Ever stand up from a chair and wonder what the heck just happened to your hips? A gripping tightness that makes you want to take a couple of steps hunched over at the middle until those joints realize they’re supposed to be helping? The smirk on your face says you know exactly what we’re talking about! But you’re not alone. According to an article in The Scientific American, we spend about 13 hours a day sitting in chairs, whether at work or at home. And it’s tying us up in knots, explicitly contributing to hip and lower back problems.
Use it or lose it, right? The more you sit, the tighter your hips become, and the tighter your hips become, the less likely you’re going to be to want to walk, exercise, etc. It’s one of those vicious cycles. “Ow! My hips are killing me! I’d better sit down.” The answer is not standing desks for every American worker, although they could certainly help. The real solution lies in increasing the flexibility and range of motion in the hips. Can Yoga help? Of course!
Our bodies adapt to our most frequent activities. Hikers have strong legs, solid knees, and plenty of bumps and bruises. Swimmers have broad, muscular shoulders and super-hero thighs. Teachers, tellers, truck drivers, accountants, IT professionals, and graphic designers all have “tight hips.” Now, to be fair, the hip, or rather the top of the thigh bone (femur) articulating with the hip socket (acetabulum), isn’t what is locked. That moving joint probably moves just fine, but the muscle and fascia surrounding the joint is what has become accustomed to the sedentary lifestyle. And like with any common injury, your body will compensate for its lack of movement with an extra effort from another area of your body. You know, you hurt your right ankle, so you limp, placing extra demand on the left leg and ankle. Pretty soon, those start to hurt, too. Keeping everything in perfect balance is difficult and requires effort. But to have lovely, loose hips is well worth the price!
You understand the mechanics of the “tight hips,” so very quickly, we’ll introduce you to a couple of very easy hip-opening yoga poses that will begin to make a difference in the way you feel. If your hips are locked up like the Colonel’s Secret Formula, start at the very beginning. It’s called the Easy Pose for nothing (Salamba Sukhasana). The right instructor can show you how to remove strain on your hips and back by sitting on a block or cushion, legs crossed beneath you, and your spine nice and tall, crowned by a gentle neck and head. It really is that simple. Hold the pose for at least a minute, up to two, in order to begin teaching your body what it feels like to be open.
Another seated posture is called the Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana), and this pose is again uncomplicated but with outstanding payback. Seated on your mat with your legs in front of you and your hands on the mat on either side of your body, slowly draw your legs up to bring the soles of your feet together. Let your knees fall open as you press your feet together. Keep your head up and your spine tall throughout this movement. Finally, grasp your big toes with your forefingers (just kind of hook your fingers around the toes), but keep your feet firmly together and rooted to the ground. That’s all there is to it! Hold the pose for up to five minutes. Your hips, thighs, knees, and even groin area will be open and strong. Release the pose slowly by doing everything in reverse order: let go of your toes, hands on the floor next to you, straightening your legs out in front.
If you’re ready to begin opening yourself to the possibilities of flexibility and maybe to a regular Yoga practice, these simple openers will get you on your way and show you just how powerful your body can be!