The relationship of the Yogi’s to Hip Opening Poses
Have you ever wondered why we do so many hip opening exercises in Yoga Class? Why would you want the two halves of your pelvis spread apart? Many people come to Yoga because of back injuries and issues with the lower spine in particular. They go the the chiropractor and osteopath and straight away, the focus becomes the pelvis, rather than the back. You see, with open hips, the spine becomes free! We demonstrated that clearly in our last pose of the evening – wide legged Cobra. Suddenly then you recognise the importance of leg abdominal strength in opening the hips. Anatomically, the lower back, abs and hips are connected in a myriad of ways (muscle attachments, connective tissues – tendons ligaments) and so we hope that opening out the hips will release back pain and build the abdominal support that the spine needs so badly to keep healthy and strong.. So we will notice during practice that as the belly comes back toward the spine, the ribs are drawn down and the tail bone tucks under, the hips are able to open wider and we are no longer just trying to get the knees wider in our poses but to operate these principles to their full effect.
Since there are many muscles in the hip with many functions depending on the demands we place on our body, keeping these muscles supple can help us in ways that may not seem obvious at first. Hip openers may help us attain a standing pose we’ve been struggling with, or they may help us get down on the ground easily to play with our kids or our kitten. Traditional yogic thought attributes many healing properties to hip openers from organ issues to sexual dysfunction.
The relationship of tight hips to not letting go
Have you ever wondered why your hips are tight when you come to the mat? Sometimes it is caused by too much activity and sometimes by not enough activity in these muscles. As usual, we are talking about finding a position of balance in the body. A middle way. In order to do this though we have to let go of behaviours that keep us repeating old physical patterns as well as looking at letting go of emotional attachments.
The good news is that you can’t learn to become unattached to an outcome until you’ve been attached and been unwilling to let go. So it ok to have become attached at points of our lives – so don’t tell yourself off if you are finding it hard to let go. It isn’t natural to be non-attached. We can be attached to ideas, to relationships that maybe don’t really work to have us be the best we can be in life. We maybe cling to comfort, to money, sex and power, to resisting change and some people are even attached to suffering – you know, those long suffering friends who won’t leave their bad marriages and friendships and secretly you’re aware that they are hooked into the martyrdom of it all. We are all deeply attached to having our loved ones stay alive for ever! In suddenly releasing ourselves we discover what it is to be free. I sometimes wonder about chickens and eggs in Yoga. If we spend time releasing our hips, does this free us up emotionally or do we first have to be willing to let go of our attachments in order that our physical body mirrors our mental and emotional release? I have no idea but it is definitely worth faking it till you make it by practicing the physical realising poses in order to examine the depth to which you can become unattached to the order of things you have become accustomed too…
This lesson is so relevant to me this week because Neil and I are finally getting on the horse of being dog parents to a new rescue puppy. Last year we had a tragedy in that a bought puppy with a ton of potential on paper and a relative of our old happy placid lab Ben, showed reactivity that was uncontainable for us. We tried all manner of extremely expensive and time consuming behaviourist training and techniques to help her adjust to the world but were advised that she had a genetic predisposition to be unstable and it was with a heaving heart that we took her back to the breeder.
Having had a host of successes with rescue and very damaged dogs, ones we owned and some we trained for others, it was a huge shock that we had not been able to win with this reactive pup who was afraid of everything in life despite her being exposed in text book style in her very early life with us. We got very stuck emotionally about it – in the first instance, just trying and trying to make it work as we had done with her Uncle. We loved her so much but we needed to give her up to give her and us a better life.
Then we got stuck in the failure (attached to it) and we swathed ourselves in self limiting beliefs and terrible guilt even though the dog was happy to be back with her original Mum (a trainer as well as breeder) and remains there today so she is not suffering. I ask for updates frequently and the breeder is happy to send videos of her achievements and show how adjusted she is becoming now she is living with a full time trainer in a working dog environment to which her temprament is more suited. Even with this in mind, we labelled ourselves failures as dog parents and both of us vowed to concentrate on seeing our old ones out and never go near that path again. Remember, this is the natural way of being for humans – to become stuck and attached to a set way of being. We became attached to the failure label without even realising it.
When we become stuck like this it is hard to allow a perceived failure to roll off you like water off a duck’s back because it challenges some core beliefs. So at one time I knew for certain that buying this pup was going to be a huge successes since I had trained dogs over and over again without trouble. My self confidence was shattered by the real life events, convinced we didn’t deserve puppy happiness ever again since we had “ruined” Shanti’s life in my book and I became attached to the shakiness I felt around who I was a dog mummy. Now, I know, it is time to move on. Was this because I was utterly convinced that we could entirely trust that we have been given a gift in our new four legged friend and we were entirely ready to release the past at last? No! It only meant that wobbly as we were we were willing to begin the journey of trusting ourselves and the Universe again, just a little. Just enough to open our hearts up again and that is all it takes.
Yoga and meditation has helped me understand that growth isn’t about speeding up this process of letting go or having to get there wholeheartedly without one little wobble along the way. It is more about letting go and being ok with the not knowing. About being bold enough to take a risk and to give up being attached to a specific outcome. We want our new fur baby girl to be happy but at this stage, we have no idea about how that will look and what it will take for us to be ok with everything and with her, just as it is.
I have learned to let go of tightness with awareness, using the breath. It is amazing how much we can change our bodies and state of mind by having this attitude of looseness and willingness to let go of old patterns and I am hoping that this week’s class will demonstrate that to you. More than that, I hope that whatever you are currently unable to hold loosely in your life, the practice will help you let go and to grow, bit by bit, in uncertainty, until one day, you realise you are in quite a different place.