A while ago, I was having tea with a friend. We were catching up on each other’s busy lives, and she was telling me about how she needs to slow down and take more time for herself. She was complaining of the normal aches and pains that we all seem to have lately. Noticing that my tea cup was empty, she attempted to spring up from the couch to retrieve the tea pot. She only made it half way up! Her body instantly locked forcing her to take a moment and then slowly straighten up. She sighed.
How Sedentary Lifestyle Affects Physical Health
In today’s society, we sit to watch TV, we sit at work, we sit in the car, and we sit to visit. We become passive keeping our muscles inactive and still. But inertia really causes more damage than good.
When we sit for many hours the so-called hip flexors ‘shrink to fit’. This is a set of muscles and fascia (soft tissues) that attaches the leg to the torso. And when they flex the hip they actually pull thigh and torso closer together.
Sitting down for many hours keeps the hip flexed over a long period of time. The hip flexors get tight, stiff and grumpy because they are kept in the same shortened position for too long.
When we suddenly attempt to open the hips back up, they try to stay flexed. The hip flexors have forgotten how to lengthen, our breath gets tight and the body locks. Pain is one way our bodies communicate to us and my friend’s hip flexors were raising its voice!
The Hip Is Where The Crease Is
Did you know that your hips are critical to the integrity of the entire body? They are the primary connection between the trunk and the lower extremities. The main function of the hip is to balance and evenly distribute the weight of your upper body via both hip joints to the legs. It is an amazing structure that enables us to stand upright, walk, dance, jump, and run. Hence, it is not surprising that Kate Galliett refers to the hips as one of the six pillars of strength.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. And you will find it where the thigh bone (called femur) meets the pelvis. It is much lower than we think. And not to be confused with the waist which is about four to five inches above the hip.
Please sit down for a moment and take a closer look at your lap. Your legs and torso are rectangular. Run your fingers up the thigh and find the crease. The hip is where the crease is. Now push your fingers deeper into the crease and rock back and forth. Depending on your unique build you can feel how hip socket (called acetabulum) and hip joint (called femoral head) interact.
The Uniqueness of Your Body
You are unique and such is your physique. The density and shape of my bones differs from yours. And in combination with the constitution of your soft tissues and nerves this unique composition will constitute health and range of motion of your joints.
What affects your hips equally affects other parts of your body and may have an impact on the way you stand, walk and even the way you look. It is closely interrelated and may cause your body to compensate, creating problems elsewhere. And when your body is out of balance you may experience pain.
Having short hip flexors per se is no crime in itself. It is just what happens up the line that will cause severe problems in the long run. Chronically tight hips may not only affect your posture but may equally lead to hip pain, pelvic imbalances, lower back pain and knee problems. Our gait may become awkward and guarded, leaving us with even more stiffness, pain, and poor posture which may cause us to waddle.
How Emotions Affect Your Hip Health
Have you ever watched someone walking down the street and thought to yourself, “she or he looks sad, or depressed?” You remember actually seeing the stress in the way this person walked.
Our emotions play a role in our hip health as well. We all worry, it’s natural. Our kids get sick, we get an unexpected bill, our boss is breathing down our neck for a deadline, or maybe it’s just that we put on an extra 5 pounds and now our jeans are too tight. We experience mental and physical stressors multiple times everyday without even knowing it. There are many invisible stressors that creep in to create a pancake effect of tension and inner strain.
Then there are larger more obvious issues that can cause us to spiral into an abyss of undeniable stress. Maybe we have lost a loved one, or we are going through a painful divorce, or maybe we have lost our job and feel absolutely lost. Just listening to the news these days is enough to cause a heavy heart.
We carry this emotional baggage with us everyday, and one of the places we carry it is in our hips. Our bodies are like dry sponges that soak up this daily stress and deposit it in the deep recesses of our bodies. Emotions are held in tight places like the neck, shoulders, and hips.
Osteoarthritis Is A Wear-And-Tear Disease
It was in one of our private classes that she told me that she had had a hip replacement. She was in her early 50s, I suppose. And she attended my studio classes before approaching me for private sessions. I have always wondered why her shoulders and neck were so tight and noticed that her legs were weak.
The most common reason for hip replacements is osteoarthritis in the hip joint. But one doesn’t necessarily have to be of age to suffer from it. Athletes and obese can equally be affected by this disease. Also, if you are inactive and don’t use your muscles at a high enough level of effort, they may begin to atrophy.
Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear disease. It is a degenerative illness of the joint which results in compression. If your hips are healthy, the cartilage or cushion between the joints is smooth and slippery which allows us to flex the hip even under great pressure without wear. But if the cartilage wears out it may lead to pain, stiffness and swelling in the respective body part. Today, osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints.
After the knee joint the hip joint is the second largest joint in the human body. Major forces press onto the hips. The weight your hip bears during walking e.g. can be 5 times your body weight.
If your back, abdominal muscles and legs are strong and flexible they support the weight-bearing on the joints. But if you have a physical imbalance, you may encounter difficulties. If your legs are weak, you may easily fall and injure your hips and create a hot spot for osteoarthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Healthy Muscles Help Your Hips Stay Healthy
A healthy muscle is strong and flexible. Keeping your muscles healthy may be the best way to support the job of your hips. And a healthy lifestyle including exercise, diet, and sleep will definitely contribute to the well-being of the soft tissues in your body.
Especially if you have osteoarthritis it is important for you to drink enough water. Dr. F. Batmanghelidj claims that many preventable degenerative diseases that produce pain are the cry of a thirsty body: “You are not just what you eat; you are what you drink.”
Almost 20 muscles support the movement of your hip. As adults, our joints become tighter and less mobile due to injury, disease, stress, and lifestyle. Hence, we need to create an environment conducive to good health. What we do, or don’t do, has a direct impact on our body and its ability to function to its full potential.
If your muscles are weak and overstretched you may easily strain or even tear them, since they lack the strength to support your joints appropriately. If your muscles, however, are strong and tight, over time this may cause an inflammation in the soft tissues. You may also lose range of motion in the joint. A physical imbalance caused by unhealthy muscles may lead to injury. Hence, when you strengthen, you also need to lengthen.
The soft tissues that attach to the hip need to be in balance. If e.g. the front of the hips is increasingly stronger than the back of the hips, it will be difficult for you to bend over. Also, if the deep buttocks muscles or hip abductors that help to separate your legs are weaker than the hip adductor muscles that help bring the legs together, this may equally damage your hips.
Full range of motion in our hip joints is very important to our overall health. There are things we can do to encourage our range of motion and facilitate “our best foot forward.” Strengthening and stretching the soft tissues linked to our hips, through regular yoga practice, prevents injury and allows freedom of movement.
Yoga Therapy for Happy Healthy Hips
Yoga is a healing practice that helps to correct misalignment in the body. But we tend to repeat our bad habits even during this practice. Hence it is crucial for us to unlearn. A beautiful healthy yoga pose helps you do exactly that.
If you are in pain the best therapy for your hips is to decompress. Gentle stretches and breathing techniques may help you relax and decompress the joints. Tension in the joint feeds pain and pain feeds tension. It is when you learn how to relax in a pain-free position that you will be able to release pain.
Obviously, everyBODY is different. And one needs to look at the individual challenges to understand the underlying cause.
The human body is so fascinating. Every part was created to fit and work in conjunction. The different body parts are supposed to work together. If one part is weak, another will be forced to work harder.
Let’s start to listen to the whispers and respond quickly to the needs of our bodies. And our grumpy hips will become happy hips.
Two Yoga Exercises For Happy Hips
The following two yoga poses will help you release stress and decompress your hip joints without posing additional strain onto your body. This practice will take you about 10mins.
Please take your time and practice regularly. Close the door behind you and focus on your breath. Remember to move slowly in and out of the pose and stay within your comfort zone. Please avoid to push your body beyond its pain range in order to free your hips.
Pose #1: Wall Caterpillar
You don’t want to dirty the wall?
You may roll out your mat against the wall or use a carpet. Obviously, you can also lie on the floor if that works for you too. I love it!
Sit sideways against the wall and swivel. Swing your legs up the wall and rest your back on the ground. Then try to move your buttocks as close to the wall as possible and keep your legs straight. Please avoid to hyper-extend or lock the knees.
If it is hard to keep your legs straight and your bottom tucked to the wall at the same time, just wiggle away from the wall. Also, you may bend your knees.
Feel free to spread your arms. Please place them in a position that is comfortable. Now receive your breath. Invite the in-breath and release the out-breath.
Please breathe through the nose and stay here for at least 25 breaths.
Pose #2: Wall Butterfly
Please use a door or a sofa … like I did!
Then move your feet as low as possible and move your heels as close to the buttocks as possible. Bring your feet together and allow the knees to go as wide as they can.
This wonderful pose allows us to stretch the hips without placing extra weight on the joints. Your bottom may slightly come off the wall. That is okay.
Please invite the in-breath into the tight areas of your hips and release any tensile stress with a soft sigh. If you feel comfortable you may allow your knees to go even wider. Your arms remain in a very relaxed position.
Please breathe through the nose and stay here for at least 25 breaths.
Then slowly bring your knees back together and swivel. Bring your knees to the right side and rest in the fetal pose. Relax your arms in a comfortable position and rest your head on a pillow if need be. In this position the heart is on top. This helps us regulate the pulse and make the transition from resting to action. Stay here for a couple of breaths.
Slowly press your left palm onto the floor followed by the right and sit upright. Find an easy way to get up and stand, your feet hipwidth apart. Take a moment to feel the difference in your body.
Hips are critical to the integrity of the entire body. They are the primary connection between the trunk and the lower extremities. The main function of the hip is to balance and evenly distribute the weight of your upper body via both hip joints to the legs.
As adults, our joints become tighter and less mobile due to injury, disease, stress, and lifestyle. Hence, we need to create an environment conducive to good health. What we do, or don’t do, has a direct impact on our body and its ability to function to its full potential.
If you are in pain the best therapy for your hips is to decompress. Gentle stretches and breathing techniques may help you relax and decompress the joints.
Do you have lots of hip pain and trouble walking?
And are you looking for some great hip openers? A sequence that is easy to follow?
Let me help you with a personalized yoga sequence! I do personalized healthy yoga. Click here for your personalized online assessment. What do you have to lose except your pain?
Info about Me
I’m Chi. And I’ve always been passionate about healing and empowerment.
I work as a catalyst for personal transformation. I help you explore the best version of yourself. And yoga is a fantastic tool. I am a certified yoga therapist, a classically trained jazz vocalist and I hold a Ph.D. in Communications. I really look forward to practicing with you!
Amoako, Adae O; Pujalte, George Guntur A. Osteoarthritis in Young, Active, and Athletic Individuals. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4039183/. [Accessed February 2017]
Arthritis Foundation. www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/ [Accessed February 2017]
Batmanghelidj, Fereydoon. Your body’s many cries for water. http://www.watercure.com/index.html. [Accessed February 2017]
Galliett, Kate. The Six Pillars Of An Unbreakable Body: Stable Hips. http://fitforreallife.com/2016/07/six-pillars-stable-hips/. [Accessed February 2017]
Jarmey, Chris. 2008. The concise book of muscles. Chichester: Lotus Publishing.
Little, John; Doug, McGuff. 2009. Body by science: A research-based program for strength training, body building, and complete fitness in 12 minutes a week. McGraw Hill Professional.
Schmidler, Cindy. Hip Anatomy, Function and Common Problems. http://www.healthpages.org/anatomy-function/hip-structure-function-common-problems/. [Accessed February 2017]