Hippy Me, Happy Hips

It was exactly a decade ago, (fyi, am still young!), I was into dance and mainly hip-hop dance and attending classes up to 4 times a week. I was not a professional dancer but the studio did provide performance opportunity for their students so I had fun being up on stage with like-minded people synchronizing with the choreography. Training days for the performance were most tedious with straight 4 hours non-stop practicing on daily basis! However, after about 4 years I stopped dancing as I was then overwhelmed with my career, my degree course and spending time with family 

This year, having more me time for myself, I started practicing yoga more consistently. The initial practice of yoga is really nice & chill that never failed to reward me with this “feeling good” vibes. After a few months, I started going for more intense yoga classes, an “old problem” seems to resurface again. It was old injury that happened during just one of that tedious dance training, where I felt some soft clicking near the left hip joint. The clicking causes no pain and did not affect my mobility at that time.

Nevertheless, as wondering what went wrong, I seek help from Chiropractors, thinking that there must be some issues with my hip joints which might have went out of alignment and thus the clicking. None of the Chiropractors that I visited could diagnose the issue. I got really puzzled and so started to read a lot online and found out that approaching a physiotherapist might help.

Here go the findings:

The therapist advised that I have overused my glutes. With zero knowledge on anatomy, I was overwhelmed by these terms and can only simply understand that I might have put in too much pressure on my hip muscles. Thus, the hip muscles are overloaded due to my unbalanced moving.

My Symptoms: Tightness at my left glutes due to too much tension which then causes the clicking of the muscles. (Think of the strings on a guitar, so it can snap when it is too tight!)

The injuries of the glutes are due to either too much prolonged sitting or too much moving. For my scenario, the clicking started during my dancing days which meant I was moving/jumping/hopping too much, putting too much pressure on the glute. Irony, I thought moving is healthy. Gradually, I have also understand that everything require a balance, notwithstanding even your own body muscles. From then, it is a trigger point for me to start and wanting to learn more about my own body, understanding the anatomy.

One of the reasons that I chose to take up YTT is the chance to learn about human anatomy. With the help of the YTT course as well as the Ray Long book on The Key Muscles of Yoga, I can now finally registered what on the earth the therapist has been trying to explain to me about my injured muscle. He mentioned that the clicking is caused by the tensed up Gluteus Medius.

So which muscle is the Gluteus Medius? Let me explain!
This muscle is under the gluteus maximus and connects the ilium (hip bone) to the side of the upper femur. The function of this muscle helps you to externally rotate your leg when it is extended behind you, and internally rotate your hip when your leg is flexed in front of you. It will work together with the gluteus minimus where it abducts the hip (moves it outward).

Simply put, the role of the gluteus medius is to minimize excessive movement by keeping the thighbone firmly integrated in the hip socket.

The physiotherapist has also recommended a few simple exercises to practice daily at home as part of my self-treatment. The exercises are figure-4 stretch, pigeon pose, bridge pose and clam shell. These are combination of stretches and strengthening exercises.

I have noticed that some of the recommended exercises are actually yoga poses and I believe there should be more yoga poses that can help in stabilizing the hip.

Firstly, the tight muscles need to be stretch and relax first before doing any strengthening exercises.
Simple stretches need to be done (eg.pigeon pose) before the these hip strengthening yoga poses which I have discovered –

1) Mountain Pose: stand with one foot on block and the other floating, helps to engage the outer hip of the standing leg to bring pelvis level.

2) Warrior 1: helps to engage the gluteus medius by firmly pinning the hip towards the midline of the body and drawing the thighbone back into the hip socket

3) Tree pose: the standing leg helps to gather the hip to the midline (activating gluteus medius) and press evenly through the standing pose; the actions of rooting down and listing up help support the engagement in the hip

More examples such as Warrior III, Bridge pose, Locust Pose, Chair Pose & etc.

To round up, whether tight or open, your hips need to be strong for injury-free movement. I have learned that stability of the hips is crucial to bear weight, stabilize the upper body, support my lower limbs and absorb shock from movements such as running and jumping. A dance choreography often consist of many jump movements, and short run, and without a stable hips like mine, will definitely be prone to injury. If you are an active person, your gluteus medius has to work quite a lot. Without stability in the hips, standing balancing poses will be such a chore. Since then, I have shifted my yoga practice from hip openness to hip stability and also the importance self-awareness.

Priscilla Wang – Sep’17 YTT