As a yoga instructor, one of the top requests from my students is for hip openers, and for good reason! The hips are a complex joint comprised of many powerful muscles that either connect to or cross by the hip joint. (Iliopsoas, the gluteal muscles, hamstrings and the adductors or inner thigh, to name a few.) Along with muscles, there are ligaments and tendons, nerves, blood vessels and bursae to contend with. No wonder so many of us crave that release of the hips that yoga brings.
Along with the physical aspects of the hip joint is also the energetic power this joint has. The hips are the emotional center for many of us. They act as the junk drawer of the body; the place where we store any emotions or thoughts we don’t quite know what to do with. As we clear the hip joint with postures such as pigeon pose, we will often feel an energetic shift in the body afterwards. Something has been released; the feeling is undeniable. The feelings may be those of elation and deep relaxation, but you might also experience some strong emotional reactions as well. Not uncommon as we sort through that junk drawer, you never know what you might find in there!
The hips as well as the low back, pelvis, intestines and sexual organs are all housed by the second chakra. Anger, blame, guilt, power, creativity and control are the emotions of this chakra. Your greatest tool for these times is your breath. Send your breath into your hips to help them clear. Stick with whatever sensations arise as you breath in these postures. Try your best not to fidget unless the pose becomes painful. Remember that deep sensation is good; pain is not. Move towards the feelings of sensation rather than away from them. (A great resource for learning about charkas is “Anatomy of the Spirit” by Caroline Myss.)
Here is a short sequence of postures to open the hips. Start by taking yourself through 3-5 sun salutations to warm up the body for optimal results.
Low Crescent Lunge. From mountain pose at the top of your mat, reach one leg back and lower down onto the back knee. (Place a blanket or a soft block under the knee for support.) The front knee should be stacked over the ankle at 90 degrees. As you square your hips to the front of the mat, engage your belly and reach your arms overhead. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then switch to the other side.
Pigeon Pose. From downward dog, take your right knee forward behind the right wrist joint. The right foot can be close towards the groin, or a little further out if there is no tension on the knee joint. Square the hips as much as possible and possible fold forward over the front leg. Hold for 10 breaths, and repeat on the second side.
Butterfly. Sit tall on with the soles of your feet together and knees wide. With a long, tall spine, fold forward over the hips and breath deeply for as long as feels good.
Happy Baby. Lying on your back, take your knees up onto your chest, then widen the knees grabbing hold of the lower leg or the outer arches of the feet. Let your entire spine (including your low back) relax to the mat. Breathe and enjoy.
Be sure to take a short savasana lying flat on your back at the end of your practice to let the benefits of your work absorb.
The result? Happy, heavenly hips…Enjoy!
- Jacci Collins is a yoga instructor, dancer and blogger living in Vancouver, BC. A lifelong student of yoga, she strives to find balance in the body and mind with humor and grace. Join her at www.jaccicollinsyoga.com, facebook, and twitter.