t variate we overuse certain muscles and neglect others. As Ex-Triathlete Mark Sisson says of his experience, ‘In my own case, it was a lack of hip mobility that was the proximate cause of my downfall as a runner/triathlete. I basically “seized up” after fifteen years of overuse in a very limited plane of movement.’
Restoring your hip mobility has the following impacts for athletes –
- Reducing/eliminating lower back and/or knee pain stemming from overcompensation.
- Improves power output by allowing you to fully engage your posterior chain in training exercises like squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings and any of the Olympic lifts, while making them safer.
- Improves the strength and power of your hip extension which is vital for performance of the aforementioned lifts, but also for vertical leaps, sprinting and any basic explosive movement. It will improve your rotational strength; instead of rotating with the lumbar spine – which is a big no-no!
- You’ll generate power with the hips – perfect for throwing a good punch, swinging a golf club, or throwing a ball with oomph.
- It’ll improve speed, especially sprinting speed.
Relieve stress and anxiety
Vinyasa yoga teacher Stephanie Snyder has a great analogy for what the hips bear – ‘The pelvis is like the body’s junk drawer. Whenever you don’t know what to do with a feeling or experience, you put it there.’ The hips are said to be where we store emotion – often the kind consider negative or suppress, like anger, shame, anxiety, sadness and frustration. Working on the deep tissues in hip opening asanas can release both physical and emotional tension.
Physiologically, the muscles of our hips have a direct relationship with our fight or flight response – we are born with the reflex action of activating the hip flexors to bring us into the foetal position when we’re under threat. As mentioned above with relation to our backbends, one of the hip flexors, the psoas, is connected to the diaphragm, so tightness in the psoas can lead to restrictions in our breath.
On a psychological level, how we approach hip openers (and other strong poses) can be a mirror for how we approach other challenges in our lives; hip openers require a softening and surrendering into the pose, staying present and staying with the breath. In the moment it can be tough, but overall is so worth it.
Saturday19th September 1pm-3pm: Emily will be teaching a hip opening workshop at Kula which focuses on ‘breaking the mould’, which by definition is ‘to do something differently, after it has been done in the same way for a long time.’ If we can develop new patterns, stability and mobility for this central position of the body, then we start to influence, relieve and transform the rest of the entire body. All levels welcome. See you there!