Open that Hip

Believe it or not we are spending more than 40 to 60% of our life sitting, sitting, sitting!! While working, while driving, travelling, watching TV, eating…
Was human body designed to sit for this long? The answer is no. It was supposed to walk and run and maybe squat down for that meal. When this body was created or evolved (whichever theory you believe in) it was not intended for us to sit in our chairs and sofas for hours on end. Case in point, the amazing musculature in our hip joints. We have more than 20 muscles and strong connective tissue bands that cross the hip. The collection of inner thigh muscles known as the adductors, the collection of outer thigh muscles known as the abductors, the hip flexors in the front, deep lateral rotators in the back and connective tissue bands supporting these like the IT band.

Fig: A look at the hip and thigh musculature

Alright, we have so many muscles in the hip region and we are not doing them any favour by sitting all day. The musculature overall is getting weak and stiff, the hip flexors are getting shortened by sitting in chairs all day and hence, they are strained and prone to injury. Basically, overall hip mobility is reduced and stressed. This also cause stress on other parts of the skeletal system like the knees and the lower back. Whether the hip flexors are strained or just stiff, they have the tendency to hold your entire pelvis in a forward position. This causes the back to arch and the entire pelvis to “tip” forward leading to back pains and/ or knee pains.
So, what do we do? We need to do some hip opening exercises. Any movement that stretches any of these muscles could be considered a “hip-opener.”
Hip is supposed to be the most mobile ball and socket joint in our body and is the major weight bearing joint. No wonder it is such an important part of yoga science.
Here are some of the benefits of open hips:
• Range of motion: When the hips are open there is more range of motion, this allows for better circulation and more support for the muscles of the back and the spine.
• Alleviate back pain: Take for example psoas muscle. The psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and legs. They are also the deepest muscles in the body’s core, attaching from the vertebrae, through the pelvis crossing over–without attaching to–the ball and socket hip joint, and then wrapping around the body to the front and attaching at the femurs. They are the only muscles that connect the upper body to the lower body. If they are tight, it only makes sense that the lower back would be pulled forward, and out of alignment. That is why tight hips increase the load on the spine and crank it into overdrive. Hence, open hips mean more support for the lower back.
• Releasing stress: The same psoas muscle is triggered when in stress, and flexes for us to go into a flight or fight response. But when we keep our hips flexed and psoas contracted in our sitting chair positions all day, it causes the body to feel we are in danger all the time and hence exhausts our adrenal glands.
• Release stuck emotions: Hips are where our reproductive organs are stored and supported. Hence, they are related to our emotion inducing hormones. Open hips will lead to release of pent up emotions and will be great for a persons’ psychological wellbeing.
• Balance your kidneys: Kidneys are another organ supported by the hips. A kidney dysfunction after a hip fracture is a major risk factor. A healthy and open hip will be able to support and protect them better. A tight hip on the other hand would put the health of the kidneys.
• Stimulate your creativity: It’s the second chakra, svadisthana chakra, that holds the key to unlocking and harnessing the energy you need to be innovative and to make change. A restricted and weak hip inhibits the energies to flow in this chakra, hence, the importance of hip opening asanas.

What are these hip opening asanas in yoga you ask? Where do we begin?
 Easy pose
 3 legged-Downward dog
 Lizard pose
 Pigeon pose
 Butterfly pose
 Tree pose
 Triangle
 Low lunge
 Cow-face pose
 Fire log pose
 Half lord of the fishes
 Marichi pose
And so many more. Yoga is full of hip opening and strengthening poses. So open that sacral chakra and let your creative and sexual energy flow!