Without a doubt one of the most common phrases heard in yoga classes across the globe today is ‘hip openers’, or ‘abridores de cadera’ in Ibiza yoga classes and across Spain or ‘ouvreurs de la hanche’ in France.
This phrase is usually followed by smug silence from those who are lucky enough to have nice, light, free hips or groans from those who find these postures torturous. And why torturous? Well most of us sit for hours on end a day shortening our hip flexors at the front of the hips (psoas, sartorious, femoris, rectus to name a few) and tightening the hip rotators (piriformis, gamellus etc etc).
The science bit…
The hip joint itself is a ball and socket type joint with the head of the femur (thigh bone) sitting in the acetabulum or socket of the pelvis. A variety of muscles attach into the femur starting from the pelvis itself, the lumbar spine, the sacrum, or other parts of the femur. Hip openers could affect any of the muscles surrounding the hip depending on the position of the joint at the time of the pose.
So to ensure you are including a wide variety of hip openers in your practice, make sure you include postures like the warriors 1 & 2 (Virabhadrasana), king pigeon pose (Rajakapotanasana) and lunges. As well as more restorative poses such as reclined cobblers pose (supta bhadha konasana) which over time elongate and open the muscles of the hip joint.
Why are hip openers linked with emotions?
Because as much as being a physical practice to cultivate strength and health in the body, yoga is also a spiritual practice. It affects the subtle body as well as the physical. Many people go into yoga for the physical benefits and usually end up on their own spiritual journey to some degree. And the hips hold a lot of stress and negative emotions – such as fear, guilt and sadness. One teacher I went to years ago called the hips the ‘junk drawer’. You know that drawer where you put things that you don’t know what to do with? Well in the body, your pelvis is just that!
So take hip openers easy and slowly – you can reap huge benefits such as easing lower back pain, becoming more agile as well as stronger circulation in the legs. But don’t shy away from the tight places and emotions which arise too. Be present without judgement and enjoy the journey!