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Hip openers. These two simple words have the power to make an entire yoga class groan (*ahem* not that I’ve experienced this in any of my classes…or done this myself). As a yoga instructor I’ve been constantly trying to figure out why hip openers cause such a reaction not only in ourselves, but others. Are the poses that I’ve been picking too difficult, is the length I have them hold it for too long, or is it just me as a yoga instructor (hopefully not)? The hips are the emotional powerhouses of the body where we store negative and pent-up emotions. These negative feelings can congest our hip joints, creating shortening of hip flexors and extensors, while promoting weakness throughout the body! By working on opening up our hips, we can start to create a more balanced foundation for the rest of our body to attach to, ultimately helping us to clear our mind space.
Benefits of Doing Daily Hip Openers
1.-Help to develop patience off the mat
I’m not going to lie, when my yoga instructors announce that we are going to do a 5-minute hip-opener, I have a hard time containing my groans. 5 minutes. 5 minutes of experiencing an uncomfortable pose can be tough mentally, not just physically. Redirecting our focus from the difficulty of the pose/counting down the seconds of the posture, to our breath is extremely beneficial for our psyche and ultimate outlook on life. Rather than focusing on the negatives within the posture, we are choosing to concentrate on the positives, focusing on how we are bettering ourselves in the overall process. By keeping calm (mentally and physically) within the pose, we are practicing patience both on and off the mat (which again, is a whole lot easier said than done).
2.-Strengthen the entire body
We have between 17-25 major muscles that are involved with our hips and their overall movement. Through opening our hips, we are lengthening and strengthening all of these muscles, creating a stronger foundation for the rest of our body to build off of. Breaking a hip is becoming more and more common, especially with our aging individuals. By working on strengthening these muscles now, we are reinforcing the muscles that support ball and socket joint where the femoral head and pelvis meet, keeping us more active in our later years. Hip openers also target natural imbalances our bodies may have developed over time, keeping us more stable and strengthening/lengthening previously underused muscle groups. By strengthening now, injury is avoided later (hoopla)!
3.-Release emotional tension
Emotional baggage not only clutters our mind, but congests our body as well, showing up in different joints within our body. Typically, negative emotions such as, insecurities, stress, anger, and frustration show up within our hip openers. Hip openers create a healthy outlet for us to lengthen and strengthen the muscles within our hips, while also flushing out past negative experiences and feelings. Through working on these yogi postures we are also teaching our bodies not to hold onto these stressors, helping us to confront emotions head on rather than suppressing them.
4.-Fire up your sex life
The second chakra (AKA the sacral chakra) focuses upon emotions, sexuality, and relationships. This chakra is located about 1-2 inches below your belly button, and is directly linked with the hips. Imbalances within this chakra can result in: sexual issues, trust problems, volatile emotional reactions, and displaying emotionally dependent behaviors. Regularly practicing hip openers helps to clear away the negative energy that may be blocking this chakra, and contributing to some of the above difficulties. In addition, hip openers redirect positive energy into this region of the body, helping us to develop our ability to participate in healthy relationships.
5.-Eliminate stress on the spine
It’s no surprise that the body is all connected (cue “The Skeleton Dance” song), but how do our tight hips effect our spine? Well, when our muscles that attach to our pelvis are tight, they increase the pressure that is placed on the spine, causing a strain that is typically uneven in nature. This can be extremely limiting when we’re moving through our daily lives, causing lower back pain. Not only does this pain in our lower back keep us from participating in an active lifestyle, but this negative sensation may start to spread throughout the rest of our body! Targeting our hips in yoga practice may not be the most enjoyable, but it can release tension on our hips and spine to keep us both healthy and active.
Hip Opening Poses to Try
For beginner yogis:
- Crescent lunge pose (Anjaneyasana)
- Downward dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Modified ankle to knee pose (Agnistambhasana)
For intermediate yogis:
- Modified reclining hero pose (Supta Virasana)
- Garland pose (Malasana)
- Frog pose (Mandukasana)
For experienced yogis:
- Lizard lunge twist pose (Parivrtta Utthan Pristhasana Variation)
- Bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana)
Hip openers are notoriously uncomfortable, creating a sensation that you want to get out of almost immediately. As both a yogi and a yoga instructor, I have often had the urge to close my hip opener after about 30 seconds, let alone holding it for 5 minutes! It’s so difficult to stay present within these poses, focusing on the breath and breathing into the space you’re creating, rather than counting down the seconds (and minutes) left within the pose. I have found hip openers have helped me to stick out things that are uncomfortable – both on and off the mat. Also, that feeling that you get when you FINALLY get to come out of the hip opener is a feeling that is truly unrivaled.
What are your feelings towards hip openers? Do you love them or hate them? Any favorite poses?
I am excited to read your comments!
Share this with your fellow yogi friends or educate someone unfamiliar with yoga!