It’s said that our relationships are stored in our hips. What exactly does that mean? If we have tight hips are we bad lovers? Do our tight hips tell us something about our ability to communicate and let people in? Perhaps. Or perhaps we run too much, or our parents have tight hips.
While we can’t scientifically pin down a correlation between tightness in the hips and our success in relationships, we do know that when we are in stressful situations (“fight or flight” occurrences), we engage our emotional muscles, and we tighten our hips. On a psycho-spiritual level, the hips are the seat of our sexuality and our individuality, both of which are deeply enmeshed in our connectivity to others.
In thinking about relationships with others, we must also think about the relationship we have with ourselves, which is, of course, not solely relegated to our ego self coming to terms with our unmasked self.
The tighter our hips, the tighter the lower back; with tension amassing in these regions, the psoas is prone to shortening, making it harder to walk, sit, stand, and practice.
The following yoga poses will massage, open, and lubricate the hips for maximum comfort, and ultimate transformation.
Downward Dog Split
Make sure that the hands are planted firmly into the floor, the navel is drawing into the spine, and you are reaching the bottom heel into the ground. This will begin to stretch out the backs of the calves and the hamstrings while beginning to warm up the hips.
Downward Dog Split Variation
Open up the hip by bending the lifted knee, while rooting the bottom heel toward the floor. This will begin to open the hip flexor to prepare it for some of the deeper postures.
Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and make sure that the toes are visible, so that the knee is stacked over the heel. Lengthen and engage the extended leg. Release tension in the neck by positioning it straight, as an extension of the spine.
Bring the back knee to the floor and sweep the arms overhead. Draw in the lower belly to protect the spine. Begin to sink down into the hip while simultaneously engaging the abdomen.
From a lunge position, inch the front foot out to the side, coming into a wide lunge with the hands placed on the inside of the knee. Take the back knee off the floor, if available, and either stay up on the hands or bring the forearms down to the ground for a deeper stretch. Remain in the pose for five to 10 breaths, continuously aiming the back inner thigh up toward the ceiling, and the chest forward through the arms.
Lizard Lunge Twist
From lizard, bring the back knee to the floor and bend the knee, so the toes reach up. Extend the opposite arm back and take hold of the ankle. Begin to twist the spine, so the chest opens towards the sky. This pose can be done on the hands or forearms depending on level of flexibility.
Ensure that the feet are hip-width apart, the belly is moving in and up toward the spine, and the palms are flat with the index fingers pressing into the floor. Breathe for five breaths.
Bring the right knee forward and place it on the floor just behind and slightly to the right of the right wrist, with the shin on a diagonal and the right heel pointing toward the right hip bone.Take the attention to the back leg and roll it inward so that the leg is in a “neutral” position. You want to have your hip bones square toward the front of the mat.As you roll the left hip bone forward, draw the right outer hip back and in toward the midline of your body, and extend the arms forward in front of the body any amount before relaxing down.
Stay in pigeon and bend the back knee until you can grab the ankle. Keep the back leg rotating inwards so that you can feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. If there is space, without strain, reach for the ankle with both hands, engaging the abdominal muscles and resisting the temptation to sink into the lower back.
Shin to Shin
Sit up tall and align the right knee on top of the left ankle and the left knee on top of the right ankle. Rotate both hips outwards. If the top knee is lifted above the bottom ankle, place a pillow or block under the lifted knee for safety and support. If the knees are comfortably resting on the ankles, slowly begin to fold forward.
At this point, come back to Downward Dog, and repeat entire sequence to the left side.
Bound Ankle Pose
Sit comfortably and let the knees open to the sides, drawing the soles of the feet to touch and the heels in toward the pubis. Open the feet like a book, and hinge at the hips to fold forward any amount.
Extend one leg straight, bend the back leg and begin to fold forward over the extended leg. Try to keep an elongated spine. Use the hands to hold some of the body’s weight so the hamstring isn’t bearing too much weight. Carefully fold forward, breathing deeply.
If and only if it is possible to go farther, start to come into a full split. This is a challenging posture because it works on both the psoas and the hamstring. Draw in the belly to protect the muscles in the legs. Engage the quadriceps of the front leg while relaxing the opposite hip flexor to square off the hips. Use the hands to hold some of the body’s weight and then allow gravity to assist in opening up your muscles. Breathe deeply.
Repeat to the other side. Pause in downward dog for a few breaths, and then roll forward onto the belly to continue with the sequence.
Lay on the belly, propping yourself up onthe forearms. Bend the right knee and catch the right foot, so the fingers are facing forward.Breathe into the opening in the shoulder. Press the top of the foot down towards the floor. Lift up through the chest and press the foot down gently, lifting the back knee slightly off of the floor.
Stand on the shins, with the knees placed about hips-width apart. Press the hips forward and begin to arch the spine back. Reach for the ankles. Without gripping your glutes, engage the legs firmly. Use the abdominal muscles to avoid collapsing the back.
Lie on the back and bend both knees, with the feet firmly rooted into the ground, heels close to the seat. Bend the elbows and press the palms against the floor, fingers pointed towards the shoulders. Lift back up off the floor while pressing the hands firmly into the ground. Gaze toward the feet. Try to keep the knees pointing forward. Narrow the hips and lift the tailbone. Breathe into the heart center. Try this at least three times, keeping the toes pointing forward, and the neck relaxed.
Photos by Matt Roy