Read below for a few nuggets of yoga wisdom from the Yoga for Hips workshop with Amanda McCarroll on Saturday, December 5th. Amanda taught this workshop to help people understand the biomechanics of the hips when practicing yoga. There were several key points that were emphasized in order for students to gain more knowledge about one of the most important areas of our body.
Practically all yoga poses are hip openers. There are 22 muscles that cross the hip and it’s a very movable joint – second only to the shoulder joint in mobility. The hips move into flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, abduction and adduction. In other words, the hip moves in every direction! So when we discuss “opening” the hips, we must focus on several groups of muscles so that we encompass the entire joint: hip flexors (such as the psoas muscle), hip extenders (such as the gluteus maximus), adductors (such as the adductor longus), abductors (such as the gluteus medius) and the deep lateral rotators (such as the piriformis). When we really take a look anatomically at the hip, it’s safe to say that practically all postures effect the hips in some way.
Another important focal point was to create both strength and flexibility in the hips. Yoga is all about creating balance. When we have limited range of motion in one area, we make up for it and become “hyper-mobile” in another area. For example, if we have tight hip flexors and we attempt deep backbends, there is a tendency to over extend the lumbar spine. To remedy this, it’s important to create more flexibility in the hip flexors while strengthening and stabilizing the lumbar spine. We moved through simple movements to build awareness of our own bodies. Everyone was encouraged to discover where they are more flexible and also find the areas where there is more tension and stability.
Some exciting new research in movement science was also discussed in the workshop. Recent studies have shown that stretching does not physically lengthen muscle fibers. The more traditionally accepted way of thinking is that when we stretch our hamstrings they become physically longer. We are learning that this isn’t so. Stretching is actually governed but the nervous system. When our body loosens up and we feel our range of motion increase over the time of a yoga class, that is the nervous system allowing us to move deeper. It’s saying “yes, ok you are safe, you can stretch farther.” In order to create this “safe” internal environment we must do two things. We must maintain a deep and smooth rhythm of breathing throughout our practice so we stay in a more relaxed state. The second thing is to make sure we are actively stretching rather than passively stretching or pushing ourselves too hard. Engage muscles gently as you stretch them. This way our nervous system knows we are in control and aren’t forcing the movement.
When we follow the ideas covered above, we will have healthy hips! Move with awareness and stay within a healthy range of motion. Create balance and stay connected to the breath. For more information on the yoga for hips workshop with Amanda McCarroll, contact Buddhi Yoga at (858) 886-7580.