What if hip openers aren’t the answer?
Years ago when I did my very first teacher training, we were taught about yoga poses in broad strokes.
You had your heart openers, also sometimes known as backbends. These were revered in the yoga I studied at the time because they were flashy and impressive looking. I mean, trying to make your body into a circle is sort of a big deal. Plus they help improve spinal health and open your lungs.
Inversions were support important, too. Most especially handstand. We were told everyone could do them if they just tried hard enough. Plus, handstands are great for tapping into your own personal fountain of youth and reverse the aging process. Score!
Twists were great for removing toxins, whatever that meant. It’s not based on science at all but when I was 24 and a new yoga teacher, I took a lot more things as truth just because they sounded neat and I trusted the people teaching me.
When it came to hips, we were taught about “hip openers.” These poses were magic. They could help you do just about anything. Relieve low back pain. Increase fertility. Sit more comfortably in meditation. Better digestion. Release pent up emotions. Have better sex. Leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Some of these outcomes were obviously more appealing than others, but not to worry. You can use specific “hip openers” to target those specific needs.
Easy peasy lotus squeezey.
Flash forward 15 years and I’ve learned a lot.
This is a good thing.
I’m a much better, much smarter, much more aware teacher now than I was when I first started.
My early teachers didn’t fail me. They were simply teaching from the same, dated playbook that their teachers had used to teach them. Many of them have learned a lot and changed their teaching style in the past 15 years, too.
My yoga practice has radically changed in the past 20 years of studying yoga and movement.
It’s more playful and doesn’t always look like traditional yoga. I also tend to squeeze 30-45 mite practices into 10 minutes because #momlife
My teaching style has shifted, too.
I don’t use magical thinking in my teaching
Handstands are fun and they’re not for everyone, although I do think they help you tap into a fountain of youth. Cartwheels do, too.
I love backbends, but I don’t go nearly as deep as I used to. My 39 year old body needs a lot more time to warm up than my 29 year old body did, and I have significantly less time on my mat than she did.
Twists are the best but not because of some silly claims that they remove toxins. Instead, they give me more spinal mobility, help me create stability AND mobility for my hips. Plus, they just feel AWESOME.
My view on hip openers has changed, too.
First, I think the term “hip opener” is inaccurate and doesn’t give a complete picture of the actions your hips want or need to feel good.
Unless you’re in active labor, your hips aren’t ever opening.
So I don’t generally use the term “hip openers” anymore.
Instead, I use the words “hips-focused” poses.
Second, hips-focused poses can cover a really broad spectrum. Over 20 muscles crisscross and connect to your pelvis. So camel pose, traditionally considered a backbend, can target your hips in one way, while malasana, a squat, will target your hips in a different way.
One isn’t better than the other. They just do different things and benefit your body in different ways.
Third, we have to stop assuming the tight hips need “opening.”
What if hip opening isn’t the answer to tight hips?
Tight hips generally indicate weakness. I know, I know…not my favorite word to describe any part of my body.
It’s also an important reframe. When you think of something that is tight, the first thing you might think is that you need the opposite, which is to OPEN.
That’s also not how your body works. Your body is a little more nuanced than assuming that opposites create the balance you need.
So instead, think of tightness as weakness.
Weakness can be supported by a variety of actions.
If your hips feel “tight” what you’re probably feeling is tension, so mobility would probably help.
Additionally, tightness might be repetitive patterning. Like sitting in a certain position every single day PLUS a lack of a variety of movement.
So, if those muscles are weak from lack of use, you need to strengthen them.
Hip openers aren’t the answer.
Instead, create more opportunities for your hips to move dynamically. Do poses that strengthen your hips, that build resilience and endurance.
Here’s how you can create more health for your hips.
Get my DAILY HIPS free class. 5 Simple poses you can do everyday for stronger, mobile, healthier hips.
Join my 5-day Healthier Hips Everyday challenge and learn the different ways you’ll have the opportunity to do fun, creative, not-your-average hips-focused yoga practices with me EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Each day will focus on a different aspect of accessing the muscles that surround your hips and your hip joints as well, so you’ll get a little taste of those many different ways you can use your hips.